It is the elephant in the living room. It is the thing we never want to talk or think about. It happens to all of us. For my family it has happened three times in the past six months and twice in the past two months. Death. First my mother-in-law Margaret on December 12th, then my father Elmer on May 3rd and finally my mother Phyllis on June 16th. I have never before done a funeral for a close relative and now in rapid succession I’ve done three.
This has altered my perspective and honestly I’m still recovering. I will be recovering for some time. I feel like I’ve been I’ve been hit by a car. Yes, I believe that these three are in heaven with Jesus, but they’re gone and I won’t ever see them again here. Later after the Lord’s return or after I myself have departed from this life, yes, I will see them again, but not again in this world. Until then, I will miss them.
This – once again – impacts my perspective. I’m so very thankful that 44 years ago a friend named Tony encouraged me to read the Bible. A year later I did so and it changed my life. I’m thankful that likewise my recent dearly departed heard and believed. But I come from the Northwest. Though 60% self-identify as “Christian,” only 5-8% of Oregon and Washington residents attend church. In Washington state, nearly 50,000 people die every year. That’s about 134 every day, 5 1/2 every hour, one every 70 minutes. How many of them have NEVER heard, understood and believed the gospel?
Having formerly lived and served as a pastor in Utah for fifteen years, nearly 15,000 people die there every year. That’s about 40 every day or one person every 35 minutes. In Utah County (the greater Provo area) almost 2,000 die per year, 5 per day, one every 44 minutes. Though Utah is one of the most highly “churched” states in our nation, only about 18% of Utah residents self-identify as Christian and 78% as non-Christian, if “Christian” is defined as belief in the biblical teachings summarized in the historic creeds (Apostles’ – early 2nd century A.D., Nicene – early 4th century A.D., Athanasian – circa 500 A.D.) Based on such numbers, in Utah one person dies without a true faith in Christ every 35 minutes. In Utah County, one person dies without a true faith in Christ every six hours, four people every day, nearly thirty every week, 125 every month…. Many of these people have Christian neighbors who could share the gospel with them. One of those people who could do so may be you.
Death puts everything in perspective. It’s permanent. This side of heaven or Christ’s second coming, we won’t see them again. Once death has happened, the time is up. The opportunity to share the most precious gift is gone. Christ died for the sins of all people. But this gift is only received by those who believe.