Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Jim wanted to live... why Jose was willing to die

In the past week my life has been profoundly impacted by two others' lives....and their deaths. Jim Reynolds' life was taken by cancer. Jose Sanchez died at the hands of calculating killers.

I did not know JIM REYNOLDS very long. A mutual friend asked me to visit him in the hospital to pray for and encourage him a few weeks ago. Jim was suffering from stage 4 cancer. When I met Jim he spoke of his thankfulness for the Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed him after many years of rebellion against God. He also shared his love for his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. A couple of brothers joined me in praying for Jim, that the Lord would intervene and give him victory over the cancer ravaging his body, but also that He would comfort Jim in his sickness and give him peace. Before leaving I asked Jim if there was anything I could do. His reply was curious to me: "Anything you can do? You've already done it!" Jim deeply appreciated the prayers and encouragement of God's presence in the hospital room that night.

The next time I saw Jim was at his home. He had endured a treatment of chermotherapy and radiation the day before. Gone was the energetic and vibrant voice I heard a couple of weeks before. Yet what remained was a heart to live....and for one reason....he wanted to share what the Lord had done in his life with others. Amazingly, he wanted to comfort others who were suffering as he was. Jim recalled other people he knew who had been stricken with cancer over his lifetime. "If I had known what they were going through, he said, "I would have been there for them".

Jim loved guns and he loved music, but now he wanted to live, not so he could enjoy his hobbies, but to SERVE others. Now at death's door, his transformation in Christ and his physical condition clarified as never before what really mattered. Selflessly, he wanted to pour out his life to serve others. If only he had more time.

Last night my friend Sandra called to tell me Jim's organ's were failing. There was nothing more doctors could do. By the time I arrived at the hospital, Jim had passed into eternity.

JOSE SANCHEZ is a man I never met. But the story of his life, and death reminded me of the true call of discipleship to follow Jesus. On my way to a fellowship meeting last Sunday night, another friend called to tell me about Sanchez' murder in Guatemala. The immediate concern was to get his family, who has also been threatened, out of harm's way.

Sanchez had been threatened as he fulfilled his pastoral call,to care for 4 churches and advance the Gospel. As he and his associate pastor walked along the road, on the way to hold services in the mountain community of Bonanza, they were ambushed and shot to death.

His 15 year old son made the desperate call for help, and stood guard over his dad's body to keep dogs from mutilating it. As a father, this bittersweet image broke my heart.

In the face of unknown danger and recent credible threats against him, why did Jose Sanchez stay? Because of his love for the Saviour. In hearing the story of Sanchez tragic death, a friend asked "was it really worth it to lose his life and leave behind a wife and 5 children?" In the natural, it does not make sense. But Jose knew that "to live is Christ and to die is gain". He believed that the loving Heavenly Father who saved Him and cared for Him in life, would hold his family in the palm of His Hand.

Before returning to his homeland, Jose Sanchez got to live some of the American Dream here in Charlotte. But when Jesus saved Him, his heart was captivated with a vision of the heavenly city. Jose knew that returning to Guatemala was a one way decision. He would not come back.

Like Jose, God gives us the grace to grasp this truth in our hearts so we can walk as strangers and pilgrims. No matter how much we love our country, this is not our home. Only by "fixing our eyes on Jesus" and setting aside the sin and weights... the worldly ones and the entangling religious ones....can we run with patience the race that is set before us. This race must transcend and trump "the American dream".

I'm reminded of Paul's testimony in Phillipians 1:21 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul was torn. Above all he wanted to be with Jesus. But at the same time He wanted to stay. Why? The only reason was to SERVE the Lord and His people and advance the Gospel.

So as we go through this day, let's remember Jim and his reason for wanting to live; and Jose and his willingness to die. I know your heart will be stirred, as mine was, as you watch the video tribute to Jose Sanchez below.

11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

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