On a flight from Cleveland to Sacramento, a pastor sat by the window. Seat B was unoccupied, and seat C was taken by a man in a red plaid shirt. The two men exchanged greetings and engaged in small talk as the plane departed.
The pastor opened his New Testament to read a couple of chapters, and out of the corner of his eye he noticed that his seatmate was observing him. The man in the red plaid shirt asked, “Is that a Bible you have there?”
The pastor replied yes. Then the man asked, “Do you read it very often?”
“Oh yes, every day.” The pastor thought, Ah, here is a good opportunity to witness to this man about the Lord, so he gave him a tract titled “How to Get to Heaven from Ohio.” The man accepted it, read it, and offered to give it back. The pastor said, “Oh, no, it’s yours to keep; you might want to read it again.”
A minute or two passed, and the red-shirted man reopened the conversation with, “Do you distribute these little papers often?”
“Yes, sir, I do. Not every day or to everyone I meet, but as I have a chance, I do. You see, I’m interested in people going to Heaven.”
The red-shirted man smiled and asked, “Are you one of those born-again people?”
The pastor returned the smile and said, “Yes, I am. Are you?”
The man answered, “I don’t know.”
The pastor followed up with the question, “If you should die tomorrow and knocked on Heaven’s door and asked God to let you in, and the Lord said, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ what would you say?”
Without a moment’s hesitation the man replied, “I think I ought to go to Heaven for four reasons:
I haven’t committed too many of the grosser sins, I have helped take care of orphans and widows, I have been active in social issues, and I am very dedicated to my job.”
Then, looking directly at the pastor, he asked, “And what about you, my friend?”
“I know Heaven is my home because I believe in and trust in Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, and I believe He died for me and His blood has washed away all my sins.”
The man’s rejoinder was very short and pointed: “If you want to believe that, it’s up to you.” A moment later he leaned over, smiled, and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
Of course the pastor did not. “I am a Roman Catholic bishop. I am seventy-two years old; I have two years until I retire.”
The pastor sought to continue the conversation, but the bishop held up his hand, shook his head, and began reading a magazine.
They met later in the airport lobby in Sacramento, and the pastor urged the bishop to read the tract again. The bishop had placed it in his shirt pocket; he removed it, held it up, smiled, replaced the tract, and was gone.
Two weeks later the pastor was playing golf and teamed up with a stranger, a very warm and personable man. As they played, they asked the usual get-acquainted questions: Where do you live? Where do you work? Do you have children or grandchildren?
The man, Jim, was a Roman Catholic. When he learned he was playing with a Baptist pastor, he observed, “Now, today I’ll have a good game for sure!”
On the fifteenth tee they had to wait several minutes before teeing off, so the pastor asked Jim the same question he had asked the bishop: “What would you say if God asked, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ ”
Jim stood for a minute or so, staring straight ahead, thinking, pondering; then he confessed, “I really don’t know what I would say. I do want to go to Heaven, but no one ever told me how. I’m glad you asked.”
There on the fifteenth tee, Jim heard God’s plan of salvation perhaps for the first time.
The pastor then related the story of the bishop on the airplane. Jim listened with genuine interest and commented, “You know, the bishop is as bad off as l am.”
Both men were moral, well educated, and religious, but neither had any hope of Heaven.
This story doesn’t have a “happily ever after” ending—neither man made any commitment to Christ that day. But the seed had been sown and since has been watered with many prayers.
What is a witness? One who tells what he knows, has seen, or has experienced. He is a seed sower. The pastor may never know the fate of the plaid-shirted bishop or the golfer named Jim, but he took advantage of his opportunities to sow the seed. And that is all God asks.