What Do You Do When Your Neighbor Says He is Probably Going to Hell?

Wednesday is for Prayer

Old Couple“You are probably going to heaven and I’m probably going to hell.”

The elderly man, Bill 87, was speaking to an elderly woman, Ruth 94, in hospital room 335 at Mercy Hospital. It was Monday, and I was at the hospital with my mother (room 332) as the family was preparing to bring her home to hospice care at my brother’s home in Michigan. I had just signed mom’s discharge papers when I decided to return the Bible my brother Karl had been using to the waiting room. It was six steps from mom’s room to the room where Bill had just made his declaration about his likely destiny. It took me just three more steps to pass the door to room 335 but it was long enough to overhear his conversation.

Two seconds earlier or two seconds later, I don’t hear any portion of Bill and Ruth’s discussion of eternity. Their combined 181 years doesn’t leave much sand in the hour glass for a change of address.

Acts 17:26 (ESV)
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
As I walked the remainder of the hallway to return the Bible to its former location, I began to pray.


“Lord, you let me overhear that conversation for a reason. Help me to be bold and use it proclaim the gospel in some way.”

Returning to room 335, I knocked at the door and addressed Bill, “I couldn’t help overhearing your discussion about heaven and hell. Now when a pastor hears people talking about heaven and hell, he can’t let that slip by.”


We chatted for a bit. I asked him if he had any spiritual background and he said “Catholic” but that he didn’t really go to church. “You know,” I said. “spending eternity in heaven is really a simple matter. Jesus said all those who die in Him, in Christ, shall live even if they die. Dying in Christ simply means repenting of sin and believing the gospel …”

About ten minutes later I exited the room knowing that Bill and his friend Ruth knew what the gospel was and what they needed to believe and trust in to have their sins forgiven and their eternity with Christ secured. I was able to go next door to my mom’s room and retrieve a copy of my book on the suffering of Christ and give it to him as a gift and encouragement to believe.


Once again, it was an example of what it means to be intensely local.

1.  Show up.
2.  Be available.
3.  Listen to the Spirit of God.


So today, would you pray for Ruth and Bill, my new friends from room 335 at Mercy Hospital. Pray that both would place their faith completely and finally in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.


Pray for my mom as well, that the hope of the gospel would continue to minister hope to her as she looks at some of her last images of earth this side of heaven.  

UPDATE: Mom walked into the arms of Christ on August 25th, 2010. We look forward to seeing her again in the radiance of Christ.


6 thoughts on “What Do You Do When Your Neighbor Says He is Probably Going to Hell?

  1. Thanks, I really appreciate your ‘vignettes’. Being ‘real’ for Christ is a challenge, but SO worth it. I’m not there yet, but I keep praying and practicing…

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    1. Sally, Keep praying for those around them that know Christ would be bold to proclaim.

      Sharon, glad they are encouraging. That’s the whole reason to write them, that the saints would be encouraged to see their own opportunities.

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  2. Pastor Marty, I wanted to let you know that I shared this story as an illustration in a sermon I preached this weekend at the church where I am now serving. I preached on 2 Cor 5:11-6:2 emphasizing that because we have been reconciled with God we now have the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming God’s reconciliation to others. I challenged our congregation to begin thinking more about how they can live intensely local, using the natural bridges and relationships they have to intentionally love others and proclaim God’s message of reconciliation. I hope you are well!

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  3. “Loved ‘Mom walked into the arms of Jesus’….During this pandemic when we hear the deep grief of those not allowed to be present with loved ones in the hospital, I have loved remembering that for all believers, they are not alone. JESUS IS THERE, and we can pray they become so aware of HIS Presence that they have no time to miss us! And it also impels praying that those who know the gospel but may not have yet received Christ, hear His voice now, and respond.

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