I had been going to a bar for about a year. I would go at the same time every week and in the early evening when there weren't a lot of women there. This bar was one of the tougher ones in the community and was known for having rough characters. However, during the time that I went, it was retired guys and men just getting off the factory day shift.
My activity at this bar had nothing to do with drinking alcohol. I abstain from alcohol, always have and always will. I felt God telling me that He wanted me to go there. I didn't go alone and would always take another Christian friend with me. I knew that it wasn't good to go alone so that if any rumors started, they could be easily squelched.
My church friends and I had garnered a reputation in this bar as not drinking but rather hanging out and talking to the guys that went there. I've noticed that men in bars aren't known for their social skills. There is a lot of just sitting there looking at your drink and watching TV. However, there were times in the conversations where openings to speak about more pressing matters came about. I remember sitting there and one gentleman came over to me and said, "you're one of those preachers that comes in here every week aren't you? Why do you come in here?" I responded, "I'm not a preacher but I am a Christian. I come in here because I could use some friends. I heard that this was a great place to make friends." This conversation wasn't outstanding but it was significant. He came to the realization that there were at least a few Christians who were willing to be with him in a "normal" (his term) environment.
I had a friendship with one man in particular. He wasn't necessarily well-liked in that bar but he was tolerated. I found out that his life was rather troubling and that he had significant physical and emotional challenges. It seemed, over time, that he enjoyed talking with me. He would, even at times, initiate the conversation. I tried talking to him about spiritual things but he typically shrugged them off.
I prayed that God would give me opportunities to make an impact on this man's life. One time, I was in earnest prayer about what God could do with me at the bar, praying in the parking lot before entering. After about 30 minutes of discussion, this one man whom I spoke about in the previous paragraph said that he was gonna call a taxi so that he could go home. I thought to myself, "I wonder if this is one of the opportunities that God has given me to help him?" So, I offered to take him to his home. He complied and as I was driving, I asked where he lived. He started to direct me one way and then said, "I need to go by the carryout to get some beer to take home with me."
I didn't know what to say. I said a quick prayer in my mind: "Help!!!" I felt a peace come over me and was impressed that God wanted me to go ahead and let this man buy beer.
I drove into the carry-out and had them throw the case in the bed of my truck and my friend paid for it and off we went. As I was pulling out of the carry-out, I was hoping that nobody saw me. After all, people may think that I buy and drink beer!
I tried to strike up a conversation with my friend and he said how much he appreciated it that I was giving him a ride home. Yet, he continued to be fairly closed to a spiritual discussion.
After I dropped him off, I went to my church and talked to the associate pastor, a good friend of mine, and told him what happened. He said something that was very comforting, "you prayed for God to give you an opening. God did but not in the way you were thinking. God knew that you were going to that carry-out. God wasn't surprised, just you were."
I don't know what happened to my friend after that. I never saw him again. I heard, a few months later, at the bar, that he had passed away shortly after my last contact with him. He died of liver failure. All of his years of drinking had finally caught up with him.
I'm hopeful that my contact with him was meaningful. I'm hopeful that he came to know Jesus as his Savior and that I was instrumental in helping him reach out to God. However, I won't know until I get to heaven.
I'm hoping that when we get to heaven, there will be a bar there and my friend and I will be at the bar with Jesus, and we will be drinking Dr Pepper. The real stuff with cane sugar, not the caffeine-free diet stuff that I drink now. The good stuff...with greasy cheesy fries.
Beer? Not needed, there are no sorrows to drown in heaven.
BE A MAN.