Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Final Words

What do you say to a faithful Christian, who is near death, on the occasion of your final opportunity to communicate in this life?  I was faced with that scenario recently as my wife and I traveled to visit a godly widow whom we have known for thirty-four years.  Her husband was an elder in the first church that I pastored; we have been good friends ever since.  As we all experience, friendships typically weaken over time.  But our relationship with Charlotte has been a rare constant in our lives for decades.  

Contemplating appropriate words on such an occasion forces one to cut through the usual light-hearted banter and inconsequential verbiage that comprises much of our social interaction.  When brought face-to-face with imminent death in the life of a treasured friend, several strong sentiments rose to the surface of my troubled mind.

First is a visceral revulsion to the inevitable consequences of sin.  Charlotte has maintained, by all outward standards, an exemplary Christian testimony well into her eighth decade of life.  As long as we have known her she has exhibited a heart to minister to others in a gracious spirit that honored the name of God.  Yet Charlotte, like all of us, is infected with the curse of sin.  It will take its inevitable and final toll on her frail body very soon.  But it can do no more than that because Christ has defeated the power of sin and death.  The curse may win the first round, but it will go down in a spectacular display of resurrection power in the end.

Second is an irrepressible sense of joy that a state of being awaits Charlotte, and all the faithful, that will so radically transform her existence as to render the present sufferings but a distant memory, to be recalled only as a means of rejoicing in the sin-obliterating grace of God.   Of that land that is “fairer than day,” the old hymn proclaims, “by faith we can see it afar.”  Charlotte, in the providence of God, is about to experience what we who remain behind can only yet dream of.

Third, not a single act of kindness done in the name of Christ will have been in vain.  The infinite Lord of the universe, in His omniscience and omnipresence, sees and remembers every moment of every life.  While we fondly recall many of the benevolences that Charlotte showered upon us, we have also forgotten countless others.  And we are but one of a myriad other recipients of her Spirit-driven charity.  But God has recorded them all in His book; not one is forgotten.

We sought to convey these brief sentiments to a godly saint whose appetite for this world and its ravages has waned.  Selfishly, we want to hold on to such relationships just a little longer.  But a loving spirit desires what is best for another; we therefore entrust Charlotte to the wise hand of the Lord who has decreed when her earthly pilgrimage should end. She is ready to meet her Maker, not because of what she has done but because of what He did.  We look forward to the grand reunion on the other side.