I received some sad news today. A member of my last church passed away. His name was Elwood. He was a dear man in his eighties, and had been attending the church, with his wife, for decades. He died during the Breaking of Bread Service, sometimes called the Lord's Supper.
During this service, the men stand and pray, read scripture, or ask for certain hymns to be sung. Elwood had just asked for "How Great Thou Art", when he collapsed. Rescuscitation was attempted, the ambulance came, but he was not revived.
When a Christian dies, it is a bitter sweet event. I mourn for this man's family, and pray that God will support and comfort them in their grief, but I can in no way mourn for Elwood. The scripture says that when we are absent from the body, we are at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6.) This means that the moment a believer dies, he is with Christ. How incredible. What a blessed thought, to imagine Elwood standing before Jesus, being embraced and welcomed into His presence.
I think too of God's lovingkindness in orchestrating the time of his death to be when he was with his brothers and sisters, remembering Jesus, and praising God. He could have been driving, on his way to or from church, and been in an accident, killing or injuring his wife and others. He could have been at home, forcing his elderly, hearing impaired wife to go through the stress and trauma of dealing with his sudden death on her own. But instead he passed away at a perfect time, when there were others around to be with his wife, and to notify family members. What a merciful God. His hand is on each one of us, and truly He ordains all of our days before we are even born.
"Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them."
"How Great Thou Art" was one of Elwood's favourite hymns to ask for. He also would often ask for "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." His faith was simple, his expression of it at times childlike. He always thanked God for the beautiful day, for creation, and he often would comment on his own inadequacy in finding words great enough to praise God with. He was getting on in years, and would sometimes stumble over his words, or lose his train of thought. But always, always, he spoke with humility and a genuine love and trust in God that I know pleased the Father's heart.
Elwood displayed a simple, yet solid, confidence in the faithfulness of his God and Savior. He had faith that is certain of what he hoped for, and sure of what he did not see (Heb. 11:1.) This hope was an anchor to his soul (Heb. 6:19.) He knew where to place his trust, and he was sure of the outcome of his faith, the salvation of his soul (1Peter 1:9.) He had God's word on it, and he persevered to the end, believing it.
Those believers that knew Elwood can rejoice that He has met his Lord, and now has perfect, sweet communion with Him. We can also be encouraged, reminding ourselves that we will see the outcome of our own faith.
"and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls (1Peter 1:8,9.)