Don’t Fear the Reaper, Christian!

Well, it happened again: Another friend that I graduated with from high school died this week. Of course, when one reaches the age of 60 it should be expected, but it seems as if our class has had more than its share of tragedy lately.

While there are those whose lives are so filled with pain that death is looked upon as an escape, actually, death is not a friend; it is an enemy. Apart from Adam’s sin, death would not even be a part of this world; but since that day in the garden it has filled our lives with tears, loss, and heart break. It is something to be hated and despised.

However, for the Christian, it is the last enemy that we will ever face. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, Christ must “reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet,” and “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (15:25-26) As a matter of fact, that victory will be so complete that the Psalmist was inspired to write, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.

Our hope is to be found in Christ’s promise that He made to Martha by the graveside of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

So my plans are to live every day that the Lord gives me as full as I possibly can for His glory, and when my appointment with death comes, whether it be sooner or later, I will know that my only comfort in life and death is “that I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.” (Heidelberg Catechism)

“My fellow workers in Christ Jesus”

When one comes to the end of Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome we find this interesting collection of greetings that Paul desires to pass along to those in the Imperial city:

3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert1 to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia,1 my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,2 and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers1 who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. (Romans 16:3-15)

As I left our session meeting last night (if you are not Presbyterian, a church session is the body of elders in a local church) I thought of this passage. The men I had left had spent the last five hours praying, discussing, sharing, and debating issues involved in the shepherding of Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaumont, Texas. These are men from different walks of life who have been chosen by the people of RPC to “shepherd the flock of God” and I saw again what wise choices the congregation has made. These are not perfect men, but they are men who have been touched by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and desire as much as possible, to nourish, protect, and care for God’s sheep.

I have ministered with good men before during my 35+ years of ministry, but I must admit that these men are the cream of the crop. Thank you, Lord, for the “gifts” that you have given to our local congregation. These men are like the ones Paul wrote about in Romans: they have “worked hard in the Lord” for His people, and are “beloved.”