Monday, April 19, 2010

Foxhole Conversions

Most of us are familiar with "foxhole conversions". As the phrase implies, these changes in attitude or devotion result from a near-death experience.

When soldiers are "dug-in", sweating and dodging bullets, laying in the mud and blood, looking death in the eye, and facing the enemy on all fronts; there is a tendency to pray. These may be men who never took the time before, even doubted that there was a real God; but, in dire circumstances, are willing to try anything. They put their face in their greasy, muddy hands and cry out, "God, if you are real, save me! If you will get me out of this alive, I will follow you."

These are desperate cries for help from the helpless. They turn to God when there is no one else who can deliver them from certain doom. A cry cracks the darkness and splinters the silence! "Help me, oh God!" They are beyond themselves and any ability, talents or wisdom that they may have relied upon in the past to get them out of this hopelessness. They do not add conditions, other than deliverance. "Save me and I will follow!" Save me, deliver me, help me oh God for I see my helplessness. I realize that I am unable to deliver the salvation I need so desperately.

"Foxhole conversions" - are they real? Do they last? Are they thought of again, once deliverance is granted?

Not all such "conversions", as the term is used, relate to a literal life and death situation. But it is a term that relates to a cry of desperation, a plea for help from a God who never seemed important before. A granted request in exchange for a promise - let's make a deal.

Not all "last minute" cries to a previously unneeded God are the typical "foxhole" type. Some actually do cry out to God, as they are near death, and see the truth in the Savior and their sincere need. Remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus. That is just about as hopeless of a situation as you will find. He did not ask for deliverance from the situation, but for salvation from his spiritual state. He was dead spiritually and would soon be physically. He knew what was just in front of him, but he wanted what was just beside him - Jesus. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." A cry from the point of helplessness, but no bargain offered. Just a lost man in need of forgiveness, love and deliverance. There was no, "if" and "then" involved.

What happens to the benefactors of deliverance in foxholes? I would expect that with many, since God was not needed in their busy lives before, He was immediately forgotten once the threat subsided and the man realized that he was going to walk away, after all. "Wow, that was a close one! I even prayed, ha ha ha!" I would also imagine that some would lie on their back, look towards heaven and cry and cry and cry. If they let themselves, they would admit that the God of their mothers had heard and answered their feeble prayer. As they walk away, they hold in their heart a gratefulness to a living God. They do not forget and they turn to follow Him and serve him with the days given to them, back there in the mud.

Have you had a "foxhole conversion"? Did it take? Have you had a conversion at all? What does it take to be converted?

You may believe that you have never been in such a position of need as to cry out to God for deliverance. So far, you have made it pretty well on your own. You make a decision to say that prayer if you ever find yourself in a desperate situation that you cannot handle. The "prayer" is your "ace-in-the-hole". You will pull it out if you ever need it and walk away the winner.

You fool! First of all, you do not know the day or hour that death will knock on your door. You may never have the time to reach into your vest pocket and pull your ace. You may be granted just the split second to look up from the cards you have been dealt and realize your adversary is the devil. In the blink of an eye it could be too late and your eternity has been determined. Second of all, God is not mocked! He will not call your name forever. He will not operate on your schedule or be dependant on you finding a time of need.

You fool! God does not need you, you need God! You may not be in a foxhole, or facing physical death in the next hour, but you are in a desperate situation. You may not know it, but you already are helpless and hopeless. If you do not cry out to God, in sincerity, you will face Him one day as the Judge who will condemn you to eternity in hell.

You must be converted - for real! What does this mean? It means to admit your utter helplessness. It means to recognize your need for a Savior who can deliver you from a life of sin. You may respond that you are not all that bad, in fact you have been pretty darn good. God tells us there is none righteous among all the people of the earth - no, not one. No, not even you. There is only one way to heaven and it is through Jesus. You cannot earn it or deserve it. You must come to God according to His plan of salvation, and that is through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

When you are ready to stop playing Russian roulette, hoping that death is more than a finger-pull away, turn to Jesus. Conversion is not a person turning to God for a "get-out-of-hell-free" card. You are not converted just because you do not want to go to the lake of fire, forever. God offers a package deal. You take it or you leave it. He will be your Savior only if He can also be your Lord. This means that you must surrender your life to God; for Him to direct, guide and use as He sees fit.

"Wow, that is expecting an awful lot from me! Do you mean that I will no longer be running my life according to what I want?" Yes, that is exactly what I mean. God will not share lordship of your life. "If I do this, what will I lose and what will I gain?" The best answer to that is found in the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote that everything that he lost could not be compared to what he had gained in knowing and following Jesus. I admit, it is a leap of faith. You step out from the crowd and submit your life into the hands of the living God. You profess your trust in Him and you follow on the adventure of a lifetime.

Conversion is through faith, faith in God and the completed work of His Son, Jesus. "Isn't following Jesus, works?" No, following Jesus is obedience. All the works in the world will not get you saved from damnation. You believe and you obey, you follow and you find a love beyond description, a peace beyond understanding and a hope for forever. A walk with God is out of this world!


  1. We were studying Ephesians 5:1-13 this morning. Paul says that people who continue to live like the world will "certainly" not enter the kingdom of Christ. In fact, he says that people who believe otherwise are "deceived." God is calling for people to live in a way that is pleasing to Him, as imitators of God. What a calling! How we need His grace!

  2. Although I wouldn't discount every foxhole conversion, I do think genuine faith in Christ begins with a genuine, well thought-out confession of sin and desperation from sin- like you said. Sometimes I think the spur of the moment calls out to God (if He exists) are more of a desperation of circumstance and will often fizzle to nothing, like you said.