A member of our ministry’s advisory board who is also a pastor wrote me this morning to tell me of an amazing experience he had last week. He got to see first hand how one family responded with pervasive praise at the very moment of their godly loved one’s “precious” death. This is a powerful read with an equally powerful conclusion…
Guest Post by John Martin:
As a pastor one of my most difficult responsibilities also happens to be one of my highest honors and privileges – to stand with a family while a loved one dies. This is often a sad occasion filled with grief and a profound feeling of loss. But last week I stood beside an outstanding Christian man as his dear wife lost her battle to cancer. In those moments leading up to her death and the moments following I experienced one of the greatest praise services I have ever had the joy of being a part of.
I was called to the family’s home around 2:45 am. When I arrived I found this dear lady much like she was a few hours before when I had left. She was lying in bed, eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to the world around her. Her husband was kneeling by her bed fervently praying. I walked into this “sanctuary” and stood very still as you could literally “feel” the very presence of Almighty God in that place. The husband stood to his feet, looked at me and said, “Bro. John, I have to let her go. I am asking God to take away her pain and end her suffering.” I placed my hand on his shoulder and we stood by watching and waiting. In a few moments this dear lady’s breathing grew shallow and at 3:03 am she opened her eyes. She looked at her husband briefly, but then past him. Her eyes began to open wider and wider as a smile began to tug at her lips. With a squeeze of the hand this lady closed her eyes and left this world behind.
I stood transfixed on what I had just witnessed. I had heard these types of stories and I have seen these types of scenes on movies. But this moment was not a story being related nor was it a scene from a movie. I believe that God allowed this lady without saying a word to allow her husband to know that all was well and that she was finally “home”. But while the grief of the moment was threatening to break this man’s heart, he chose to conduct a “praise service.”
First of all he asked me to pray. While I did not have a “vision” of the Lord high and lifted up, I believe that I felt much as Isaiah did during his vision of God’s throne. I was in awe and almost afraid to speak. I was afraid to do or say anything that would spoil the holiness of the moment. As I began it seemed as if a “cloud” was settling over the room. I asked for God to pour out His grace in that moment and His peace and comfort settled into that place. After the prayer this husband asked me if I would sing “Amazing Grace.” I began and by the time I started verse three (Through many dangers toils and snares…) every person in the room had added their voice to that impromptu choir. We sang of God’s grace and of how that we would have all eternity to praise God.
After the last note had faded into the heavens I witnessed as this heart-broken husband, surrounded by his three children, with tears streaming down his face, said: “Some may think this is not appropriate, but I need to testify of God’s love and grace.” With that he proceeded to share of how God had been gracious to him and his wife throughout this entire ordeal. He shared how God had provided them their every need. It was a wonderful testimony of praise from a faithful, godly man for his gracious and faithful God.
A couple of hours later I walked across the yard to my truck. I sat down and looked out the windshield to see the sun just beginning to rise. I rested my head against the steering wheel and thanked God for allowing me to witness His people praise Him in their moments of peril and grief and His faithfulness to respond with His power and peace.
Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Interesting, isn’t it? We don’t often think of death as precious, but the Lord calls the death of a believer a precious thing. Most people do all they can to keep death from thought or conversation. Yet, here we have a passage in the Bible that expresses that the death of a believer is a precious event.
The Apostle Paul, knowing his death was approaching, had the following to say in II Timothy 4: 6-8. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”
As I thought about this “death” and how that because of God’s grace it had turned into a moment of praise, God reminded me that the only reason I can praise Him is because of another death. Jesus’ death on the cross was horrible and in that moment there were no sounds of praise. God turned His face away from the Son. But when Christ declared, “It is finished!” the praise began. In that death the price was paid so that all men everywhere could have the opportunity to give praise and honor to the One True God!
For the believer “death” is indeed a time for praise!
John Martin is pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Waycross, GA. He can be contacted via email: john at pvbcwaycross dot com.
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