“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).
Suppose you are 95 years old, as my friend Bill is. You buried your wife of over 50 years some six or seven years ago, and you have serious health issues now. So, you begin to think of transitioning from this earthly dwelling to your heavenly existence.
The minister–that would be me–comes to see you in the rehab hospital. And he asks some probing questions.
Can we talk about this?
This morning’s paper contained a tiny article about the Fort Morgan ferry that runs across Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island. The cost for one car and two passengers, this fellow said, is $20.50. That’s up considerably since the last time my wife and I rode it with our grandson. Grant was about six, as I recall.
We had arrived at the ferry landing and took our place in line with other cars. I bought the ticket and we were milling around waiting for the ferry to arrive from the other shore. Grant was apprehensive.
“Grandpa, are we going to cross that river?” I assured him we were.
“But there’s no bridge. Are we going to drive out in the water?”
I explained about the ferry boat.
“Grandpa, I’m afraid.”
I said, “Grant, you are with grandpa and grandma. Do you know how much we love you? We are going to take care of you. You have nothing to worry about.”
A half hour later, in the middle of Mobile Bay and standing on the deck of the ferry, my beloved grandson looked up, beaming. “Grandpa, this is fun.”
Almost anyone is apprehensive about taking a trip he’s never experienced, to a place where he’s never been, and with no visible means of transport.
But the Heavenly Father loves us. And He has promised that when the scheduled time for our departure arrives, His limo service will be waiting.
It will be fun.
Yesterday, Pastor Shawn Parker was telling the family and friends of Charlene Jordan McCall about the transportation God provided to take Elijah to heaven.
“A chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).
Shawn said, “That was God’s limousine service, sent to bring His faithful servant home.”
It brings to mind Corrie ten Boom’s statement to her sister Bitsie (if I recall the spelling correctly). In Hitler’s concentration camp, Bitsie began to worry about dying, saying she wasn’t sure she had courage sufficient for this. Corrie said, “Sister, do you recall when we were small and would make the trip with father into the city on the train? You and I would play around the station. And when did father give us our tickets?”
She answered, “Not until the train arrived, lest we lose them.”
“The Heavenly Father has not given us the courage to face death yet because the time is not yet. But when the time comes, He will give us everything we need.”
As He did. And as He does.
To my friend Bill, I said, “Let me ask you a question. Am I going to do your funeral service?”
Bill and his beloved Mickey have been my friends for nearly 45 years. After my few years on the staff of their church where Mickey was the church receptionist and Bill was a deacon, we continued our close relationship over the years. Margaret and I would stay in their home when we were back in their city for some ministry event. When the Lord took her to Heaven, I did Mickey’s funeral.
On this day I had driven 200 miles just to visit Bill in the rehab facility where he was recovering from surgery.
“I hope you are,” he said. “But no time soon!” We laughed.
He’s sharper than I would ever hope to be. His recall is phenomenal. He was born in 1920.
I said, “I need you to tell me a few things.” About his salvation, among other things.
He came to know the Lord at the age of 10 at Meridian’s Poplar Springs Avenue Baptist Church, and told me about the experience.
He joined the Army Air Corps two weeks after Pearl Harbor, and served his country the entire four years of World War II. I took notes places of assignments and such.
He told me of meeting 18-year-old Mickey Green, who had enrolled in a business college. Bill was 20 and soon in the service. When they decided this was serious, they decided to wait until the war was over before marrying.
And Bill told me a story.
“I heard this preacher tell once how when he was very young, the worst part of his ministry was visiting elderly people and talking with them about dying. He hated it worst than anything. He didn’t know what to tell them, he was uncomfortable with the subject, and they could sense it.”
“So, one day, an elderly lady said to him, ‘Pastor, I want you to sit yourself down here. I need to tell you something.’ He did.
“She said, ”Pastor, I can tell you are ill at ease talking with me about dying, and I’d like to ease your mind about that.’
“‘Look at it like this. My Lord owns both sides of this river. And I’m just leaving this side and going over to the other side. That’s all there is to it. And it’s all good.'”
“The pastor said that did it. Never again did he feel apprehensive about talking with people about dying.”
The next day, I stood with Pastor Shawn Parker at the funeral of Charlene McCall, this precious friend who had died two days earlier, after a five-year-heroic struggle against cancer. She was a champion for Jesus Christ in every sense of the word. And I told that story.
“Charlene has just crossed over to the other side. And the Heavenly Father owns both sides of the river.”
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.