January 8, 2014
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
My brother passed away New Year’s Eve. He was 69. About 40 years ago I wrote him a letter telling him about my faith in Jesus Christ and encouraging him to also put his trust in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. I still remember the letter he wrote me – “I do accept Jesus as my Savior,” he said. I bought him a nice leather-bound Bible and had his name inscribed in gold lettering on the cover. Then about 30 years ago I had the privilege of baptizing both him and his wife.
But he had his struggles over the years, and I didn’t see much evidence of a Christian faith in his life. I prayed for him and his wife and their daughter every day. He and his wife divorced about 20 years ago, and she passed away about fifteen years after. I talked to my brother about once a month on the phone and continued praying for him and his daughter daily.
The Lord laid it on my heart to write him a letter to encourage him to live in the profession of his faith. I prefer to write a letter when I have something very important to say to someone – something they may think is controversial or don’t want to talk to me about it face to face. If you get angry over what is written you can stop reading the letter and throw it in the corner of a desk. But unless you shred it or burn it, the words are still there to read when you calm down. And a written message can be saved and reread again and again long after spoken words might be forgotten. In the letter I wrote him, I told of how I try to keep my faith strong by letting “…the word of Christ dwell in [me]…richly…” (Colossians 3:16). I wrote of some of the things God promises to do in your life through the power of His Word – promises such as:
• Strengthening our faith – Romans 10:17 (NIV) – “…faith comes…through the word
• Making us holy – John 17:17 – “Sanctify them by…Your word….”
• Giving us an eternal inheritance – Acts 20:32 – “…the word of His grace…is able
to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are
…and many more wonderful things!
My wife and I visited my brother on the West Coast a year ago last May. I was browsing through the volumes in his bookcase and came across the Bible I had given him years before. It looked brand new, hardly ever opened and read. I asked him if he had received my letter and he said yes he had. I then told him he really should be reading his Bible. His answer – “I’m really not much of a Bible reader.” My heart sank, but I still kept praying for him every day.
You see, I was trusting in what Paul told the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31. Paul and Silas had been wrongfully beaten and jailed because they were living out their Christian faith in that heathen city in Greece. But instead of moaning and complaining of wrongful imprisonment, it says in Acts 16:25 that “…at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God….” God sent an earthquake that shook the jail so hard the doors flew open and the prisoners’ chains fell off! The jailer thought all his charges had escaped, and so he was going to kill himself – his fate anyway if convicted of letting prisoners escape! “But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ ” (Acts 16:28). Continuing with verses 29 through 32:
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and
Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you
and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to
all who were in his house.
Did you get that promise in Acts 16:31? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” When I put my faith in the Lord at age 19, I was saved. Later I learned of this verse, and I believe that it says my household will also be saved, especially if I speak to them the good news of Jesus! Now I know that it might mean the immediate family that my faithful wife and I have established. But I have claimed my extended family – my father, my mother, my two brothers and their families! And I have seen some of them come to claim the Christian faith one by one over the years! And God is not finished yet!
My brother was being sedated by a morphine drip in ICU. His nurse told me he probably could not respond. But I asked her to hold the phone to his ear so I could tell him I loved him and pray with him. He responded! I said to him, “I have to ask you a question – have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?” He answered in a weak voice, “Yes.” I had a very short prayer with him, and told him I loved him. He said, “I love you.” I said, “I’ll see you soon – in heaven!” He answered again, “Yes.” Those were his last words spoken on earth.
Do I miss him? Sure! But I will see him again – in heaven! After all, didn’t the Lord tell me, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household…”?