You might’ve heard the recent tragic story of a teenager who was given a new heart only to lose his life following a high-speed police chase.
When 17-year-old Anthony Stokes was first diagnosed, he was initially given less than a year to live without a transplant. His doctors had advised against the procedure because they felt he would not follow through with the post-op regimen.
After public pressure, the hospital caved and put Stokes on the short list for heart recipients. Unfortunately the doctors were proven right when, two years later, Anthony Stokes carjacked an elderly woman’s vehicle, led the police in a high-speed chase, and crashed his vehicle into a pole, ending his life.
The sad part about this story is that Anthony Stokes vowed that he would change his ways if given a new heart. He only had his new heart for two years when he died.
It is our nature to make vows we cannot keep, especially when under pressure. Call it survival, or the pragmatic convenience of the moment, either way we all make promises we don’t have the power to keep.
You cannot help but wonder how many heart transplant candidates felt outraged at such a waste of a precious gift they could’ve had? It is obvious that Anthony Stokes did not understand the gift that had been given to him.
This sad story also tells us that receiving a new chance is not enough to transform us. Only a new spiritual heart can truly change our ways.
Jesus wept at the loss of opportunity when many around Him displayed such cold indifference to the “new heart” he offered them.
“You did not recognize the time of your visitation”.
Even though they had welcomed Him with a parade of palm branches laid at his feet, He knew that the heart of man is driven by sentimentality as tenuous as a leaf in the wind. In just a short time they would be shrieking for his blood.
In case any of us are tempted to judge Anthony Stokes, let’s look in the mirror first and be reminded of how powerful a force sin is, especially for someone without God. We “believers” can often choose to remain in death in the face of new life being offered to us by Christ. We too can waste the transformational heart being presented to us in favor of doing life as we see fit despite the fatal consequences. We like Anthony can make vows of conversion to God in the face of fear only to forget them when we feel safe and smug.
Without a new heart, we will inevitably fall back into that default mode that leads to a fatal collision between our choices and their imbedded penalties. This is unavoidable and impossible to fix in our own strength. Only God can follow through with such a promise.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”. Ezekiel 26:36
No oath or pledge proceeding from our lips will ever succeed in changing our nature unless they issue from a new heart. And a new heart can only come from the One who created us.