Joshua Spears remembers that, as a youngster, he and his mother attended a church that he considered very legalistic. They had a poster on the wall in the youth department listing fifteen things every young person must do in order to go to heaven; one included getting rid of his TV. His mother eventually soured on the church, but his grandfather began to take him to a Baptist church.
His mother became so bitter that she even resented his attendance with his grandfather. Over the years, Joshua grew up, went to Bible college and entered the ministry. In college, he was introduced to street ministry and the use of Chick tracts.
As an outstanding student, he was given an award and his family came to attend the ceremony in another city. During that time, he and his favorite professor distributed a lot of Chick tracts in the hotel and restaurants.
Before his parents started back home, as he was preparing to return to Bible college, he found that he had only one tract left. Joshua recalls: “God led me to give that tract to my mama.
The tract was: "The Gunslinger".
I said to her, ‘Mama, this is a cute little story and I’d love for you to read it. It’s like a Christian comic book.’ She took it, kissed me on the cheek, said she was proud of me, and she and my dad went back to their home.”
A month later, Joshua was preaching on a Wednesday night and noticed a call on his phone. It was unusual because his family knew not to call during his services. He took the call and discovered that his mother, who had been fighting what they thought was the flu, had collapsed and was not breathing. Even though the EMT’s partly revived her, she entered the hospital on life support. Doctors determined that she had been without oxygen so long that she was brain dead.
This distressed Joshua, because he had been praying for her for a long time, knowing that she had given up on God. He begged the doctors to attempt further to revive her, fearing that her eternal destination would not be heaven. When the doctors said there was nothing more that they could do, he began to beg God to revive her like Jesus had done to Lazarus. He says that he begged God: “Please, don’t let my mama die and go to hell! God, please!”
He says that later he discovered why God was silent.
Joshua finishes up the story: “Somewhere between a week and two weeks later, I finally got enough strength to go into my parent's home for the first time since she passed away. I walked into her bedroom with tears flowing. Then I noticed something. I noticed the Chick tract that I had given her a few weeks prior, "The Gunslinger". It was sitting right next to her bed on her nightstand. I grabbed it and took it into the living room where my dad was. I said, ‘Daddy, I found the gospel tract that I had given Mama on her nightstand.’
“He responded, ‘Yes! She had been reading it every night since you gave it to her.’ Then, Daddy told me something so thrilling that I still shout about it when I think about or retell the story. He said, ‘Josh, everything‘s been so hectic that I haven’t been able to tell you this; but a week ago, out of the blue, your mama walked in and said to me ‘I just asked Jesus to forgive me.’’
“I never had the opportunity to talk with my mom about that, but I’m looking forward to the day, because of God‘s grace and unfailing love, to sit down with her, embrace her, and hear all about it! God never fails!”