"You stay faithful by..."
I first met Jim Foster sometime in July of 2015. I was invited to preach at a student camp in California. I immediately noticed Jim. He stood out. No, not just because he was older than all of the students, leaders, and camp staff (He was 82 at the time). No, not just because he was older AND at a youth camp in the mountains. What made Jim stand out to me was the fact he not only came as a leader to a youth camp, but he participated in absolutely everything the students did. Dodgeball? Check. Cow tongue football? Count him in as all-time running back. Letting the girls paint his fingernails their team color? Better not bring the cheap stuff. He was doing it all and he was keeping up with them. Of course, I had to meet this man and find out his story. He obviously had a heart for Jesus and a heart for young people. I just had to know him and what he was about.
It was an interesting first conversation. Within a few minutes of talking with Jim, I found out he worked literally just a few miles up the road from where I live now in Northwest Indiana. He was living in Chicago at the time and asked me about the neighborhood he used to live in. Let's just say, it's changed since his days there. He served in the military in a special op force and, well, you can ask my good friend Thomas Amos if he still packs a punch (Spoiler Alert: He does!). He eventually moved out to the Phoenix area, retired, and lives with his wife serving the church. I have learned so much from this man and have had the privilege of returning to the camp to continue talking with him.
Of all the things I wanted to know about this man, there was one question I felt I had to ask him. No, it wasn't, "Why in the world would an 84 year old man be at a youth camp?" Although it is related. My question was this, "After 84 years on this planet, how do you stay faithful to Christ until the end?" It was obvious what compelled him to decide to spend a week away from his wife, possibly take a dodgeball to the face, and getting his nails painted by a bunch of teenage girls was his passion for Jesus Christ. So what does it take to stay faithful to the very end? I was able to ask him this question on July 6, 2016. The day the photo above was taken.
"You stay faithful by keeping your eyes on Christ." He then began to tell me of the time he almost lost his child to an illness. He told me how much he struggled in his faith and how he would walk every morning from the hospital to a church down the street to pray. He would pray with his wife every morning for an hour, pleading with the Lord to spare their child. He went on to tell me, "The Lord doesn't fail His children. Whether He spared my child or not, it taught me not to take my eyes off of Him." I melted. I cried as I thought of my own children. Most of all, I was encouraged and challenged to keep my eyes on Christ, lest I sink.
I was reminded that day of many things, one of which is the fact we often need seasoned believers in our lives to encourage us along the way. Men and women who have walked the path of life and are a little farther in the race that Christ has finished for us. I am thankful for Jim Foster. He is a great example of someone who can say, "Follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). My prayer for you is that "you would stay faithful by keeping your eyes on Christ." His grace is what sustains us through all of life's challenges and comforts.