Our opposite neighbor and I were chatting for a while this morning. He mentioned three ladies known to them who died in the last few days. One died from Covid.
Then there was a family who were in our church for many years until they moved to a far out, almost rural town outside Pretoria. The wife died on Saturday. She went into hospital for an emergency operation on her intestines and came out of theatre laughing with the staff. Soon thereafter she went into a coma and died.
I was asked yesterday to visit a man who is literally dying. This man has been struggling with cancer for the past 5 years or so. The main locality of the disease is the head. One ear has been removed and so much of his head is being eaten up. One eye has been lost. How much time does he have to live? I cannot answer that question, but he does not look good. Years ago I saw a picture of starving children from the Sudan. They were skin and bones. That is exactly how this man looks. His wife is concerned because he is going to die soon, but is he right with God? That was rather strange, as she has not been interested in God at all.
We have been praying for them as others have been doing. Maybe God was laying the foundation for the wife to talk about spiritual things and Jesus. She asked him in front of me whether he wanted to talk about his coming death and God. His response was that he knows the Lord Jesus and is certain of heaven when he dies. Having never spoken about death and eternity with him, I went through the Gospel with him, and he assured me that he knows the Lord Jesus personally and is certain of heaven when he dies. I then went through the “Two Ways to Live” presentation of the Gospel, with both of them asking that the wife read the booklet to her husband and to herself as well. Here was my opportunity to talk to a sixty something year old lady who I have “known” for 30 years though has only been in church for funerals and weddings. God had really answered prayers for this lady who has been rather stubbornly opposed to the Gospel.
This is how I encouraged her to read the booklet to her husband. I told her that her dying husband needs the Gospel even though he says he is a Christian. A mistake many people make is that they think the Gospel is only for salvation and that’s the end of it. Wrong! Christians need the Gospel because it gives us assurance that what we believe in … what we have placed our eternal hope in is true and genuine. A believer can never be without the Gospel, because as soon as you go thin on the Gospel you start to drift spiritually and lose the assurance of salvation. I told her that as a dying man’s wife, she needs the Gospel for at least four reasons.
First, for her personal salvation. It makes no sense for her to want her husband to be certain of heaven at death whilst she has no concern for her own. The very fact that she wanted him to enjoy assurance means within her there is a slight glow for the Gospel. My prayer is that as she reads the “Two Ways to Live” presentation to her husband, that she hears the Gospel itself deep in her own heart.
Second, for strength to cope with her husband’s coming death. Life so far with his illness has not being easy … yet from here on out, it is going to be something nothing can prepare her for. The reality is that as she cares for him at home and then once she returns to work after the Christmas holiday break … who will care for him? How will she manage with the dressings that need to be changed (they cover most of his head). What about his pain … and as a wife she needs to hear the agony. She needs the Gospel to reflect upon, think through and trust, for in the Gospel there is power to sustain her. It’s not going to be easy … but God is able.
Third, for strength to cope after her husband’s death. The loss of a loved is not easy. In her case, this will be number two. Those who have experienced the loss of a spouse understand the void the loss creates. A friend, a confidant, a lover, a supporter … is gone. Who will meet the loneliness need? Who will be the friend to talk to? Who will be the confidant? Who will be the companion? When there is a strong alliance with the Gospel, the King of the Gospel fulfills all these roles as the person loves and relies upon the Gospel.
Fourth, for spiritual strength to remain true to Jesus. Once “all the dust has settled” … once normality returns … she might ease up on spiritual life. This is the most important time to hang onto the Gospel with all strength and energy. So many people tend to cool off spiritually when the pressure (problems, pain, hurt, etc.) is past. Normally, having a “prayer buddy” helps to keep one on course … but at the end of the day, the individual is personally responsible for a true relationship with Jesus. A genuine surrender to the Gospel will affect the way she copes with the coming death and then the post death syndrome and ultimately remaining true to Jesus for the rest of her life.
Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew:
Mt 10:37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
My focus is on verse 38. Proof of Gospel surrender and Gospel confidence will prove one worthy of the Lord Jesus! Only the individual can prove himself or herself genuine.
Dear Lord Jesus, help me to understand the Gospel properly so that I’ll be able to trust it fully throughout all of life. Lord, I need to trust You and depend upon You throughout life’s journey. Help me to remain focused, especially when I go through those extremely difficult experiences. May my eyes remained glued to Jesus. Amen.