May 9, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Tomorrow I am conducting the funeral service for Mitch, a dear friend and brother in the Lord. He was more than that – he was my spiritual son! In I Timothy 1:2 Paul called Timothy, whom he had led to put his faith in Jesus Christ, “…my own son in the faith…” (see also I Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-22; I Timothy 1:18; II Timothy 1:2; 2:1). You see, I had the privilege of leading Mitch to the Lord.
It was a year ago last January. I was getting ready on this cold evening to go to a meeting at the church. God had been telling me over the last couple of months, “You have to go see Mitch.” It is not that I audibly heard His voice, but I knew it was the Holy Spirit within me (see Isaiah 30:21). “I know, Lord,” I said more than once. “I will go see Mitch one of these days.” The truth was, I did not want to go see Mitch! Although I knew him, I did not know him well, or count him as a close friend. Mitch had gotten himself into trouble from heroin use. He had lost his job and his family. I didn’t know how I would be received – he might even throw me out of the house on my ear!
That January evening the directive from God came again: “Go see Mitch.” And again, I said, “Yeah, Lord, I gotta go see Mitch one of these days soon.” “NOW!” God fairly shouted. I looked up kind of over my shoulder. “Now,” I asked? “NOW!” God repeated. I put on my coat and trudged the two blocks to where Mitch lived.
One thing I have learned – and I hope I keep this in mind as God calls me to minister to other people – when the Lord tells you to go speak to someone, the Holy Spirit has been working on that person to receive what you have to say!
I knocked on his door and Mitch let me in. I sat and presented the gospel to him in a simple way according to ‘the Roman Road’ (see Romans 3:10; 23; 5:12; 6:23 (first part); 5:8; 6:23 (second part); 10:9-13 – in that order). I invited Mitch to pray a simple prayer telling Jesus he was sorry for his sins, and asking Him to be his Savior. With tears, he did just that! I left that evening praising God, and thankful that I had obeyed!
My wife and I started a Bible study on Wednesday evenings in our home, mainly for Mitch, although others were invited and a few came. Over the months I saw my new friend, my brother, my son in the Lord grow in his faith. He hardly ever missed the Bible studies. More than once he told me, “You saved my life.” No, I didn’t! The Lord Jesus saved Mitch’s life! I was just the obedient messenger!
But his lifestyle had taken its toll. Last Wednesday he and his friend Chuck were at our house again, but Mitch was not feeling well. I did not know then that 43 hours later he would die from complications of liver disease! He left this life to be with his Savior! It brings to mind what Jesus said in John 5:24:
Most assuredly, I say to you, He who hears My word and believes in Him
who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but
has passed from death into life.
The moment Mitch prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior – the moment during that cold January evening at his house he prayed his salvation prayer – Mitch passed from death into life, he will never come into judgment ! As Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:8: “…absent from the body…present with the Lord.”
Now, as I prepare for Mitch’s funeral service, my prayer is for his family, his relatives, his friends and neighbors. I want them to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior also! I believe a funeral service is not necessarily a eulogy for the one who has died. It is more to be a comfort and challenge for the living – for those who remain to face life without the deceased. There always seems to be regrets when someone dies unexpectedly – things unspoken that should have been said, forgiveness asked and given, love expressed that was not, etc. But Paul tells believers in I Thessalonians 4:13, “…I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died believing in Jesus], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” We Christians have a sure hope of being forever in heaven with our Lord and again with our believing loved ones! We will see them there, never to be separated! (See I Thessalonians 4:14-17).
My job? I want to take them all to heaven – where Mitch is now, and where I am headed!