July 15, 2009

As the Stars Forever

2009 1520 page31 capLL WAS PITCH DARK. I RUBBED MY TIRED EYES AND POKED AT THE illumination button on my wristwatch: 2:30 a.m. I was inside a cramped camping tent with my family in the middle of one of the most remote wildernesses in the continental United States. I had awakened right on schedule, ready to observe the heavens in the remote mountains of eastern Nevada.
As I fumbled for my red filtered flashlight to protect my night vision, the night seemed so ethereal. Except for a soft breeze that whistled down the forested canyon valley in which we stayed, an eerie silence hung over our camp. We were miles from civilization—much farther than I had ever been before. I was excited about what I might see.
2009 1520 page31After fumbling for a few moments, I managed to unzip our tent flap and slip out into the frigid mountain air and inky darkness. Pine needles and fallen leaves crunched beneath my feet as I walked from under the canopy of trees above our tent. Then I looked up. The sight that met my bewildered, astonished gaze was almost unimaginable. I had never in my life seen such a display. The stars looked so thick I felt almost completely lost. Initially I couldn’t recognize any constellations except one. I kept looking in profound amazement. I saw so many stars that the sky nearly looked lighted. The silvery swath of the Milky Way arched high overhead and glistened like diamond dust. I waved my hand close to the ground and realized something almost unbelievable: the Milky Way was casting my shadow! It was something I had only read about occurring at the most remote places on earth. Yet I was experiencing it.
My thoughts could not be verbalized, and in the poignancy of the moment my mind turned to the lofty words of Scripture. Only words from the mind of the Infinite could compare with the sheer enormity and grandeur of the works I beheld. There in that black yet glorious night, words of prophecy rung my very soul with fervent joy as tears welled up in my eyes: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
Everything earthly seemed to vanish into insignificance in that still, quiet moment. Worldly pursuits seemed vain and trifling. The fleeting pleasures of sin and unholy stimulation could never provide such joy and wonder as I then experienced. I caught a glimpse of God’s glory, the excellency of His majesty, the reward of ransomed saints!
I saw in a new and beautiful way that no joy can match that which is gained by turning persons from sin to righteousness, to shine as stars throughout eternity! What wonder! People to enjoy eternal bliss throughout ceaseless ages! Souls to thrill with rapture in ascribing praise and honor to God! I saw these things to be paramount in life. Leading people to Jesus took on new meaning that night. The awe-inspiring wonder that filled my heart can never be described; it can only be experienced to be understood.
All too soon the numbing cold forced me to leave the enchanting scene. With a final, thrilling, wistful glance at the sky I retreated to the warmth of my sleeping bag. The heavens would continue in their divinely ordained paths above me, beckoning further study and observation, but there would be other nights to observe them. With these thoughts in mind I drifted off into peaceful rest.
Since that night I’ve held several evangelistic series; many people have given their lives to Jesus and been baptized. As each person makes a decision for Jesus, I realize greater joy than ever before. I hope to spend my life doing full-time evangelism. But through whatever experiences I face in the future, I will never forget that night when the wonderful joy of soul winning was opened to my mind in a way I had never before experienced; opened to me by the words of Scripture and a stunning, starry sky. 
Randy Steffens, Jr., a resident of Carthage, Tennessee, just returned from preaching his most recent evangelistic series in Peru with The Quiet Hour.