“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” Phil. 1:23 (NIV)
The phone startled me as I was deep in thought about my sermon for Sunday. The frail man’s voice on the line asked if I was Pastor Rumford. I said I was and he asked me to visit him. “I was told I had 3 weeks to live and dying is kind of hard to do. Would you come and say a prayer over me please?” I assured my caller I would and a couple of hours later I was in his humble home. The living room had only a hospital bed, a card table with various prescription drugs on it and a Bible. The floor was strewn with newspapers.
I drew up a folding chair and sat down to talk with the desperately ill man. He was in his early 30’s, single, had a mother in a city an hour’s drive away. He told me she was coming in a couple of days to arrange his travel home to die.
“I pray to God for help.” He said, “but I am not sure He hears me.” I asked him to tell me what he wanted from God and maybe I could help him from his Bible. He then told me that he knew he needed forgiveness and he so much wanted to be right with God before he met Him.
I shared with him some simple prayers in Scripture and finished with the one Jesus heard when He was on the cross. I told him about the one thief who asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. I assured the man that God knew his heart and the words were not as important as his desire of heart. He assured me that he had prayed like that.
I then pointed him to a little book near the end of the Bible called 1 John. I suggested he read it as it was written for people like him who had asked God for forgiveness but were not sure they had been heard. I prayed with him and said I would be back the next day.
When I returned to see him his mother was also there. They told me that an ambulance was arranged to transport him home the next day. I observed a remarkable difference in the young man’s face and voice. He told me that he had great peace after reading the little book I referred him to yesterday. He was now certain that he had eternal life and was no longer afraid to die.
His mother told me that she had become a Christian years earlier and with tears in her eyes thanked me for helping her son. I turned him to some Scriptures like the one above and said that he was in for a wonderful sight when he reached heaven. I then showed him in the Bible how angels come to escort God’s people home, and one person at least actually saw heaven and Jesus at the time he was leaving this world to be in heaven.
I regret that I never saw them again, but I know that the dying man found the event so much easier to experience since he was confident Jesus had received his prayer and answered it.
I sincerely desire that all who read my daily devotions have passed from the fear of death to where they can say what Paul did in our verse for the day. I know I have come to see that this enemy of death is defeated for me because I believe in Jesus. It is so wonderful to be relieved from the bondage the thought of death can bring.
If you still fear this event come to Jesus and ask for His forgiveness that you need for your sin. Pray like this young man did and pray and read that little book at the end of the New Testament until God puts His peace in your heart. Then you will be able to say our verse for yourself with great confidence.