The right key

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9 NIV).

It was one of those days that are irrevocably engraved on his memory, and the small details remain vivid to this day. He can still remember the fresh autumn air on his face, and walking across the field with his two children. It was a warm fall day, a beautiful Sunday… until the mobile phone began to ring in his pocket.

“Tomasz*, please come home!” The voice of his wife sounded strange.

“Has something happened?”

“Just come home, please! Immediately!”

When Tomasz looked into his wife’s face a short time later, he knew something terrible had happened.

“Please call your parents in Poland. Let them tell you. It’s about your brother.”

A despair spread over Tomasz when he heard about the house fire. Then came the crushing realization that his brother had likely died in the flames.

Any remnant of hope was crushed when, a few days later, the police identified his brother as a victim of the fire. In a moment, a life had been extinguished. The life of his only brother.

Until then, Tomasz had lived a traditionally religious life. He knew that God was the supreme authority in a person’s life. Accordingly, he endeavoured to be a man of good deeds. He prayed, revered the saints and visited the church–all in an effort to please God. But the sudden death of his brother highlighted the transient nature of life. Tomasz felt a yearning to change the way he was living.

He was burdened by thoughts of his own eternal destiny. Even more difficult was the horror of the thought of where his brother was. Tomasz had been taught that people would have to pay for their sins after death by years of torment and pain, after which they could gain eventual entrance into Heaven. He had also been told that he could help shorten his brother’s suffering by his own good works and prayers.

Tomasz’s prayers became more frequent, longer, and more intense. Thoughts of his brother were an immense burden, driven by a conviction that he was now responsible not only for his own eternal destiny, but also for his brother’s.

One day a friend made him an invitation: “Tomasz, if you want to know more about God, I can tell you where you can learn what separates you from God. I’m part of a group that reads together a book that explains the God of the Bible and his plan for our lives. Why don’t you come?”

When Tomasz arrived at the study, the group had already begun. He entered and found a vacant seat. “I would like to get to know God,” he shared briefly.

At first, Tomasz attended the course irregularly. But when the course finished and new one began, both Tomasz and his wife began to attend faithfully.

Every evening as a group, they went through the book Der Fremde (the German translation of The Strange on the Road to Emmaus) and read many passages from the Bible. As they did so, Tomasz’s view of God began to change. Tomasz listened to the 15 lessons with great interest and, by degrees, began to understand who Jesus Christ really was.

Tomasz continued to attend his church, clinging to the traditions he’d been taught from a young age. He continued to offer prayers in order to save the soul of his deceased brother. He took a pilgrimage to a holy place in Poland. Behind the consecrated altar at the holy location, he went back and forth on his knees for a long time, trying to come to peace. His wife gazed at him with sadness. She had come to understand the truth about Jesus. Her heart ached as she saw Tomasz kneeling and praying in despair.

Back in Germany, Tomasz’s wife prayed for her husband. She knew that only God could reveal to him that Jesus was the answer to his struggles. She met for prayer with other women.

Then the miracle happened. In the midst of his prayers for his brother and surrounded by noisy machinery at his workplace, Tomasz began to understand that Jesus Christ is the only door to eternal life. His bewildered heart cried out softly, “Lord, show me the way to you.”

God did show Tomasz the way. Gradually, Tomasz understood that the way to Jesus Christ did not involve the veneration of relics. So he removed the consecrated water and statues from his house. But doubt and fear remained in his heart. Was this the right way?

So Tomasz prayed again, asking God to remove the confusion from his heart and show him the way to peace with him.

The Lord used a unique situation to answer Tomasz’s prayer the next day. He had been mowing his lawn and after he finished, a bright piece of paper in the grass caught his attention. It was attached to a now-deflated balloon. Picking up the paper, Tomasz read:

“You have it, the key that opens the next door!”

Tomasz learned later that the wind had blown the balloon a distance of 100 km, after which it landed in his back yard. The words on the paper had been the motto of a recent school graduation ceremony in a neighbouring city. On this day, it became his motto as well.

Tomasz said that for him “the key” was faith and belief in the truth.

He held the paper in his hands for a long time. He thought back over those 15 lessons and about what he had learned about Jesus’ work on the cross. These lessons had given him the key he needed. He already had it. He just needed to use it. All he needed to do was believe in what Jesus had done for him on the cross.

Back in his house, Tomasz consciously and now without any doubt, chose the only true Door, Jesus Christ. He accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by faith. An incomprehensible freedom filled him. He did not have to contribute anything to his salvation. All he had to do was to step through this one Door. Finally, Tomasz was free.

The grief surrounding the death of his brother was still a source of pain. Tomasz realized that, just as he could not have saved his brother from the deadly house fire, so he could not save him from an eternity separated from God. This was a painful realization.

But now he knew what he could do. A new passion flared up in him. Tomasz began to tell people around him about God’s salvation through Jesus–the true Door to life. He desires that his life become a key to help others open the door to salvation.

(* All names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)

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