Saturday, March 15, 2014
A Dying Man to Dying Men: Listening to the Final Words of an Eternity-Bound Believer
We listened in as one of our own dear saints gave his final testimony to a small group of his close friends.
For years, the Men of Faith group has been closer than brothers, and most of us realized that this would be the final time we would see John during this mortal pilgrimage.We sat in the Sunday School classroom as he spoke to us with the conviction of a saved man, the glorious tastes of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb already upon his lips.
If the doctors are right, he has but a couple weeks to live. Almost certainly, this was his last visit to Faith Church. I found the words of this once seemingly invincible welder (John is 6' 8'' in height, but now mostly confined to his wheelchair) to be gripping and inspiring. We all sat with baited breath as he spoke to us with the assurance of a prophet and the erudition of an apostle.
"I have absolutely no fear of dying," he said. "None."
The words of Richard Baxter quoted above were fixed in my heart as he exhorted us. He was truly speaking "as a dying man to dying men." Notable among his words--brief and poignant as they were--are a few monumentally significant thoughts I would like to relate to everyone.
1. Eternity is closer than it appears. John isn't the only man who will be entering eternity soon. We all will. For all we know, any one of us might go before him! For all of us, this mortal life passes quicker than we realize. James says it is like a mist or vapor (4:14). It is incredible how the priorities of this life sort themselves out so quickly when Heaven is in close view. The brevity of life is fleeting. Will we be as ready as John to enter the presence of our Creator and Judge? John's readiness for the eternal gates comes not from self-assurance, but from self-abandoning faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Men, lead your family in the faith. John spoke with power and honesty when it came to leading one's household as a man of God. Regrets? Of course. We all will wish that we were better husbands and father's when we reach the threshold of the eternal city. How we loved our wives and lead our children during this life will be so much more valuable than possessions!
Remarkably, John never once spoke of the importance of "things," and the silence on this matter was deafening from a man whose house once burned to the ground along with every earthly possession! His leadership of his family in the Lord, however, seemed to weigh heavy on his lips.
Oh how all of us will wish we had been more consistent in prayer, devoted in Scripture, and relentless in catechizing our children in the truths of the Christian faith!
3. Share the gospel without fear. What struck me most was John's encouragement to banish fear from our lives, especially as it comes to sharing the saving truth of the Gospel. John boasted that he "feared no creature on planet earth with a heartbeat," and yet acknowledged that sharing Christ with others was sometimes intimidating.
Although John often witnessed by word and deed to the other welders at work, he admitted that it was not without some trepidation! All of the men in the room (including this pastor) agreed. And yet he bade us not to fear sharing the Gospel of Christ, as this present life will soon give way to eternity. "Where will fear be then?" he asked.
After about twenty minutes of sharing, John retired to the sanctuary of the church to film his own funeral message. He hoped to impact the lives of as many as possible. John prayed that many would receive his words--arrows shot straight from his heart to ours--as pleas to trust and believe the Gospel as well as to lead like men of courage.
Rarely have I seen a man speak so clearly and absolutely under the influence of the Holy Spirit! After we filmed his testimony, we wheeled him to the car. I hugged him goodbye and we parted, likely for the last time on this earth.
Dear readers: Time flees. Eternity beckons. Life is short. Kids grow up fast. The sand in the hourglass drops relentlessly. That is, of course, until we enter the world in which time is of no consequence.
Thank you, John, for being a faithful witness.
--Pastor Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.