Daddy loved to tell about the Montgomery family. One of the first people to get saved at my home church in the 1940s was Sis. Florence Montgomery. Her family was living in poverty, like many others in that community.
They moved next door to the church in an old chicken coop that had been changed to a house. Here in this converted chicken coop, her large family of children witnessed a woman who was living for a different world. Her husband was nice…until he started drinking! When he got drunk, he would turn mean. The Montgomery children got a front-row seat to see the victory of their mother during less-than-desirable circumstances!
The children had great respect for their mother, but they didn’t choose to follow her. Hojah Montgomery was one of these. Although Hojah was a sinner, he tried to live right with good morals.
Daddy said the problem came when Hojah did not have enough money to buy schoolbooks for his large family of children. Hojah went to a friend who owned a tavern and asked for a loan. To pay back the loan, his friend wanted Hojah to work in the tavern. Before he knew it, Hojah was drinking and living a lifestyle that he never thought he would.
His choices began to affect his health. He was having trouble with his heart. One day when he passed out, the family took him to the hospital. The doctor did not want to transfer him to a bigger hospital in Indianapolis. What was the point? He was not going to live anyway.
Some of Hojah’s family hit the roof! They absolutely wanted their father transferred to a bigger hospital! Everything must be done to try to save his life. The family won, and Hojah was taken to Indianapolis. He lay for two weeks in the Veteran’s Hospital before he finally began to improve.
I have seen many people have a brush with death, and they are left seemingly unmoved… but not Hojah. He told himself, “My mother was a member of that church, and I wasn’t. I sent my children, but I didn’t go. I was so near hell, but I’m going to live for God now.”
Hojah drove to the watch night service in Frankfort, Indiana. Daddy felt like Hojah found God before he ever even got to the church. He cried. He shouted. But maybe the most amazing thing was that he was changed! God had put stability where it didn’t seem possible. He became a church board member.
He remained a sick man and always had an oxygen tank with him. To come to church required the assistance of his wife. But he came. Faithfully. God had put a will of iron inside him!
Then the sad news came. Hojah Montgomery’s mother had died several hours away. Daddy picked up Hojah to take him to the funeral. On the way, they had time to talk. Hojah had already thought everything through. He told my dad, “Now Smitty, I’m in charge of all my mom’s finances. She has a little place, but my family are bad to fight. You know, I’m too near heaven to get into all that. We’re going to go to the funeral, and we’re going to the cemetery. But that’s all.”
Daddy consented. As soon as the funeral was over, the family tried to get Hojah to go with them to divide things.
“Oh no,” he told them, “I have to go now. If you have something you want to give me, that’s all right. But I have to go now.” He got in the car with Daddy, and they headed off for Frankfort. The family never knew why.
Later, the news reached Frankfort about the tremendous fight among the family members about how things were divided, but Hojah was not in the middle of it. He had already determined to guard his heart. He said that he was too near heaven. And he was.
Not too much later, he woke up one Sunday and told his family that he would not be able to make church. “I’m too sick,” he told them.
They were alarmed. They had seen his will of iron and faithfulness. His wife said, “If you are too sick to go to church, then you need to go to the hospital!” They took him to the hospital, but his tired body was too far gone. It was only a matter of weeks, and Hojah went to heaven.
I don’t know how long I have left here on earth. It doesn’t seem that my body or that my heart is worn out, but I really don’t know that. What I DO KNOW is that I’m too near heaven to mess around. I’m too close to do anything but guard my heart. To watch for Satan’s snares. To guard against getting entangled with a few trinkets. I’m too near.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.