You see, this week my facebook newsfeed has been filled with announcements of deaths. Some famous like Dick Clark and Chuck Colson, some not so well known but heroes to me: Mary Lou Brownell, a missionary for 27 years in East Pakistan/ Bangladesh, and Ross Shadrick, a fellow student at TTU and missionary to Peru.
It's Ross's death that shook me. The other 3 were in their 80s. Ross was not yet 30. He and his wife Barbie had been missionaries in Peru for just over a year. He died after going into a diabetic coma and reading the message that his wife put out on facebook just made me sob. Ever since I heard the news I've struggled with, "why?" and at the same time I've been asking God to work through Ross's death to bring glory to God, bring people to a saving faith in Jesus, and cause people to want to step out in faith and serve Him both here and overseas.
My Aunt Joy and Uncle Jerry came up to visit us and some other friends that they know in the area. We ate pizza with them last night then they invited us to come to the church that they would attend when they came up here for camp years ago with them this morning. The kids and I went and I felt like the message was just for me. It was talking about seeing the unseen, walking by faith and not by sight. The pastor talked about the side view mirror and how it gives you a distorted view of reality and how you can't drive based exactly on what you see there. Too often we operate based on a distorted view of reality, without faith that God is in control, working all things for His glory. We looked at Hebrews 11:13-16
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.This passage has always been one I have loved but I really liked looking at it today again. These heroes of the faith understood that they were just passing through, this world was not their home. They had not seen the fulfillment of the promises that God had made to them but they were as sure of those promises as if they had seen them. They had their eyes fixed on eternity.
Later we looked at Mark 4:35-40.
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”Jesus wasn't bothered with what was naturally seen - the storm. After calming the storm He challenged them on their response to the physical - fear - they didn't trust the One who was in the boat with them, the One who controls everything. How often do I react like them? I think, "Hey, God, You are missing something here," "This can not be Your plan," "This is too hard and I'm scared." He sees what I can not and I need to keep learning to trust Him. I loved this quote that was shared today:
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
“I prayed for faith and thought that some day it would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith didn’t seem to come. One day I read in Romans that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” I had up to this time, closed my Bible and prayed for faith. Now I opened my Bible and began to study and faith has been growing ever since.” -D.L. MoodyGod really challenged me that when my faith is small, when my faith is challenged I need to keep reading the Bible and seeking Him.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18Ross is seeing that unseen eternal. He lived his life for God's glory and I don't know why God called him home so young but I do know that God is in control and that He is going to work it out for His glory. His "light and momentary troubles" are over. Like his dad said, "I praise the Lord my son is in Heaven by his confession and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ the eternal Son of the Father,and I can look forward to seeing him again in eternity! I sorrow, but not as others which have no hope."
Other stories have come to mind that I've heard over the past few months: the missionary pilot in Indonesia who died in a plane crash, the pastor's wife and mom of two little boys in Canada who died of cancer, the doctor who was just starting out at his new job in Florida that died in a helicopter crash on a transplant mission, Nathan, who is recovering but may never be the same again after his stroke. I don't know all that God is doing/ has done through all of these circumstances and I may never know but I can trust God and know that He has a plan and I've been praying again for these families today.
Today, at church, we spent some time in prayer for the family of a man from Lowville whose boat capsized in Lake Ontario yesterday morning. He is still missing. The pastor told us that last night, as they were calling off the search for darkness, he and some others from the church were praying with the man's family and at the close of the prayer time the man's dad started singing praises. Naturally, looking with my own eyes at the circumstances, that would not be my response to my son being lost in Lake Ontario but I am certain that his eyes were fixed on what is unseen, the eternal, that God is still in control and at work, that this world is not our home. How I long for praise and faith to always be my first response in difficulty.
Lord, I thank You that You see the unseen, the eternal. Please help me to fix my eyes on You and to trust You. Lord, I pray for these families that are suffering right now, struggling with loss. Thank You that our trials here are light and momentary and that they are instruments in Your hand for Your glory. Please help me to respond in faith and in praise in all things, knowing and trusting You and Your character. Thank You for giving us Your Word and that reading it causes my faith to grow. Thank You also that this world is not my home, I'm just passing through. May I use my time here for Your glory.