He laid his head back on the sofa and suddenly felt cold all over. He reached for a blanket and then he saw the man again. This time he sat, right here, in a chair in his living room; business suit, hat, briefcase and coat over his arm. Peter could actually see his face this time; the face was so unremarkable that Peter could never recall even a single feature. The well-dressed man began to speak.
â€śPeter, Iâ€™m disappointed in you. I tried over the past few years to get you going in the right direction, but without success. You persist in remaining a minister in spite of all the temptations and problems I set up. I thought the killing of the hitch-hiker would have made you come to your senses, but youâ€™re one stubborn fellow.â€ť
Peter wanted to respond, but his throat was hoarse and no words came out. In frustration, he wanted to get off the sofa and kick at The Devil. He wanted to attack the person who was taunting him with his sins and temptations. He could not move. He felt so weak. For a few minutes, he could no longer see The Devil.
â€śDon't get impatient, Peter, Iâ€™m still here. Iâ€™ve been with you for a long time. However, you slipped and wriggled out of my complete control many times. I thought you would succumb in the food bank. I thought I had you when Feuer gave in to the temptation to make your life miserable, but God helped you. Clark saved you. I thought I had won when the Church Council was ready to give up on the church. I was sure you were a goner when two people beat you up in the parking lot. What do I have to do to you to make you understand? Get out of the ministry!â€ť
Peter wanted to reply more fully, but could only think, â€śI made a vow. I promised to be faithful. I knew deep down that what was happening was not God's doing. God does not tempt people to sin. God does not direct punishment or troubles. As Job learned years before, God permits evil; he doesn't direct it.â€ť
The person in the chair must have read his thoughts. â€śYou really can't compare yourself to Job. That was great fun! He was bull-headed and stubborn. So are you, but youâ€™re certainly no Job. You do not have the stature. I know. Iâ€™ve known every great sinner that the world has produced. Why am I spending my time explaining things to you? Itâ€™s a waste of time.â€ť
Peter finally found the strength to raise himself up to look at the person, â€śThen you really are The Devil.â€ť
The person in the chair turned his head as if he were listening. â€śCan you really believe that after all the problems youâ€™ve had that Iâ€™m not The Devil? Câ€™mon, wake up. You worked hard and got nowhere. You struggled and had few successes. I bet you canâ€™t find one true friend anywhere in the Division and in the congregation. Tell me, how many friends do you have or think you have? Come on, be honest.â€ť
Peter was not certain if he spoke aloud or if the visitor could read his thoughts. â€śThe business of being a minister is not about making friends; it's about preaching the Gospel and serving the spiritual needs of people.â€ť
â€śAll right then. Tell me how many souls have you saved for the Kingdom of God? I bet you canâ€™t with honesty tell me about one. Yes, Peter, tell me one person youâ€™ve saved,â€ť the stranger taunted, â€śGo ahead, name one person youâ€™ve saved.â€ť
Peter was silent. The man in the chair leaned forward and continued, â€śI see by my records that just the opposite has happened. Did you convert my friend Brian Klimmer? Did you convert Karl Tosca? Youâ€™re a failure as a minister. Five members of your congregation hate you. Some others have lost their faith in God. You have the temerity to tell me that you evaluate your performance by a spiritual scale of values?â€ť
Peter wanted to get up and face the man, but he had no strength. The words were like a whip striking his soul. He closed his eyes to shut out the pain of the devilâ€™s accusations. When he opened his eyes, the chair beside the sofa was empty. No one was there.