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Well done, good and faithful servant

Well done, good and faithful servant

by Sharon Simpson

 

A great man died.

These are words that fill the news as the death of 99 year old Billy Graham was announced and his life is celebrated. He was a great man. He preached the Good News to over 215 million people around the world and followed the guiding of the Holy Spirit to the ends of the earth. Billy Graham, along with his spiritual conetemporaries, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela, changed the world with their lives. Good and faithful.

A great man died.

This is what we heard at the memorial service of a 95 year old church usher. He was a man who loved and honoured the Lord. Not an evangelist, he was a retired chicken farmer with a huge heart, easy smile and outstretched hands that greeted everyone who arrived at church on Sunday. A great man known only to the local community and cherished by all who were blessed to be in his circle. He was generous, fun-loving, faithful in his work, dedicated to justice and devoted to empowering others. He did just that with his mentally-handicapped son who learned to live an independent life with supports as his father encouraged him to try, to learn and to love. Good and faithful.

A great woman died.

Her children were devoted to the mother who loved them exactly as they were. She was 98 when she introduced me to her son; she offered no explanation or apology. She proudly told me of his life and affectionately shone her love on him. It didn’t take much for me to guess that he must have left the close-knit Christian community during a time when the evangelical church was more about shunning than loving the gay community. I wondered how she navigated those early days with her son. Good and faithful.

A great woman died.

She was well into her 90’s when she shared her story of pain from her childhood with me. She talked about how her father was a revered member of the church community, dedicating his time and efforts to others while ignoring his own family. She vowed never to abandon her children’s needs. The devotion of the generations below her was apparent in the many, many visits she received from all over the world by those whom God gave her to call her own. Good and faithful.

A great man died.

He wouldn’t like the word “great”. He’d hang his head and say he was the furthest thing from it. A life of crime took him to a jail cell where, like the apostle Paul, he communed with God. He found his salvation, literally, from the violence, alcoholism and shame. He made amends, remarrying the woman whom he harmed through physical and emotional abuse. He gave her undivided and devoted love in her final twenty-five years when she couldn’t take care of her own needs. Like David, he wrote poetry and shared it with me on paper and in the spoken word. Pained by his wasted years, he called out to God to believe that he was truly forgiven and free. Good and faithful.

A great man died.

He didn’t do well with the chronic pain, the terminal cancer diagnosis and the dark depression that consumed him in his final year. He was despairing and scared when he attempted to take his own life. His family was shocked. He was admitted to the psych unit at the hospital where he found solace in his daily meetings with the chaplain. It was there that he unburdened his soul and chose a path of redemption with his maker and his family. One by one, he called in each family member to share his heart, his hopes for them, his blessings and his apologies. From child to grandchild, they all came to what is likely the most impactful meeting of their lives. Good and faithful.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Most of us who live ordinary lives may not think that we will get the same kind of welcome into heaven by our Saviour as Billy Graham received when he transferred from this world to the eternal one.

After all, Billy Graham was always about God’s business here on earth. He was a pastor to the famous and a man of global influence for God’s heart and kingdom. He was powerful and humble and, we think, close to perfect. Of course, we say, he will be greeted by His Saviour with open arms and the powerful affirmation that he lived his life well, was a good man and a faithful servant of God’s Kingdom.

As for the rest of us… well, we are abundantly aware of our shortcomings, our long-held struggles, our painful opinions and misjudgments and the ways our sinful actions and thoughts impact the lives of those whom we love. As the years go by, it is clearer and clearer that we stumble to be good and we falter at being faithful.

What does God require of us? He’s made it plain how we are to live and what we are to do. God is looking for men and women whose lives are filled with doing what is fair and just to those around them; living with mercy and understanding toward themselves and others; and doing daily life with humility.

He asks us to love those around us as we love ourselves and to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength. He sees the tiny amount that the widow donated and knows that she gave from her poverty, a sacrifice from her heart. God blesses the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. God asks us to live out our lives from the heart – the core of our being that is in line with His own heart.

God’s mercies for us are new every morning. He opens our eyes to our own self and gives us the capacity to see clearly who we are – our giftedness and our shortcomings. In our brokenness and sinfulness, He loves us. He cherishes us. He frees us. In His freedom, His Holy Spirit speaks to us and asks us to obey His beckoning. With confidence that He goes before us, walks beside us and goes behind us, we follow His beckoning, we follow His Kingdom heart in obedience. May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. May it come through my life, through my ways.

This is the life of a good and faithful servant. This is the life of the farmer, the mother, the despairing man and the criminal. This is the life of Billy Graham. This is our life, too. Faithful obedience in small and big ways to the One who loves us and guides us in our day-to-day lives. In these ways, we make a path for our lives – one that is unique to us and our circumstances – one that was prepared in advance by the One who know us and loves us more than any other ever will.

Each of us will be greeted on the other side of our last breath. Jesus, our Savior, will greet us. The same Jesus who is keeping you from failing, even when life is pressing, crushing, perplexing and hard-hitting. The same Jesus who holds and empowers you. And when your last breath is taken, He will greet you with great joy. Not a little joy. Not a passing glance. No, He will be full-up with great pleasure and happiness as he looks upon you, His beloved – and he will present you as one without fault, fully relying on the salvation of Christ and not on the good works of your own life. Saved, forgiven, cherished.

So live your last days and years in His calling. Listen to God’s prompting. Live in the center of God’s love – for yourself, your loved ones and the world around you. Practice kindness and compassion. Obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Do this in small and big ways. Follow Him with joy. Put aside your own sense of self-importance. Clear your conscience, make amends, humble yourself. Pray in the Spirit, continue to build yourself up in the faith. Ask for His Kingdom heart. Run the race to win. Keep your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of your Master, Jesus Christ. Take the initiative. Stay the course. Keep the faith. Be free.

And may God’s blessings of joy, comfort, peace and freedom be abundantly yours in these days and until you meet your Saviour face to face and hear his voice saying to you,

“Well done, good and faithful servant”.

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