Monday, February 28, 2011

Glorious Good-Bye To A Great Man

There are several examples in The Word where Paul talks about being an encouragement to others and others being an encouragement to him. It is crucial that we have fellowship with other believers and encourage each other. Without fellowship it is easy to merge back in to “the world”.

Paul wants to see how the brethren in Thessalonica are doing, but he is unable to go. He wants to know that they have not been shaken by the persecution, so he sends Timothy:

1Thessalonians 3:2-3 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.

Paul also makes the point that he did not sugar coat anything when he shared the Gospel with them. They knew full well that to follow Christ and surrender to Him as Lord brings persecution:

1Thessalonians 3:4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.

Paul wanted to know if Satan had deceived them in some way. He wanted to know if all of his labor for them was useless; and he was overjoyed that in spite of the persecution, they were holding fast in The Lord:

1Thessalonians 3:5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.

Paul's greatest comfort in this time of trial was knowing that that his labors did bear fruit for The Lord:

1Thessalonian 3:7-8 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

I would like to share a very personal story as an encouragement to you, and as a real life example of being prepared to tell the Truth no matter what:

As many of you know, my father-in-law (who was also one of my dearest friends) passed away on Saturday. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer just before Christmas. I was blessed with the opportunity to share the Gospel with him a few times. Once about 5 years ago in Palm Springs on a golf trip, once on New Years Eve in the emergency room this last year, and once in the form of a letter while he was still in the hospital.

Two weeks ago my wife called and said, “Daddy said he wants Jesus to visit him today.”
Later that day I was by his bedside, his wife was on the other side lying across his legs. It was just the three of us in the room. At this point his voice was getting very weak and I wasn't always able to hear him well.

I said, “Buckman, Wendy said that you want Jesus to come visit you.”
He slowly looked toward me and nodded up and down.

Then he said, “I hope I was good enough. I hope I was a good enough person to go to Heaven.”

Before I even had time to consider what to say, it came out of my mouth, “Let me save you the suspense, you weren't.”

I paused for just a second and said, “None of us are. Do you remember what we talked about last week; about the religious guy and the publican and how the publican said, 'Lord be merciful to me a sinner'? That is how we are saved, Buckman. The only way we can be redeemed is by calling out to Jesus, 'Lord, be merciful to me a sinner'.”

I barely got the words out of my mouth and he said, “Forgive me Jesus. Forgive me Jesus.”

He spoke clear as a bell. He called on The Lord!  My friend is in glory!  He's in the presence of Almighty God!

Paul didn't sugar coat the Gospel and we can't either. People aren't always blessed with a "theif on the cross experience" as Buck was. People need to hear the Truth. God doesn't need us, but that's how He chooses to do it. He has demonstrated over and over in His Word that He saves people when The Gospel is preached and we are to preach The Gospel always:

2Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

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