John R. Richardson was the pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta when he received a request from a friend to visit a interesting man in the hospital. It was 1961 and Ty Cobb, one of the most famous baseball players in history, was dying of cancer.
Ty Cobb was known as a particularly rough character. He told stories about the fights he got into during his younger years. According to one of his stories, two men attacked him with knives. Cobb had a pistol but the gun wouldn’t fire. The men stabbed him in the back, but he didn’t stop fighting until he had beaten one of them to death with the gun.
He was known as “the meanest man in baseball”. In spite of his impressive record, a lifetime batting average of .366 over 24 years and 3.035 games, no one particularly liked him. He was the first man voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but only three players attended his funeral.
But things begin to look different at the end of life. Cobb looked over his life and realized that he was neither good nor happy. He still holds the record for stealing home, with 54 runs, but he seemed to understand that there was nothing for him to steal at the end of his life. And yet there was good news for Ty Cobb. Even the meanest of men, no matter what they have done, can be saved by the love and power of Jesus Christ.
His doctor was one of the first to share the Lord’s love with him in his last days. Dr. William Nesbitt couldn’t bring a physical cure, but led Cobb to a spiritual cure. He wrote:
“Over the years, whenever I’d visit, Cobb would ask me to read the Bible and pray with him. I recognized his spiritual hunger, evident in his attentiveness to God’s Word. I felt that God had given me a unique opportunity to share. Some of Cobb’s requested passages were Psalm 91 and Isaiah 53. The words of 1 Corinthians 13, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing,” seemed to convict him.
John Richardson, the pastor who visited Cobb, shared the good news of Jesus with him and he wrote about it in Christianity Today magazine:
“On that first visit, Ty wasn’t up to talking. He asked if we’d come back later. I quickly read a passage of Scripture and prayed for his welfare.
Two days later I returned to find that the Holy Spirit had been working in his heart. I explained God’s plan of salvation and the need for repentance. He replied that he wished to put his complete trust in Christ. On subsequent visits Ty was eager to talk about Jesus Christ.
Two days before his death, I paid my last call. “I feel the strong arms of God underneath me,” Ty said. “It is wonderful to be able to pray. Tell folks they should not wait as I did, until a crisis comes, before they learn how.”
Last week we talked about the calling grace of our Lord. It is a call to salvation, to forgiveness of sin, to reconciliation. It is a call to a dramatic change.
We could tell so many stories of the amazing conversions of those who belong to Jesus. From the story of Paul to Augustine to Billy Sunday, there are thousands, perhaps millions, of amazing stories of great change. People who were deeply lost in sin find a new life in Jesus.
Perhaps the best known and understood idea of grace is what we call, “saving grace”. In fact, most people will only think of saving grace when grace is mentioned. They have learned the Bible verses that are so well known and they have understood that there was no other way of salvation apart from the grace of God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ( NKJV ) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.
This message is absolutely true! There is no other way for you or for me to be saved. It is only God’s grace that saves us, nothing of ourselves, just His loving grace.