For reasons yet I don’t fully understand nor do I need to, I was compelled by the Holy Spirit at 6:45 a.m to get out of bed and write this piece, which my Lord spoke to my heart that it would be a message of profound significance to many. I pray it will speak to each one of you in the way you need it most.
I thank God for all of you. He has been using you to encourage me that my struggles have a purpose beyond my limited human understanding.
Death. It is a subject we don’t like to talk about. Having come close to it many times myself becaue of life-threatening allergic reactions, I and my beautiful, loving,intelligent and creative wife, Karen, have faced that reality. I have been intubated eight times. I have to take at least two EPI pens wherever I go, and sometimes have needed three. For those unfamiliar with what an EPI pen is it is an injector that contains the drug epinephrine, which is also known as anrenaline. It is used to relieve the symptoms of a severe allergy attack or sometimes in CPR ( cardio pulmonary resucitation). to get the heart started again.
Yet, as I came close to death many times the Lord used those trying and soul-searching times to give me a gift far greater than all the wealth of the richest person in the world. He used my near death experiences to call me and all of us to the wondrous beauty and abounding joy of knowing Him, really knowing Him with all of our heart, mind and soul.
The reality of our death can point us back to life in our Lord. Not a half-hearted life. Not one of a mediocre commitment to Christ. I and all of us who know God and those who yearn to know Him, are called to a life of complete surrender. We are called to a full assurance that no matter what storm we are going through, His guiding hand is there to lead us from the raging sea of our distress to the healing waters of His peace.
The minister, Peter Marshall, was used by His Lord on the eve of America’s involvement in World War 2 to give an uncomfortable message to midshipmen at the Annapolis Naval Academy. I will let Peter’s wife, Catherine, speak about that experience, because she says it from a heart of love for her Lord and her husband far better than I ever could express.
An experience Peter Marshall, the great Scottish preacher, related during his ministry:
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Peter Marshall preached to the regiment of midshipmen in the Naval Academy at Annapolis. A strange feeling which he couldn’t shake off led him to change his announced topic to an entirely different homiletical theme based on James 4:14: For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. In the chapel before him was the December graduating class, young men who in a few days would receive their commissions and go on active duty. In that sermon titled Go Down Death,Peter Marshall used this illustration.
In a home of which I know, a little boy—the only son—was ill with an incurable disease. Month after month the mother had tenderly nursed him, read to him, and played with him, hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis. But as the weeks went on and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand that he would never be like the other boys he saw playing outside his window and, small as he was, he began to understand the meaning of the term death, and he, too, knew that he was to die.
One day his mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table: of Lancelot and Guinevere and Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their death.
As she closed the book, the boy sat silent for an instant as though deeply stirred with the trumpet call of the old English tale, and then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart: “Mother, what is it like to die? Mother, does it hurt?” Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen supposedly to tend to something on the stove. She knew it was a question with deep significance. She knew it must be answered satisfactorily. So she leaned for an instant against the kitchen cabinet, her knuckles pressed white against the smooth surface, and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and would tell her how to answer him.
And the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.
“Kenneth,” she said as she returned to the next room, “you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed…it was not where you belonged. And you stayed there only a little while. In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come—with big strong arms—and carried you away. Kenneth, death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room—our own room where we belong—because the Lord Jesus loved us.”
The lad’s shining, trusting face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and that there would be no more fear … only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.
After Peter Marshall had finished the service at Annapolis and as he and his wife Catherine were driving back to Washington that afternoon, suddenly the program on the car radio was interrupted. The announcer’s voice was grave: “Ladies and Gentlemen. Stand by for an important announcement. This morning the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor was bombed…..”
Within a month many of the boys to whom Peter Marshall had just preached would go down to hero’s graves in strange waters. Soon all of them would be exposed to the risks and dangers of war, and Peter Marshall, under God’s direction, that very morning had offered them the defining metaphor about the reality of eternal life.
—Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter, pp. 230-231, 272-273
Death can be a gift. It points us to the reality that we all will die. The Lord uses it to call us to live a life connected with His heart, that He would be the reason for our existence and our service to Him.
Let us value the life our Lord gave us and not waste it on success at the cost of our families. James is clear that God does not guarantee us even the next second. At any moment any one of us could face the reality of death through an accident, disease or illness.
In the hustle and bustle of making preparations for Christmas to spend time with family, friends and colleagues, let us also take time celebrating something far more important than our desire to own the latest Tablet, Smart Phone or Ipod. Let us all celebrate the miracle of Christ’s birth. Value the gift of life your Lord gave you. Give to each one and the poor your heart of love and to the alcoholic, drug addict and the prostitute your outstretched hands of tolerance, compassion and understanding.
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