There is Never Time Enough For ‘Later’
Vol: 165 Issue: 30 Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I got a phone call this morning that rocked my world. It isn’t the first such phone call I’ve received in this life, and I expect it won’t be the last one, although I pray with all my heart that it is.
One of my dearest friends took his own life last night after a night of heavy drinking. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that he did so while he was on the telephone with a friend. I can only imagine the pain she is now feeling. I pray God will comfort her.
It is a tragedy compounded yet again by the fact that I do not know for certain what Jesse’s status was before the Lord when he took it upon himself to hasten his appearance before Him.
We had discussed the issue of sin and salvation together, but Jess was always pretty non-committal about it. And I fell into Satan’s trap of believing that I’d get another chance to press the issue.
Jess was still a fairly young and healthy man, and it seemed like there would be plenty of time for him to make that firm decision to either accept the free offer of pardon Jesus extended to him from the Cross, or for Jess to consciously reject it.
But I don’t know what that decision was.
What I DO know is that it was my responsibility before the Lord to ensure I had done everything humanly possible to make sure he understood what that decision meant to his eternity.
And I failed miserably. In the end, Jess took his own life before I could fulfill the Great Commission given me and I now bear that responsibility before Christ. It is a heavy, crushing weight.
I loved Jesse and cherished his friendship. And I have no assurance in my spirit that I will ever see him again.
The Apostle Paul wrote, in his prelude to his revelation of the mystery of the Rapture of the Church,
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1st Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Paul’s admonition is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing for those who have the assurance that their loved one was safely in the arms of Jesus.
For that is that blessed hope to which Paul refers. That death is only a temporary separation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
But it is a curse to those who have no such blessed assurance. And it is a particularly hateful curse to those who believed, as did I, that there would always be tomorrow.
There are no more tomorrows for me and Jesse. There were only the todays I had when I had them. And I blew it.
Instead of the sure and certain promise that we will meet in eternity, I have only the hollow hope that maybe somebody else did my job for me.
Jesse worked as a civilian contractor for the United States Marines as a helicopter mechanic. His job required him to make regular trips out to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to service, repair and maintain Marine choppers and keep our birds in the air, as he liked to say.
He was very proud of the work he did. And we all were very proud of him as well.
A couple of years ago, as Jesse was getting ready for deployment, al-Qaeda murderers had just killed an American civilian contractor they had captured. This particular contractor reminded me of Jesse. He wasn’t involved in any combat capacity. He was a middle-aged guy who was killed simply for being an American.
When we heard of his murder, and knowing of Jesse’s deployment, I tried to talk with Jesse about the state of his soul. I cling to the fact that, in blowing me off, Jesse said something to the effect that ‘he and Jesus were ok with one another.’
I took that to mean that Jesse was open to the discussion, but just not now. So instead, I gave him some stupid advice about wrapping a strip of bacon around his neck and put a pork chop in his pocket.
God knows how I wish I had pressed him to wrap himself in Jesus and put a Bible in his pocket. But I didn’t. And Jesse came back from Afghanistan safe and sound. There was still time to talk about it later.
But later didn’t come. I had jotted Jesse down on my mental ‘to do’ list for when our road tour was over.
I have many other names on my mental ‘to-do’ list. People I love like family, people now grieving, as I am, for the loss of a beloved friend under tragic circumstances.
Some of them are reading today’s message right now.
I’m sorry I let Jess down. I love you all and I share your grief. I wish I could be there with you right now.
And I pray you will understand what I am trying to tell you. B.Y, Aubrey — and now Jesse — who knows which of us is next? Or when?
Jesus is real. Eternity is real. And there are but two places available for us to spend it. We choose.
God wants us to choose Him, but He leaves the choice in our hands.
He asks only that we accept the fact that we are all sinners before God and that God has made provision for us anyway.
He stepped out of space and time, took on the form of an ordinary man, and, having done so, He lived the perfect life God’s justice demands of us all.
And, having lived that perfect life, with no sin debt of His own, He allowed Himself to be sacrificed on our behalf, to pay the sin debt owed by each of us.
All any of us have to do is accept the offer of pardon He extends to us, and trust His promise that ‘whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.’ There is no requirement to ‘clean up’ first.
“But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
We come to Him as we are, because He died for our sins, just AS we are. And He promises,
“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:8-9)
It isn’t ‘church talk’. It is reality. It is the truth. I know it like I know Becky’s pool table drifts to the left corner.
I know it like I know you. And you know me.
Jesus accepts us just the way we are. He accepted me. He’ll accept you just as joyfully.
All He asks is that we humble ourselves enough ask for His forgiveness and to trust His Promise. Just ask Him.
And leave the rest up to Him.
I didn’t do my job when it was before me. There was always tomorrow. Until today.
And I am so very, very sorry.
Originally Published: August 15, 2006