Hope Found in the Death of a Believer
This year my birthday was exceptionally special. My wife and I thought it would be neat to go out on a date without the children (a rarity in our family). So my mother came over and watched our young ones while Kathy and I ran to Wal-Mart for groceries (yes, this is how young parents date nowadays).
I was able to get some lawn work done to tidy our house so our lawn and trees are much healthier looking. I also had some sweet moments with my son who is 4 years old now. He helped me with cutting and hauling the tree branches to the street. I also had a couple of hours where both my son and 2 year old daughter cuddled with me on the couch with a pack of Twizzlers and we watched cartoons.Those moments were wonderful and will never be forgotten.
However, my birthday was not so special in light of what was coming. On the evening of my birthday, we received a phone call from a dear friend. His voice was trembling as if he had been crying. He said, “Raymond has past away.”
Raymond was the father of our good friend and (in some deep sense) father of my wife. He more or less raised her in Christian guidance. She was the one who answered the phone call. After hearing the message, she sat the phone down and walked to the closet to get dressed. She was going to head over to their house. I stayed at the house since the children were sleeping.
I didn’t know Raymond all that much. We had many conversations but they were always during busy times. Never did I sit down over dinner or coffee and share. Late in his life he began suffering from an illness which weakened his body to the point where he spent much of his time resting in a bed at home. It was during this time that I was able to interact with him, but it was too late in his lifetime.
What I know of Raymond was learned from his memorial service. It was conducted at our church a few days later. There, I was able to listen as many spoke of their beloved memories.
He was a pillar in the church. He was known as a sacrificial giver when it came to ministry. Since the moment of his conversion, his passion for the Kingdom was strong. A survey of the stories that were shared in his memory taught me of his kindness toward the lowly, his strength for the weak, and his faith in the Lord.
Raymond’s legacy was not restricted to his immediate family only. It stretched far beyond the borders of family and church to the poor and disruptive in Mexico. One pastor said that thousands were touched by Raymond since it was he who was funding much of the missions work across seas.
Each person reminded us that Raymond’s life was not one of regret, but one of satisfaction. He lived and died resting in the peace that comes from Christ. He was not worried of passing or leaving anything behind. He knew that his time was coming and he knew that he lived for the Lord.
Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, which he wrote just moments before his execution, came to mind:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 46-8)
From what I understand about him now, I sincerely wish I knew him before his passing. He was a faithful man who loved God no matter the cost. I could have learned a lot from him. So, his passing was most unfortunate, but his celebration was most exhorting.
Our pastors reminded us of the hope we have in Christ. Our choir reminded us of the glory of God. Our friends reminded us of the love we share in Him. And Raymond reminded us of a union restored.
I’ll close with this short reminder. Wedding ceremonies are always a delight. The union of male and female exemplifies a love that supersedes our expression. It fills us with wonderful thoughts and emotions. We are excited and proud. We congratulate and care. We smile and cry.
Still, in its wonderful glory, marriage is only a temporal picture of a coming spiritual union whereby Christ is united with His bride, the Church. This future union is tasted by those who are left behind when a believer dies. The body is before us, but the Christian has exited this temporal space to rest in the presence of Christ.
The believer’s death is a taste of the real union for what we hope. Therefore, a wedding ceremony can only be trumped by a death ceremony. So I find much delight when I witness two becoming one in this world. But I take much more delight when I witness two becoming one in the other.
I know in part, but when death comes, I’ll know in full.
What a wonderful thing to delight in the passing of the believer.