Dear Wake Up Family:
This past August (2022), when I heard the news Olivia Newton-John had passed away, my first recollection was of her beaming, infectious smile. Because the depth and sincerity of coverage surrounding her in Australia, Britain, and the US suggested she wasn’t the typical, self-absorbed celebrity, I watched a documentary about her life. In the video, one could see that although her music and movie careers were especially successful, her most important life work was as an advocate for breast cancer awareness charities.
During the interview, Olivia was asked, if it was true that when her mom died in 2003, she sang her famous song, “I honestly love you” while sitting by her bedside. She said, “Yes, it’s true. It was a way of telling her I loved her, in a way that she could receive it because the last sensory that goes when you’re dying is your hearing.” When she said this, I paused the video to contemplate the phenomenon and research whether it was true. Within a few minutes, I found a Forbes article that corroborated her statement. It read, “In a June 2020 study published in Scientific Reports, neuroscientists … concluded that the dying brain responds to sound tones even during an unconscious state and that hearing is the last sense to go in the dying process.”
Next, I thought of several Bible texts that mention hearing during the time of trouble and wondered if there was a correlation. After all, God created us and knows how we’re wired. Surely, He loves us and wants us all to hear His call of salvation before it’s too late. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus, pleading with us, says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” He says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” After reading these verses, the acid test, then, of having a saving relationship with Jesus is the ability to hear His voice and respond.
To give an idea of what listening and responding to the Holy Spirit resembles, I share this excerpt of Larry talking with an inmate, taken from the forthcoming Hebrews manuscript.
I had a man in prison ask me, “I want to be born again, how do I do that?”
I said, “Well, you can’t give yourself a rebirth. It’s only something God can do. You can’t make yourself born again just because you want to be. It is a miracle God has to perform within you.”
He responded, ”Okay, what do I have to do to get the miracle?”
I replied, “You have to give everything to the Lord. You have to say, “Lord, I am a sinner. I surrender and I will go, be, and do as you direct. If you will pray that prayer, maybe the Lord will come to you and bring the rebirth experience to you.”
He said, “Maybe? What do you mean by maybe?”
I explained, “Well, you will have to wait on the Lord to make it happen. He wants to know if you’re sincere about what you’re asking. He wants to know if you’re genuine about what you’re offering. It may not happen instantly. It may take a day or two. It may take a week or two. You may have to say again, ‘Lord, I want to be born again. I want the spiritual nature. The Spirit is moving me.’ At some point, the Lord will answer that prayer and present your first test to see if you really mean it. I don’t know what the test will be, but there will be something. And when you set your mind and heart to reflect Jesus with all that’s within you, a test will come. And if God sees you’re willing to pass the test of faith, and that your faith is genuine, the miracle will occur. It will absolutely occur.”
The next week when I went to see him, he said, “It happened! The miracle happened!”
I said, “Tell me about it.”
He began, “About two days after our last study, there was a confrontation. One of the inmates and I had a conflict. He was unhappy with me and hit me in the face. I’m a much larger guy than he and would have instinctively hit him back, but something instantly came over me. This something said, ‘This is your test.’ I hesitated… I hesitated very hard… but I didn’t hit him back. The funny thing about this is, the very moment I hesitated, it’s as though the anger discharged and I was free to turn and walk away.”
I interrupted, “There it is. You’ve been born again! The carnal mind can’t do that but the spiritual mind can, because of the enabling power that comes from Christ.”
Larry certainly had a deep and sobering grasp of God’s Word, didn’t he? As we come to the end of the article, I encourage you, as you go about your day, to contemplate the meaning of Hebrews 3:15, that salvation may not be available tomorrow so we need to listen and respond to Him today.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”