WILLIAM CHRISTENSEN pulled up to the beach house with his wife and two daughters.
“We’re here,” he exclaimed. He turned off the engine and pointed. “And the house is right on the ocean,”
His teenage daughters squealed.
“Go check it out. Your mom and I will join you later.”
The girls leaped out of the car.
William winked at his wife. “That didn’t take too much convincing.”
She surveyed the sandy shoreline and clipping waves in the distance. “It’s a dream come true. One week away from everything.”
William nodded. “With my brother and his family.”
A highly successful doctor with a thriving medical practice, William had been nominated for a significant award for his work on pancreatic cancer. He had recently appeared on Fox News, Bloomberg, and CNN.
As those thoughts swirled in the doctor’s head, he thought about the attention he had received from strangers. However, the toll on his family was steep. With all the deadlines, presentations, expectations, and media hype behind his promising cure, he wasn’t sure it was worth it.
In contrast, his brother, Noah, had done much for the kingdom of God. Why couldn’t he be like his brother—faithful to God and the truth?
But, for now, William was thankful to be with his family. He hoped this vacation would help him to get back on track.
He stepped out of the car, and his phone chirped. “Almost there.”
William smiled. “Noah will be here in a few minutes. Why don’t you make sure the house meets your expectations, and I’ll stay here and wait for him.”
His wife adjusted the sun hat over her eyes. “In this heat?”
William nodded. “You go. I’ll be there soon.”
Before heading to the vacation beach house, his wife stepped back into the car and grabbed a few things.
As she disappeared, William reminisced how he loved his wife now more than the day he married her. When had he last thanked God for his family?
PASTOR NOAH CHRISTENSEN exclaimed, “We’re almost there,” as if the rest of his family hadn’t figured it out.
The two teenage boys cheered in the back of the van.
When the family pulled into the driveway, Noah saw his brother leaning against the car, waiting for him.
Noah’s wife smiled. “You and your famous brother have much catching up to do.”
Noah squirmed. His twin brother was a successful doctor, but she didn’t need to rub it in. While William was winning international awards, Noah was pastoring a small church of two hundred members. However, recently, the church no longer felt like a bastion for the weary and the hopeless. Members had become preoccupied with social justice, wokeness, and inclusivity. Many of the congregants wanted to get rid of him.
Elders had met two weeks earlier to discuss firing him. A new controversy erupted every week. Discouraged, he wanted to walk away from it all. Perhaps they were right; his suffering was because of his unwillingness to compromise.
Even though he hadn’t told anyone, Noah planned on turning in his resignation. He believed his ministry had failed despite many coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The boys quickly exited the car and headed for the beach.
His wife put on her sunglasses. “I’ll leave you to with your brother.” Her eyes followed the steps to the beach house. “I can’t wait to see the inside.”
Noah nodded. In his heart, though, her words pricked him. A whole week to feel inferior to his brother. He didn’t begrudge what his brilliant brother had accomplished. He only wished he could have had the same success as a pastor.
William hurried over to greet Noah as he stepped out of the car. “Hey, Brother.”
The twins embraced. “It’s been too long,” William said. “And your boys have grown so much.”
Noah smiled. “Where are your girls?”
William glanced toward the beach. “They took off that way.”
Noah chuckled. “Our kids will find each other.”
In many ways, the twin brothers’ lives paralleled each other. Except William had become a doctor, and Noah had become a pastor. William was wealthy and respected in the medical community. Noah was disrespected and hated by many in his church. William had a bright future. Noah couldn’t bear to think about his future.
But for now, Noah would be thankful for this time with his brother, William. He wouldn’t tell his brother that his church wanted to fire him. Resigning sounded better than being fired.
WILLIAM clutched his brother on the shoulder. “Let’s go for a walk, shall we?”
Noah looked at his shoes.
As if William could read his twin brother’s mind, he chirped, “Just leave them in the car. Come on, before we get busy with family stuff. Let’s go.”
Noah didn’t need much convincing. He flipped off his shoes, and they made a beeline to the beach.
William remembered their summer vacations as kids when they would kick beach balls, build sandcastles, and look for sand crabs. Those memories were sweet to William, but they seemed like eons ago. William longed for that time again when he didn’t feel burdened with so much responsibility. He felt like he was sinking under the expectations of an overreaching medical complex. “Publish, publish, publish,” his superiors would say, “so we can get more funding.”
William only wanted his brother to tell him inspiring stories about what God was doing in his church. He tried to imagine how awesome it would be to serve a God-fearing congregation and an elder board that loved the Lord. William couldn’t remember the last time his family had attended church regularly. He was out of town so much—and while he longed for church fellowship, he could never find the time to make it happen.
“How is your church?” William asked. “Are you growing? Many new converts? How about those missionaries in Africa? Do they need more money?”
That was always William’s answer for not attending church regularly. Send more money. Not that money wasn’t necessary for missions, but—was there more God wanted from him?
Noah evaded answering for a minute to frame his words carefully. “The church is going through some tough times.”
William nodded as he stopped to soak his feet in a freshly made water hole. “Yeah, I suppose with all this woke stuff and gender confusion and social justice”—He paused for a second. “Of course, I’d rather deal with that than—”
“Than what?” Noah asked.
“Ah, just all the political stuff. Practicing medicine is harder when the government tells you what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t prescribe, you know, all that stuff you hear in the news.”
Noah quipped. “But everyone respects you, William. You practically run the medical research at the University. Without you, their funding would disappear.”
William shook his head. “Everybody owns me. Sometimes I feel like a pawn in a chess match waiting to be wiped off the board for some idiotic king who thinks he’s God. At least in church, you are surrounded by people who seek the truth and want to improve the world. With you as their pastor, the church should be thankful. You’d never compromise God’s word for—for popularity.”
NOAH couldn’t state the truth. His unwillingness to compromise had cost him the pastorate. If his brother knew the truth, if he really knew—suddenly, a crazy thought swirled in his head. What if they traded places for a few days? He would be William, and William would be Noah. They would only let their family in on the hoax. Being twins, no one would know the difference. All their lives, people had confused them, even those who knew them well. But before suggesting it, his brother blurted out exactly what he was thinking.
“Let’s trade places,” William said. “You be me for a couple of days.”
Noah pretended not to want to go along with it.
“Noah,” William said. “I need a diversion. I haven’t been to church in so long. I’d give anything to be around God-fearing churchgoers. I don’t want this fame and notoriety. It’s not what everybody thinks it is.”
Noah couldn’t believe his ears. Could they pull this off? Maybe God had planned all of this out and brought them to the beach for a week to make it happen.
Besides, Noah imagined William’s battles being easy compared to his. William had no idea what it was like to pastor a church where the people hated you. And to be admired by doctors, the media, the University—how could that be hard to handle? Of course, he didn’t know a thing about medicine. He certainly couldn’t practice it, or he would go to jail. But he could sit in his brother’s office, wear a white coat, and feel important.
“Okay. I’m all in,” Noah said. “Not for very long, though, or we could get into trouble. If we did get caught, we’d call it a joke. Nobody needs to know except our family.”
The brothers continued talking about how they could pull off the hoax. As they talked, the plan grew, taking on a life of its own.
Suddenly, the cries of someone in the ocean reached their ears.
“A waterspout,” Noah exclaimed. “My God, somebody is caught in it.”
The brothers ran toward the water—was it one of their children?
At last, they could see the person struggling in the water. Thank God he was alive, although he was in trouble. Noah followed William into the swirling waves. The victim was an older man, perhaps in his sixties. The brothers struggled through the cresting tide as the spout tossed water in every direction. The undertow was stronger than Noah had ever felt. If he had not been focused on saving the dying man, he would have been terrified that he was going to drown.
Noah prayed, “Please, Lord, help us.”
With the man choking and gasping for air, the brothers managed to haul him to shore. The waterspout dissipated, and the sudden calmness of the water seemed supernatural. William laid the man gently on the sand. As a doctor, he knew what to do. And Noah, a Godly man, prayed like the man’s life depended on it.
Together, the twin brothers worked on the rescued man. After a short time, the man revived and sat up. Noah praised God, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for answering our prayers.”
Dr. Christensen continued to assess him. “We need to call an ambulance, or do you have a relative we can contact?”
The man peered into William’s eyes with such intensity Noah saw fear on his brother’s face. Was there more to this near drowning than Noah recognized?
As the brothers waited for the man to answer William’s question, the man stood abruptly.
The brothers stared in amazement. How could he recover so quickly?
“Who are you?” Noah asked.
“Do not be afraid,” the man said. “You wanted to save me. In doing so, you saved yourselves. He glanced at William. “You are a doctor,” and then he looked at Noah. “And you are a pastor.”
The two brothers exchanged glances. Who was this man? How could he know their profession? Noah knew his brother was thinking the same thing.
“The reality is,” the man said, “I saved you from losing your rewards. Salvation is a gift, but rewards are earned. Think about it. Each of you wants what your twin brother has. Is that not like Satan, to fool you into believing that what the other person has is better?”
Speechless, Noah and William stared at the man.
“Don’t believe the devil’s lies. Do what God has called you to do. If that’s suffering, suffer with joy. If it’s achieving success, give God the glory. If it’s weariness, don’t give up. Accept your lot in life with humility, and love God when things are easy and when they aren’t. If you do that, heavenly awards await you.”
Several seconds passed until the brothers could speak, and then the man disappeared.
“We just had a vision,” Noah said.
William nodded. “The first thing I’m going to do is—repent.”
Noah’s pride evaporated. “Things have been terrible at my church.”
William interrupted him. “That’s because you stand for truth. Don’t compromise, Noah,” William said. “You heard what the angel said.”
The voices of four teens approaching interrupted their supernatural encounter. Noah said, “We need to pray for our children.”
“I must spend more time with my family,” William said. “I must. I’ve been warned.”
“Giving up is not an option,” Noah said. “I will never resign.” He looked up into the heavens. “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I feel like I’ve been born again.”