The Road Not Taken
One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken, written a century ago by Robert Frost. The last stanza contains my favorite words in the poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
My life began on a Louisiana red dirt road. We didn’t have much money, but I never noticed it because no one else did either—at least those whom my family knew.
As a boy, we lived near Willis Gunter Road, on Barber Creek, near Longleaf, Louisiana. Barber Creek was as cold as ice.
One day, when I was just a pup of barely four, I decided to venture up the narrow red dirt road lined with longleaf pines to my Grandma’s house. Her home was just a mile up Willis Gunter Road and overlooked Barber Creek. I remember stopping to pick some wild dewberries. Perhaps Grandma would be so happy to see me she’d bake me a pie, while I swam in Barber Creek. No sooner had I arrived than Mama drove up in our Oldsmobile.
Now, Mama didn’t seem to be happy with me. Visions of her making a switch by slowly cutting it from a tree—I mean very slowly—and removing the twigs one by one flooded my mind. The drama of her cutting the switch was always worse than her use of it. But that did not occur that day, although I later wished it had. She looked up and pointed to an old man driving a wagon down Willis Gunter Road.
She then explained, “Ran, that old man drives up and down these red dirt roads looking for little boys. He then puts them in a gunnysack and hauls them off.” She did not say where he took them. I did not want to know. To this day, I’ve never run away from home again.
When I first shared this story with my eldest son Aaron, his response was, “He was driving a wagon? Who’d you vote for Dad, Lincoln or Douglas?”
I seldom get to walk those red dirt roads anymore.
Yet, there is another road, perhaps even less traveled than the red dirt road I trod as a boy in Louisiana or even the one Frost wrote about.
Travel this road if you will. It will change your life. It will change your destiny.
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In 1829, a man named George Wilson was found guilty of six charges and was given the death sentence. However, Wilson had influential friends who petitioned President Andrew Jackson for a pardon. Jackson granted the pardon, and it was brought to prison and given to Wilson.
To everyone’s surprise, Wilson said, “I am going to hang.” There had never been a refusal to a pardon, so the courts didn’t know what to do. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Marshall gave the ruling, saying, “A pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends upon the acceptance by the person implicated. If he does not accept the pardon, then he must be executed.”
God loves you and, yes, He has provided a pardon for you and me, paid for with Christ’s own life-blood, but you have the right to refuse the pardon. Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One thief said yes to Jesus, but the other said no to Him. One accepted the pardon, and the other refused it.
The question to you and me today is the same as it was 2,000 years ago. Which thief on the cross are you? The one who said yes to God’s pardon or the one who said no to His pardon? I have chosen to say yes.
You have the same choice.
The last invitation in the Word of God is found in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Are you thirsty? Then come. Let him who hears come. And, whosoever will, come.
That invitation is to you…it is to me…it is to everyone!
Bring your disappointments, bring your failures, bring your fears, bring your heartaches. The Holy Spirit says come to Jesus.
He loves you. He wants to save you. He will save you. Come to Jesus, and drink the water of life freely.
He suffered, He bled, He died, because He loves you. Listen to the still small voice, of the Holy Spirit, bidding you to come to Jesus. Don’t wait—come!
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)
“All you ends of the earth” includes the Aboriginal people of the Central Australian desert. “All you ends of the earth” are those in darkest Africa. “All you ends of the earth” are the isolated tribes in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. “All you ends of the earth” is presidents, world leaders, and kings.
“All you ends of the earth” is the polished lawyer, the gifted doctor, and the brilliant college professor. “All you ends of the earth” is the prostitute, and the drug dealer, and the rapist, and the thief, and the murderer. “All you ends of the earth” is you…and me.
God’s Word, the Bible, states, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Those who looked lived. Those who looked were healed. Those who looked were made whole. Those who looked were saved. They didn’t wait until they were better people. They just looked.
Jesus tells us that this is a picture of Him being lifted up on the cross. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
That serpent represented the sin of the people. Christ was made sin for us. Will you look to Jesus—will you put your trust in Him—the One who died for your sins. Will you put your faith in Jesus—the One who shed His life-blood for you…and for me?
* * *
Some years ago my eldest son, Aaron, was in an automobile accident. His back was broken so severely that the doctors said he might not ever walk again. After fusing several vertebrae in his lower back he was able to begin the long task of healing from the spinal fusion surgery. He was encased in a rigid plastic back brace from his neck to his waist. Later, his doctor finally agreed to let him briefly remove the brace to take a shower, as long as someone was with him.
As I was driving to pick him and his brothers up for the weekend, unbeknownst to me, his brother, Josh, and he removed the brace so he could take a hot shower, in his shorts. Josh was with him but was much smaller than him at that time.
I decided to stop at the post office in Austin, when a still small voice spoke to me saying, “You need to go now.” I passed the post office and drove as fast as I could to Wimberley, an hour away, wondering what that warning was about. There were no cell phones then.
As I entered the house, I asked his mother where he was. She said in the shower. I ran to it and as soon as I entered the bathroom, he said, “Dad, I’m dizzy.” I stepped into the shower and placed my arms under his arms from his back. He immediately passed out. I told his younger brother to help me move him to a bed while their mother called 911. His dead weight was more than I could have ever imagined. We got him onto the bed without reinjuring his back. I knew if he had fallen he probably would have been paralyzed.
As I prayed, following the ambulance to the hospital’s emergency room, I noticed the symbol on the back of the ambulance. It was the American Medical Association’s (AMA) logo of a serpent wrapped around a staff. The sign of healing medicine reminded me of the bronze serpent on the staff lifted up by Moses.
Many Christians believe that’s where it originated from. But, more importantly, it reminded me of Jesus being lifted up on a cross for my son. God’s son suffered in place of my son. I can’t fathom love that great. To this day I cannot see that symbol without giving thanks to the Lord for that warning, and the shed blood of Christ lifted high upon a cross for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of the entire world. Surely, there can be no greater love than God giving His Son’s life-blood for us.
When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors gave him intravenous (IV) fluids and two bottles of Gatorade for dehydration. The hot shower, along with pain medication and dehydration, had caused his blood to rush to his feet and thereby causing him to faint.
Will you look to the One who was lifted up on a cross for you? Will you look to the Great Physician—Jesus—to heal you of all your pain? Will you look to Jesus, who took your place on a cross and died for your sins?
As I said before, Jesus hung between two thieves on a cross. One of them rejected Him, but the other one put his faith in Him. “Will You remember me when You enter Your kingdom?” Jesus replied, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Both of those men were guilty. One put his trust in Jesus, and the other chose not to. Again, the question is, which thief on the cross are you?
Now, there was a third cross that day. It was for another criminal named Barabbas, and he represents us. Jesus was crucified on a cross meant for Barabbas—it was your cross, too—it was my cross, also. Jesus bore your cross and my cross. He took our place on that cross. The just for the unjust. The Righteous for the unrighteous. The sinless Lamb of God for the sinner.
Self-improvement will not qualify you for salvation, for God’s Word says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) Comparing yourself to others will not work either, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Doing your best cannot save you, for the Scriptures record, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Ask yourself, if you could be good enough to pay for your sins, then why did Jesus have to die for you? The answer is you can’t be good enough.
Come—come just as you are. Will you say yes to Jesus—today?
There’s a Scripture that I love, and it explains things very simply.
It says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)
You can settle this question right now in heaven and on earth by saying yes to Jesus—accepting His pardon, just as that one thief did on the cross.
There are no prescriptive or mandated words. Praying is just talking to the Lord.
If these words are how you feel in your heart, then pray:
I come to You in prayer, asking for the forgiveness of my sins.
I confess with my mouth and believe with my heart that Jesus is Your Son, and that He died on the cross at Calvary that I might be forgiven.
Father, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and I ask You right now to come into my life and be my personal Lord and Savior.
I repent of my sins and will surrender to You all the days of my life.
Because Your word is truth, I confess with my mouth that I am born again and cleansed by the blood of Jesus!
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen!”
The most famous words ever spoken:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“Whoever” is you…it’s me…it’s everyone. Come to Jesus. Look to Jesus. Choose Jesus.
* * *
We moved to Clute, Texas, from Longleaf, Louisiana, when I was four-years-old.
All I remember of the trip was stopping at the Stateline in Deweyville, Texas. The pouring rain awoke my sister Marjorie, and she awoke me crying because her paper dolls had gotten wet.
Daddy had gotten a job at Dow Chemical in Freeport, Texas. A.J. Jeffers was the first from the Longleaf area to leave for a job at Dow. He returned and encouraged Daddy and others to do the same. A. J.’s brother Jimmy Jeffers and Daddy’s brother Herman Willis soon followed. We all were close friends in Texas.
We also kept our home in Longleaf and often visited to work cows with my Uncle Howard Willis and his sons. I was always happy to return. I still am to this day.
Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night we were at Temple Baptist Church in Clute. It seemed to me that everyone attended church in those days.
One Wednesday night mother was unable to attend, so I walked to church with my twelve-year-old sister Marjorie. I was only eight-years-old. I had no intention of that night being any different from any other.
I cannot recall a single word Pastor Bill Campbell said in his sermon. But I do remember vividly another voice that spoke to my mind—to my heart. It was not an audible voice. It was a still gentle voice, tender but ever so clear telling me to go forward and accept Christ as my Savior.
I recall my response to the Holy Spirit as if it was five minutes ago. “Lord, I’m too shy. I would if my mother was here to go with me.”
I felt someone touch my arm. It was my sister Marjorie who was sitting on the back row with her friends. She could not have seen my face for I was seated near the front.
She said, “I’ll go with you if you want me to.” I immediately walked with her to the front of the church and made my decision public.
I know you do not have to have an experience like that to be saved. Nevertheless, I’m so grateful for that experience for it has never left my mind or my heart.
Oh, that I would today be more still and listen for that still soft voice. Oh, that I would speak less and listen more.
Listen, He is speaking. Look, He has manifested Himself. Choose—say yes to Jesus—today. You will never regret that decision.
—Randy Willis #randywillis
“Preach Christ at all times. When necessary, use words.”
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“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot