I will never forget Dr. Archibald McMillan, one of my professors during my first term at THE Ohio State University. [Note: His name has been changed to protect him – he’s guilty and probably long gone, but I do not want to impugn his character!]
Dr. Mac, as we used to call him, was the very first full professor I had in my college experience. During my freshman year, most of my instructors were graduate students working their way through graduate school by teaching lowly freshmen in the basic first year courses. But for some reason, Dr. Mac was assigned to teach a freshman math class, and from the first day of class, it became readily apparent to the 30 or so of us students in the class that he was not very happy with that assignment.
You see, for the 16 years previous to our entrance into his classroom, he had been teaching and training graduate-level students.
For the first few weeks I was enjoying the class, although I felt that I was not “getting” what he was trying to teach us. That became even more obvious after the first mid-term exam. I received a well-deserved “D” on that test. A week or so prior to that exam, I had made an appointment with Dr. Mac and told him I did not know how to solve the problems the way he could. He leaned over to his bookshelf, pulled out a small paperback book and tossed across the desk in my direction. He said, “Take down the information and go buy this book in the bookstore. That’s all I have to say.”
The book was entitled How to Solve It, and the author was Hans Polya. I bought and read the book, but I didn’t understand the book any more than I did Dr. Mac’s lectures.
But the day I received my “D” on the exam, I discovered that I was not alone in that class in not “getting” it. I had one of the highest mid-term grades in the class! No one else got it either. And THAT made Dr. Mac angry. He was extremely upset at the grades on the test, and as he passed them out to each of us, he proclaimed, “This is ridiculous. I have never seen students do so poorly in my class, and I will not tolerate this in this class. From now on, I will NOT answer any more stupid questions. You will have to dig for yourself to find the answers.”
Now, I have shared this experience because you may be thinking, “I have questions about my faith, but they are stupid, so I will not ask them.” My friend, that day in math class, I recalled what my high school English teacher had said just the year before Dr. Mac made his proclamation. She had said to our class, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
But then she changed her mind and said, “The ONLY stupid question is the one you do not ask.”
My friends, you may have many questions about the Bible and about your faith. As I stated last week, I would like to attempt to answer those questions briefly in the next several editions of this column.
Last week we began this venture by briefly attempting to explain what it means to be “born again.” This week we will attempt to follow up this question with the beginning of the answer to the question, “How can I be sure I am going to heaven when I die?”
It will take more than just this one article to answer that question, but we will surely try.
Just this morning, my wife and I were driving to a place that was unfamiliar to us. It was unfamiliar because we have never been there before. So we put the address into our GPS, and followed the directions. The map on the screen told us where we were, where we were going, and how to go there. While we were making that short trip, I made a wrong turn, at least according to the GPS, and was told to get back on the right track. The GPS showed me where I needed to go in a physical sense.
Well, interestingly enough, you and I have a GPS for spiritual questions and direction as well. That GPS is the Bible, and in it we have words of wisdom which will help us gain the confidence we need to go in the right direction spiritually. In fact, the Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that it will help us find the right way to go. In 1 John 5:11-13, we read, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Did you read those words correctly? Did you see it? The biblical author has given us the assurance that if we believe in the name of the Son of God, we can KNOW without a shadow of doubt that we have eternal life.
It does not say that we can “hope” we will get there, maybe if the sun is shining bright, or if we are good enough or if God is in a good mood. No, the Bible says that through believing in Jesus Christ as God and as the Messiah who saved you from your sins, heaven – eternal life – is a sure thing.
We’ll talk more about this next week!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.