Yesterday a very dear friend breathed his last and was called home to glory. The picture here of he and I was taken at my ordination last August. We had one more opportunity to spend time with him and his wife after the ordination before we moved to New Mexico later in the month.
Our friendship went back at least 26 years, and maybe a bit longer. I recall where we met, in a general sense, but not when. He had sustained a spinal cord injury in his late teens, so that the "normal" that he lived with on a day-to-day basis was much different than mine. There were several times over the years of our friendship when his medical issues became life-threatening. His body rebounded time-and-again, sometimes back to his baseline and sometimes with a new normal.
He was in pretty good health in 2012 when his daughter married. Things in his body seemed to be gradually slowing down over the past year and I am glad that he could come to my ordination, and also for our last phone call, for I treasured his encouragement in following the track that God was leading me on over the past seven years.
Last Sunday I preached from 1 Corinthians 2:1-13 and two thoughts come to mind from my sermon as I recall my friend.
The first was a reference to the question asked of Eve by the serpent in the Garden. Eve ponders the apple, and the instructions given by God not to eat of it, and the serpent asks "Did God really say…?"
In the sermon I noted that not only did God really say something about not eating the apple, but God made his most profound statement in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
At the cross we see that God very clearly said something. At the cross we see that God very clearly did something. At the cross, in the finished work of the Son, those who know the Son by faith are reconciled with the Father. In verse 7 Paul points out that we can believe this with complete certainty because it is something "which God decreed before the ages for our glory."
That God would establish a plan of salvation prior to any act of creation is something that defies human logic. But while I may not understand how God could do such a thing I can take great comfort in the fact that he did it that way, for a plan of salvation that pre-exists creation is a plan of salvation that cannot be defeated in any way. There is nothing that can take salvation from those God gives it to.
The other point from my sermon has to do with verse 9, where Paul looks back to the prophet Isaiah and writes:
"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him."
Paul is teaching that the things God has prepared for us in heaven are so good that as they are seen from this side of life they are beyond our ability to imagine. Isaiah had a glimpse of heaven and brought that back for us. It is a wonderful glimpse, but the difference between his words and the reality is something like the difference between a child's crayon drawing and a Rembrandt. They both certainly show beauty, but we can't imagine the richness of Rembrandt if all we have ever seen was done in crayon.
My friend knew Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Today, while I read God's word and imagine what future glory may be like, my dear friend has entered into it. My heart aches for his family and the pain of their loss. But my heart also rejoices that one of the Lord's own, claimed by him before anything was created, is in the eternal presence of his Savior.
To God be all glory, now and forever. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.