Last week after hearing about the sudden death of a South African Pastor I began to think about our response to death. The circumstances of his death had caused an international stir. Somehow my wife saw the video and brought it to my attention. Now here is what happened. He was preaching. Sat down to emphasize a point and promptly died before them.
After discussing it with my wife I I promptly forgot about it. This was not the first time I had heard about an incident like this. On more than one occasions I had also heard that God would execute judgment on Pastors while they were preaching. For a moment, I wondered if this was one such incident. When Prophetess Latoya Francis posted the video on Facebook that got my full attention. I could not stop thinking about it.
I believe this is a noble way to depart this life. It is like a highly decorated general’s dying in combat. The Apostle of faith, Smith Wigglesworth’s wife, Polly, died in this same manner. It was reported that she usually told him that while preaching she felt a strong pull of the Spirit of God. The Presence of the God was so strong she felt at any moment she would close her eyes and wake in heaven. One day it happened! She died while delivering a sermon. People were so scared they ran from the building. Thankfully someone went to tell Smith Wigglesworth. He immediately went there and commanded her spirit to come back into her body. She was not happy with what he did. He had to promise never to do that again. She was in heaven and enjoying the experience when he called her back into her body. Some time after that Polly was taken home while preaching. Smith and the children did not mourn her. They celebrated her departure.
My first question was his fate. “Did he make it in? Did he receive his reward for laboring in the Master’s vineyard?” Paul who labored very hard to bring the gospel to the gentiles expressed a desire that after preaching he did not want to be a cast away (1 Corinthians 9:27). Everything about the preaching made me feel He died while doing the work of the Lord. There was tremendous energy exerted in the delivery of the message. He was not simply exciting emotions from the congregation, he was preaching expounding on the Scripture. One could see that it was done with power and authority. The congregation was enraptured by his preaching. As my eyes searched the videos for confirmation of his fate, my thoughts drifted to his family. I felt sorry for his wife and children. The wife has lost an husband, father, lover and friend. The children will no longer hear and interact with him. In that moment I uttered a prayer for them. Yet I could not shake the concern for his ultimate fate. My eyes continued the search for confirmation of his final destination. In that moment, my thoughts were interrupted. I realized my focus was misplaced. His destination was not my concern. That was between him and his Maker. Judging by sight was inadequate. Only the Lord could reveal what happened. Researching his pastoral duties would yield nothing. Flesh would be gratified. But what was the significance?
It seems to me we spend so much time obsessing with death that we forget that its power is broken by our Lord Jesus. For the believer we do not face death. We simply make a transition from one state to another. The reward is an eternity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
56 Now sin is the sting of death, and sin exercises its power [upon the soul] through [the abuse of] the Law.
57 But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe the question we must ask ourself is am I fulfilling my assignment on this earth? Will I be found wanting when the time comes? Will the words of Christ Jesus be “Welcome thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of my rest” or will it be “depart from me I know you not!”.
His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys.
Life is so short. Most of our time is spent grappling to acquire things. There is no end to labor. Everything is done to attain fame and fortune. Kobe Bryant sure did. He honed his skills and became one of the best basketball players of all time. Then he transitioned into building an empire. He is now gone but his legacy is here with us.
This seems insensitive but we must ask the same question we did about the Pastor’s death. Did he make it into heaven? He leaves a family and an empire behind. I do pray for the strength and comfort of his wife and children. And also for the other affected families. Yet the question must be asked. Did his accomplishments and empire bring God glory or did it bring Kobe glory? Jesus warned us about the deceitfulness of this life. If we are not careful it will cost us our eternal soul. In Luke 12:15-20 Jesus told a story of a rich man who received a bumper harvest one year. He didn’t have anywhere to store everything so He decided to pull down his storehouses and build much bigger ones. After he had successful completed the jobs he retired to bed. That very night God visited him and took back the life he gave to him. This man who had labored so very hard to acquire everything we value as success did not live to enjoy it. Others inherited what he left.
Let’s not life in fear of death. It will come for all of us. Nonetheless we have been given victory by through the Lord Jesus. Our body will sleep while it awaits redemption at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us continue to labor for the unsnatchable eternal prize. Let’s labor for life. Everlasting life.
For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting].
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.
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