The Path of Most Resistance
The persistent pursuit of the Hound of Heaven.
by Roger Palms
Not me! I didn’t want anything to do with Christianity. That was religion, and religion was for people who couldn’t stand on their own two feet.
I was a student, attending Wayne State University in Detroit, when everything began to change. It started with a friend from high school days. Russ and I were both unbelievers in high school. But the summer before we started college, Russ accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. And that’s all he would talk about.
We were commuting students, and because I had a car and he didn’t, Russ rode to campus with me. And he talked about Jesus. He wouldn’t let up. I told him, “Look, if you need this, fine. But I don’t.” And then I’d hit him with the argument that I’d heard so often at home: “Religion is a weak man’s crutch.”
One morning as Russ was at it again and my anger was mounting, I rounded a corner so fast that we almost hit the curb. “Hey, watch it!” Russ yelled.
I came back with, “What do you have to worry about? You’re a Christian.”
Just as fast, Russ replied, “Yes, but you’re not!”
I couldn’t shake those words. They stayed in my mind, playing over and over — Yes, but you’re not! Slowly I became less antagonistic, and one weekend I went to church with Russ.
That began my spiritual journey until one evening, at the home of the young adults’ Sunday school teacher, that teacher showed me what the Scriptures said about salvation. I wanted that — I knew I did — and that evening I said “yes” to Christ.
Good news, bad news
Everything looked different to me. I knew God owned me. I knew I belonged to the Savior, and I began telling my family my good news. Except to them it was bad news.
My mother cried for two nights. “We tried so hard to raise you properly,” she said, “and look what you have done.” To my family, I had become one of those religious fanatics. She suggested that maybe I had emotional problems and needed professional help.
One evening, evangelistic callers from the church I attended came to see my parents because I had asked them to. When Dad went to the door and heard who they were, he slammed the door in their faces and said, “If I want God, I’ll find God. I don’t need those people coming here to talk to me.”
The church people prayed, and I prayed. For two years I prayed for my family, and they criticized me. At one point, I wondered if maybe they were right and I was losing my mind.
One day while trying to study in the university library, I started crying and couldn’t stop. The overwhelming pressure of hearing that there was something wrong with me was becoming too much. I was beaten. My family had won.
I shut my books and decided to go see the university psychiatrist. I needed psychological help. As I left the third floor and started for the second, I ducked into the men’s room to wash the tears from my face. I was alone in there. In utter despair I cried out, “God, if You are really there and what I know of Christ is true, then You have to do something, because I’m going to go see if maybe I am wrong and I am losing my mind.”
It had never happened before; it has never happened since. But at that moment, as I cried out those words to God, I felt such a sharp slap across my face that it spun me around.
But I knew! God was there. He was real and He cared. I left that restroom certain of my standing with God.
Not long afterward, due to a sudden illness, my mother was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. In the city of Detroit, with more than two million people, the surgeon called out that night was a man who assisted with my college-age group at church. We had talked about my family, and he had prayed for them and for me.
He told me afterward that he always prayed before surgery and did so that night, even though at the moment of his prayer he didn’t know the name of the patient.
After the successful surgery, in a post-operative visit, the surgeon closed his office door and said to my mother, “What your son has been telling you about the Savior is true. I am also a Christian.”
And there in his office, that surgeon led my mother to Christ. My dad, so overwhelmed with the successful surgery and what my mother told him, soon made the same decision.
Some weeks earlier, while I was driving my brother somewhere, we began to talk about Christ. Even though I knew very little beyond what had happened to me, I prayed with him as he received the Savior also. My sister soon followed and made her own commitment to Christ.
In the years following, my mother went on to become a wonderful Sunday school teacher. My dad joined the very evangelistic callers who had once stood on our porch when he slammed the door on them. Before long, he chaired that committee of callers, lining up visits to homes to help others place their faith in Christ. My brother and sister married Christians and have raised their children to become Bible-believing Christians with effective church ministries of their own.
One evening many years later, at a special missions program at the church my parents then attended, my dad was on duty as an usher. An offering was to be taken for the missionaries, and as the ushers went forward, the pastor asked my dad to pray. He did. Then, having helped take the offering, he stepped out into the narthex, handed his plate to another usher, and died.
When word came back in, first to my mother and then to the speaker who had already begun his talk, the speaker stopped and said to the shocked people, “I want you to realize something. Two minutes ago, that man was talking to God in prayer. Now, he is talking to the Father face to face.”
That night people were saved. Dad was an evangelist even at his death.
How has God led me since? My years have taken me into the pastorate; to Michigan State University as a chaplain; to the editorship of Decision magazine; and now to a teaching, writing, speaking ministry.
I haven’t seen Russ in many years. Through his faithfulness, his determination not to let go, I was brought to the Savior. Then, not only did my family come to faith but in the years since, through the ministries God has given to me, I have seen many others come to the Savior — men and women who are themselves now winning others. They are serving as pastors, missionaries, and even denominational leaders.
It all began because one young man wouldn’t quit until I too became a Christian.