If you have enjoyed reading articles on this website (thank you and all glory to God), you will have noticed an absence on my part for several months. This essay may be a bit more personal than most; so if you are not interested in such things, you may not want to read the next several paragraphs.
On August 29th, the 56th anniversary of my parent’s marriage, my father passed away. I can now empathize with those who have suffered such loss. My father was awake early in the morning, so he and my mother got to acknowledge their anniversary. He had obeyed the gospel, and he lived to be 90 years old. As someone said to me, “No matter how long we have them, it is still a loss.” I had been expecting the call for years, not because he had any life-threatening illness; but just because he was tired.
I have had my experiences with the death of others: two friends by suicide in high school and college. A college friend who left his family behind way too young from a mysterious illness. A grandmother and grandfather. Even so, the loss of a parent is different, closer, a deeper ache. And I realize that the ache not only will never go away but will be triggered by anything and everything that reminded me of him. There is an almost tangible feeling of loss.
The whole thing made me reflect on the fact that death is a consequence of sin. All of this was brought about by the sin of Adam. His decision to eat of the fruit of which God had told him not to eat brought about not only spiritual death (separation) but also physical decay and death which is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “our outward man is perishing.” His counterpoint to that perishing is “yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Even though we suffer so, those who are obedient and faithful have a hope. Revelation 21:4. No more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
Pondering on the fact that death is a result of sin and that my father’s death has brought such sorrow makes me wonder what it would be like if all sin caused us this type of pain and anguish. Either we would learn to live a righteous life fairly quickly or our time on this earth would be pure torture. What if every time I sinned, I felt this ache? Theoretical, right? Not really. Should we not mourn over our sin? James 4:8-9.
It has been difficult for me to regain focus, and I am not even sure I have gotten back to it fully. I am hoping this writing will be a start because my father’s death also made me think about my life. What am I doing with it. Am I redeeming the time, Ephesians 5:16-17? Am I a true servant of my God and Heavenly Father?
It is my goal to strive toward living as a true Christian, not merely putting on a facade. What do I need to do to live in that manner? Let me offer three thoughts:
1) COMPLETE faith in God. Sometimes we look at those who call themselves Christians but have not been obedient to the gospel and see what looks like an incredible faith in God’s ability to work in their lives. Because however, we believe more is required of us in obedience, we shy away from their display of faith. As a result, we sometimes don’t have the faith we should have. God cares deeply about us, Luke 12:7, and wants to do good for us, Matthew 7:11. And He is able to do more than we even can imagine, Ephesians 3:20.
Sometimes I feel like a lackluster Christian. Sure, I have accomplished more than I ever thought I could with His help; and God may see me as better than I see myself. As I think of it, have I lost faith in God? If so, the problem is obvious. But no, I have not. Or I wonder if I have lost faith in myself. If I have, my faith is misplaced. I cannot and do not operate on my own but with the help of God, Philippians 4:13. The question, then, is, and what I want to achieve is complete faith in God. Trusting Him COMPLETELY for strength and guidance in all I do. Ask yourself, “Do I trust God COMPLETELY?”
2) COMPLETE dedication to God – We talk about dedication all the time and then we can’t make it to worship or studies. We really aren’t making much effort in improving in knowledge or trying to help the lost. Where is the dedication? Well, what is dedication? In my view, dedication is putting my wants (maybe even needs at times) aside for the needs of serving God in the kingdom. Sure, some will say, I have to provide for my family and bring up my children properly, etc. All those things are true, but I remember the days when I worked a secular job. I remember putting aside time that I might have spent in other ways to talk to people with whom I worked. I made a conscious decision to teach people whatever the cost; and I believed God watched over me and protected me in those efforts. The more we serve God, the more He helps us to serve Him.
Dedication is not a part-time thing; it is an all the time thing. We always should be ready to serve God in whatever opportunity He provides for us. Some of us are so busy living our own lives our own way that we wouldn’t notice an open door from God even if it said in neon letters, “Treasure in Heaven!” We are no more even looking for a way to serve.
The Macedonians had FIRST given themselves to God, 2 Corinthians 8:5. FIRST! What was left of themselves to give God? Nothing; they had already given themselves first and foremost. Ask yourself, “Have I given myself to God FIRST and FOREMOST?”
3) COMPLETE acceptance of His will – Things will not always go my way. Loved ones don’t live forever. Kids grow up and marry and move away. Difficulties abound in this life. Trouble will be with us as long as we live, Matthew 6:34. Sometimes, I do not understand why things have to be the way they are. Why did God choose this particular way of doing something? Why did He mandate that immersion in water is the process whereby our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ? I may understand some aspects of that question, but God’s ways are not my ways, Isaiah 55:9.
Am I willing to receive the answer to my prayers that the Lord wants to give me, or must it be my way? He knows what is best for me; do I believe it? Ask yourself, “Do I COMPLETELY accept God’s will for me?”
Life is not easy. There have been many times that I have agreed with Job in 3:11, “Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (and how does my life compare with Job’s experience?) and Solomon when he says in Ecclesiastes 7:1, “And the day of death (is better than) than the day of one’s birth.” Sometimes the sorrow is so great. What we must remember, however, is that there is a hope for us in the end. But we must live a true life not a hypocritical one in serving God. We must have COMPLETE faith in Him, COMPLETE dedication to Him, and COMPLETE acceptance of His will.