Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

DeathBilly Graham died 2 weeks ago. Stephen Hawking died today. And this week, I Can Only Imagine releases in movie theaters.

What do these three events have in common?

Billy Graham was a well-known evangelist who spent his life sharing the gospel. His message was that God loves you and sent His Son to die for your sins to restore your relationship with Him. Rev. Graham was known as a gifted communicator, a “pastor to presidents,” and a man of integrity. His biggest fear was that He would do something to bring disrepute to the gospel of Christ.

DeathStephen Hawking was a brilliant and well-known professor of theoretical physics. He spent his life studying the mysteries of the universe. His other claim to fame was being the longest survivor of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a diagnosis of ALS generally leads to death within several years. But Professor Hawking defied conventional medical knowledge and lived with ALS for more than fifty years.

While both these men were exceptional in their own ways, their most significant difference was in the area of faith. Rev. Graham knew beyond any doubt that he was a child of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ. As he approached death, he confidently expected to be ushered into the presence of the God of creation.

Dr. Hawking was equally certain that there is no God. Of course, no one can know another person’s heart, but we do know what he said. In his words, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Which brings me to the movie releasing this week: I Can Only Imagine, a story of redemption, forgiveness, and transformation. The movie’s title, taken from the song written by Bart Millard (profiled in the film), refers to the anticipated response of believers when they stand before God in the afterlife.

I can only imagine.

I can only imagine the joy Billy Graham experienced when he first stood before his heavenly Father and heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV).

And I can only imagine the horror Dr. Hawking experienced the moment he realized that, for all his brilliance, he got it wrong. There is an afterlife for both believers and unbelievers. And he will be face to face with the Creator of the universe as His enemy.

Because, you see, there is no neutral position before God. The Bible tells us “we were God’s enemies” before we were reconciled to Him in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10). And Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30).

Please, please, please don’t fool yourself into thinking that anyone can be neutral about their relationship with God. Choose Him and know a peace that passes all understanding now, and a certainty of eternity with Him later – a certainty you won’t have to imagine.



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  1. Carolyn

    Ava, love, love, love. Beautifully stated and speaks the truth!

  2. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Carolyn!

  3. Pam walsh

    Beautifully written truth Ava! When those that are believers say “I Can Only Imagine” it brings great joy. But what those who reject God will say after “I couldn’t have imagined how bad it would be” and then it is too late

  4. Gale

    Thank you for this Ava, I have been thinking the same thing about Stephen Hawking. I’ve felt for a long time that he was on the wrong path and seemed no one was going to get through to him that God, heaven & he’ll are real. Guess he knows now.

  5. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Pam. Yes, how sad that they will realize too late.

  6. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Gale. Yes, that’s why we lovingly share the gospel, so people will know what they will face.

  7. Kaylon

    This is my first exposure to your work, Ava. Thank you for this hard saying.

  8. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Kaylon.

  9. Janice Green

    So true. If only those with hard hearts would open their eyes to the truth that is found in Scripture.

  10. Marlene Bagnull

    You’ve powerfully and eloquently written TRUTH. Thank you!

  11. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Marlene.

  12. Bob Baker

    This is beautiful. Thank you for this article. I have not seen the movie but plan on it. Keep up your writing and let other people know about God. He moves in surprising ways. We just have to be aware of them.
    Blessings of the day to you and yours,

  13. Ava Pennington

    Thank you.


  1. Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking and ‘I Can Only Imagine’ | WTLM Autodesk - […] This article originally appeared at […]

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