I have had an impressionable couple of weeks. During my life, God has tested me in many ways. Through each one, to one extent or another, there has been growth. My eyes open, heart open, and thereby growing smaller and smaller in my own eyes, and God is growing bigger and bigger.
Many years ago now, I spent a few days in the hospital. The doctors were concerned that my heart was not what it should be. There is nothing like being woke up in the middle of the night by a nurse in your face, seeing she startled you she says, "I don't mean to be fresh; I just want to see if you're still breathing." It has been my experience that at the toughest times of the most significant testing, God has been the closest and the most real. Usually, He is close, but when tested, it goes to the power of 10.
Two weeks ago, we received my blood test results for this year. You pause for a moment when you read the words, "Your prostate test has increased somewhat." What that means in real-time, my PSA numbers more than doubled in one year. My doctor doesn't like to worry unnecessarily, for which I am most appreciative. However, by nature, I'm not a very trusting person, and after what happened to my wife, that now includes doctors. The doctor continued, "I would like you to see a Urologist now for further evaluation. There is no urgency to this; I just want to be cautious. A referral will be mailed to you." In my lineage, there is a long line of people who worried much. Being a Christian man, however, such worry is not meant to be an excessive part of my experience. Then came dealing with the news in a Christian way. You wonder, 'How will I react in certain circumstances?' Well, I guess if my faith is what it should be, God will be with me, and my reactions will be what they should be. If you're anything like me, there is some doubt, you know! In self, that is. My mind started working, then I read, "...it is the leading cancer killer among men." Of course, there are encouraging things said also. Still, for me, a person who took Benjamin Franklin seriously, "I'd rather be a pessimist because then I can only be pleasantly surprised." Such a reaction is now my default setting.
So, I had to face death shortly. I am knowledgeable in the Word of God; therefore, my approach to life, at least intellectually, is as stated. "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (James 4:14) However, then there is the moment when your brevity becomes a living reality in your heart.
THEN GOD GOT CLOSE
The good news began when God got close, whispered in my ear and said to me, "But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake." (Philippians 1:23, 24) There is nothing in this life so sweet as when the words of God's people in days past become your own. I love my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. I love the people God has given me to disciple, all of them, and there is a good number now. I love the people I am reaching out to at present, that maybe someday will receive Christ and be saved. Nonetheless, I have, by God's grace, determined that to depart and be with Christ is far better. For almost two weeks now, I have walked in the light of this present reality. Then a scene came before my eyes. Peter has been listening to Jesus preach; then Jesus tells him, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." The natural reaction of all men in our base carnal nature is to think we know best. So, I understand Peter all too well, unfortunately. So He responded to Jesus, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." Afterward, the boats were sinking because of the catch. I don't know at this time in Peter's life to what extent he understood Jesus to be divine, but I can relate to his reaction to Jesus. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." That reaction has repeated in my heart thousands of times. Then came the reality for me this week, not just mental but in my heart, "For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom ...But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem... and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus." (Hebrews 12:18-24)
Nothing comes even remotely close to filling me with joy as much as when the notion becomes the reality that upon entrance into heaven, all fear and dread of being in God's presence as a sinner vanish away. It brings me to tears. I will no longer be a sinner, but the spirit of the righteous made perfect, as Hebrews tells us. At that moment, I will feel and enjoy the unfettered presence of God in Christ without any dread. Could anything be better? I don't think so; I know nothing could be better.
Yesterday, I spoke to the Urologist; obviously, there was no exam over the phone, under present conditions. Therefore, we won't know for sure for at least six weeks, but he has decided to place me on antibiotics with the hope that my condition is inflammatory. If my numbers return to normal, we'll monitor for a time. If it remains the same, we're good. The one thing that won't remain the same is the fact that I now know how I face death, for which I am eternally grateful to God.