"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©
Thursday, March 09, 2006
DAY FOUR –-W. Terry Whalin, Editor / Writer
God Allows U-Turns Guest Blogger
They are small little books with a huge impact. The Young Reader’s Christian Library includes a black and white illustration on every page so young readers love them. It’s been my privilege to have written a couple of these books. One of them was about a baseball player turned evangelist named Billy Sunday. He was the forerunner of Billy Graham. When this man made his u-turn, he held large crusades around the country on what was known as the sawdust trail. During his lifetime, Billy Sunday preached over 20,000 times or an average of 75 times per month. More than 100 million people heard Billy Sunday proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ.
This great evangelist wasn’t always a preacher. Billy Sunday was a hard drinking baseball player and joined the Chicago Whitestockings in 1883. Let’s take a look at a significant u-turn experience in the life of Billy Sunday from my book:
“The summer weather in June 1886 was perfect for baseball. Billy Sunday and his teammates were at home in Chicago for a series against the New York Giants. Along with several Giants players, the men were drinking alcohol at their favorite bars. Sunday was beginning to feel drunk and light-headed from the alcohol. When they walked past the corner of State and Van Buren Streets, the group sat down for a few minutes on the curb side. There was a show worth watching across the street. A “Gospel Wagon” with a team of horses was filled with men and women. With trumpets, flutes and a trombone, they filled the air with music from hymns. The music reminded Billy of his days as a child when his mother sang hymns in their log cabin home in Iowa. Sunday began to cry as he thought about the music.
One of the men from the Pacific Garden Mission noticed Sunday reacted to the music. He walked over to Billy and the other players. “Won’t you come to our service. It’s only two blocks away,” Harry Monroe said to Billy. “You’ll hear some things that will interest you.”
Something stirred deep inside Billy. In some ways, he looked like a man with everything in his life. In a single month with the White Stockings, he earned more money than a year on the farm. In his third season of baseball, Billy was popular with the crowd and a successful athlete. But inside, Billy felt empty. He wanted something more in his life.
Billy stood and told his teammates, “Boys, I bid the old life good-by.”
Some of the players laughed. Others smiled. Still others shrugged their shoulders and had a look of admiration mixed with disgust. Sunday and the clean-shaven young man walked to the Mission. The building for the service wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was located in between a couple of bars and dance halls. Over the door a sign said, “Strangers Welcome.” Another wall held a verse from i timothy 1:15 in the Bible which says, “Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am chief.”
Billy walked into the Mission and sat down among homeless men and drunks Harry Monroe began the service. After several hymns, a number of men stood and told how Christ had changed their lives. Some were former burglars. Others had been caught in alcohol but now they were freed through the power of Christ. Sunday sat among the shabbily-dressed audience and carefully listened to the message.
When the invitation was extended for those in the audience to commit their life to Christ, Sunday didn’t move from his chair. “I’ll be coming back again to this Mission,” he resolved as he returned home.
During the next five nights, Sunday attended the services at the Mission. One night, Sunday knew he needed to commit his life to Christ, but he felt like he couldn’t do it alone.
A nervous Billy stood up and knocked down several of the curved-backed wooden chairs. Some people nearby assumed that Sunday had been drinking alcohol. In reality, Sunday’s mind was clear. Billy had a life-changing decision to make.
Others walked to the front during the singing. Sunday stood and tried to decide about walking forward. Suddenly Mrs. Clarke came and placed her arms around him. The wife of Colonel George R. Clarke, a western miner and Chicago businessman, Mrs. Clarke whispered to Sunday, “God loves you. Jesus died for you, and he wants you to love him and give your heart to him.:
The ballplayer could no longer resist. He swung clumsily around the chairs and walked to a seat in the front near the stage. Henry Monroe came beside Billy and they knelt to pray. Mrs. Clarke joined the two men in prayer.
“I want to make that commitment tonight,” Billy said. He bowed his head and accepted Christ. Mrs. Clarke told Billy some verses from the Bible and urged him to obey God’s commands.
Years later, Sunday wrote about his decision during that night. He said, “I have followed Jesus from that day to this every second, like the hound on the trail of the fox.”
Billy Sunday’s life moved in a new direction and would touch millions of people. Let’s celebrate God’s power to change lives.
That’s all for today. Terry Whalin is signing off until tomorrow when we look at a u-turn in the life of the chairman emeritus of Promise Keepers.