by Charley Carle
John Griffeth lived in the western part of the United States during the depression years of dryness, dustbowls and drought. Married in 1929, the Griffeths watched their farming dreams blow into dust. Finally, they gathered their little son and their meager belongings and moved east.
There John landed a job at the Mississippi River tending a drawbridge. Then one summer day in 1937, he took his little son to spend the day with him. Wide-eyed and full of questions, Greg watched his father as he raised the bridge to let the ships pass, then lowered it for the great trains to roar across the river.
About noon, John put up the bridge and sat with Greg on an observation platform to eat their lunches. They enjoyed the activity on the waterfront. John dreamed about traveling so he told Greg stories about the ships and the places they traveled. He got so caught up in the stories that he even lost consciousness of time. Suddenly he was awakened by the shrill whistle of a locomotive. He glanced at his watch, noting that it was nearly time for the Memphis Express.
John made his way to the gear-room, sat on the stool and took the lever in hand. He looked up the river and back down to see if any ships were coming. Then he glanced below … Wait! No! No! This can’t be! Terror gripped him as his heart leaped into his throat and his blood froze in his veins! Evidently, Greg tried to follow his father, slipped off the catwalk and fell into the massive gears below. His leg was caught and as sure as the sun rises in the morning, if the bridge was lowered six tons of revolving metal would grind him to death!
Mind spinning, John frantically grasped for answers! He thought, “I’ll run back, tie a rope, let myself down…” — but, no! There was not a third of the needed time.
John moaned! He trembled and perspired as his eyes brimmed with tears. The shrill cry of the train whistle grew alarmingly close. More than anything, he wanted to spare his son; but if he did many would die! There was no other way to save the train! Stricken and overwhelmed with grief, John bowed his quivering head, covered his eyes, and released the lever. The gear room shook as the wheels turned and the great bridge settled down into place. In moments it was over and the Memphis Express went roaring past.
John lifted his head and looked in the train. There was a man reading morning news, the conductor was looking at his watch, and a woman in the dining car was feeding her little girl with a long spoon. No one noticed the heart-broken Griffeth. No one was aware of the grieving father or that newly torn body of his dear son! Choking with passion John called out, “What’s the matter with you people? I just GAVE MY SON for you! Don’t you even care?” But nobody heard; nobody looked; nobody knew and no one responded as the train disappeared across the river.
The heavenly Father watches us as our eternity-bound generation speeds down the rails of life. Without the life of the Son we too are hopeless and headed for destruction. The sovereign God “sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). What an amazing sacrifice as God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32).
Friend, do you ever wonder if God loves you? God’s good news to you is that this question has been settled forever! He points us to “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). God very definitely established the fact of His love! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Do you understand, my friend? It required the life of the Son of God to save us! We would hopelessly smash right into eternal destruction without the saving blood of Jesus Christ! “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9).
Sixty years ago, John Griffeth’s heart was broken by pain and tragedy! He gave his son to save 400 lives. 2,000 years ago, God gave His own Son to spare millions! “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). We may ask, why not “all”? Many attempt to cross that river-of-no-return while rejecting the sufficiency of God’s precious Son! Proudly refusing the Son is to say to the Father, “He’s not good enough for me!” Would you cling to sin rather than allowing the Lord Jesus to bear it? Why reject “him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5). Didn’t Jesus warn that the majority will end up in the eternal rubble of destruction and that few will cross to the wonders of eternal life! (Matt. 7:13-14).
I wonder, friend, are you perhaps as that man in the train totally intent upon the news down here – or as that lady with the long spoon oblivious to the danger? Knowing of the sacrifice of God’s Son, will you ignore His death on the cross for you? We must not insult the One who gave His all! We are so alive while traveling down the rails of life! And God made the assurance for our safe arrival free of charge, but the cost was infinite! Jesus paid for our passage through the “sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Friend, God is so concerned about saving you from the ruins of hell that He gave His “own blood” to save you (Acts 20:28). As the broken-hearted Griffeth cried out to the travelers, “Don’t you even care?”
It’s like this, would you be willing to sit on that train while trusting in your religious activities to save you? Or would you confess to God that His Son paid it all? Life was not granted on the condition that the man paid for his newspaper instead of stealing it that day. Obeying God’s commandments and human acts of love never saved any one. We all fail! Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Will you cross that bridge from death to eternal life? We must never depend upon doing the best we can or church ceremonies to escape condemnation. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone!
Greg was born to enjoy life, but Jesus was born to die! His work on the cross is our personal bridge to safety! Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). Trust Him and be saved!
What is your decision? Would you follow some holy hunches about your church and religious traditions, or will you believe the Lord? No decision is a real crisis, like a car stalled on the tracks as the train is coming! “The power of God” to save is through the cross! (1 Cor. 1:18). True ministers preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). We gain “peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). “Without shedding of blood is no remission (forgiveness)” (Heb. 9:22). So “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). We must draw near to God through “the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). Why not pray right now today,
“God, I do not want to perish! I receive your Son to save me from destruction and hell! Jesus bore my sin up on the cross and I do believe that He died and rose again! I am not trusting any church ceremonies, but I do accept His substitutionary death in my behalf! Thank you for eternal life!”
I hope, dear one, that you will take God at His Word! Eternal life is exclusively through Jesus Christ, the Son of God! “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).