It’s Never Too Late for A Miracle: 3 Golden Nuggets from The Cross and the Switchblade
This past month our daughter and her family moved to a larger home. I had the opportunity to help them unpack. I never turn down a chance to be near my granddaughters, even if it involves work! As I was emptying a box of miscellaneous items, I pulled out a small paperback book entitled, The Cross and the Switchblade. The book was written in 1962, so it may not be familiar to many. I couldn’t wait to read it! Let me tell you why.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of spearheading a project with schools in New York City. I spent many weeks there over several years, and on one visit I stumbled upon the Times Square Church. I attended services as often as I could on subsequent trips. I learned the church was founded in 1987 by Dr. David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade. After a little investigation, I found this short account of how the church began.
In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street at midnight, Pastor David Wilkerson’s heart broke over what he saw. At that time, Times Square was populated mainly by prostitutes and pimps, runaways, drug addicts and hustlers, along with live peep shows and X-rated movie houses. Pastor David cried out for God to do something—anything—to help the physically destitute and spiritually dead people he saw.
Recalling that life-changing night, Pastor David says, “I saw 9, 10, and 11 year old kids bombed on crack cocaine. I walked down 42nd Street and they were selling crack. Len Bias, the famous basketball player, had just died of a crack overdose, and the pusher was yelling, ‘Hey, I’ve got the stuff that killed Len.’” I wept and prayed, “God, you’ve got to raise up a testimony in this hellish place”…The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “Well, you know the city. You’ve been here. You do it.” (1)
I was immediately astounded by the compassion and obedience of this one man. I pledged to read the book as soon as I could find it. I totally forgot about it…until I helped my daughter unpack. There it was, waiting for me, and I couldn’t wait to curl up in a soft chair and start reading. It didn’t take me long to become completely engrossed in the true story. I finished it in less than two days.
There is so much I could tell you about this book, but there is one clear message I want to share with you: It’s never too late for a miracle. When I read about Pastor Wilkerson’s compassion and persistence, I couldn’t help but think of you – Christian educators who are on mission every single day. We all can probably think of those students who challenge us, who push our buttons, who are downright difficult; however, these are the same children who need us desperately. How can we persevere when everything in us wants to throw in the towel? How can we hold out for a miracle? This true story is full of golden nuggets to encourage us. Let me share three.
Golden Nugget #1: Compassion and love open the door for God to move.
Pastor Wilkerson was touched by an article in Life magazine about seven teenagers who were members of a criminal gang. Alone and with little money, he went to Brooklyn, sometimes at the risk of his life, to talk about the love of Jesus with members of street gangs. These were the toughest, most hopeless kids that New York City had to offer—drug addicts, runaways, prostitutes. Yet, Pastor Wilkerson was laser-focused. Why? Compassion. God had stirred a longing in his heart for these young people, and he never questioned it. He simply obeyed. (2)
There was no judgement. Despite repeated rejections, threats, and even physical harm, love prevailed. The message was simple: no matter what you have done, Jesus loves you, and so do I.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Golden Nugget #2: Pursue and persist those who are lost.
If God places someone on your heart or puts someone in your path that needs to know Him, pursue them even in the face of rejection. Meet them where they are. God does not give up easily (Revelation 3:20), and neither should we. When it comes to our students or colleagues, it means accepting them for who they are but knowing all they can become through Jesus Christ. Our job isn’t to change anyone. We don’t have that kind of power anyway! We simply point them to Jesus. Power is found in Him alone.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18
You might be wondering about your limitations when it comes to students. How can I share Jesus without breaking any laws? I don’t have a pat answer for this question. I know we can’t openly share the plan of salvation in our public-school classrooms, but I do know what we can do. We can demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit which has no limitations.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23
I have to believe if we allow God’s Holy Spirit to fill and guide us, an opportunity will arise for God to make Himself known. It may be through the form of a question: “Why do you care?” or “How come you are being nice to me?” We must be ready to answer. God knows how to open doors. Continue to pursue and persist. It’s never too late for a miracle.
Golden Nugget #3: Follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.
It is hard not to barrel ahead of God when there are such great needs around us. David Wilkerson learned through several missteps—and I would venture to say so have we—that without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, his efforts failed. When he diligently prayed and sensed God’s leading, he didn’t hesitate. He obeyed, and God showed up in a big way! I think this is an area in which we all struggle. We often don’t take action because we are unsure of God’s leading. I’m learning we won’t always get it right, but God is big enough to handle our missteps. He knows our heart, and God rewards our obedience.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:33
Jesus replied: “If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them.” John 14:23
I bet you are wondering about the “rest of the story.” God accomplished great things in New York City. Gang members accepted Jesus and later become pastors, drug addicts discovered what life was like clean, and prostitutes learned about true love. Wilkerson went on to create Teen Challenge and World Challenge to minister to people’s spiritual and physical needs. Lives were changed by the power of the Gospel…and by the commitment of one man who was full of love and compassion, who persisted despite hardship, and who followed the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I was so encouraged by this story, and I pray it encourages you too. Who has God placed in your life or on your heart today? Who do you need to love and pursue? Don’t give up! We serve a mighty God. He is powerful! The message of the Gospel changes lives. It’s never too late for a miracle! Who knows? Perhaps someday you will have your own story to tell!
Check out this testimony by Nicky Cruz, a former gang president.
Do you have a story to tell? It may or may not be as dramatic as this story but it is still important and a reflection of God's power in our lives. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me help you share your story!