Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. (KJV)
A minister friend, after many strenuous years of service for the Lord, retired to minister in a small church. The first Sunday, very few attended; the next Sunday, the congregation increased greatly and did so all the following Sundays. About the seventh Sunday, my friend appeared confused and unable to follow the order of service. His wife very graciously came to his aid. After a visit to the family doctor, he was sent to a specialist who diagnosed his condition as "an inoperable aggressive cancer of the brain." This faithful servant who had been instrumental in bringing new people into the congregation was silenced. Regardless, he had taken those few weeks to tell others of the love of God.
The medical team decided a series of radiation treatments could perhaps prove effective. Awaiting his treatments, he developed a one-on-one congregation. He encouraged the fearful to trust in the Lord, and only time will tell the outcome of this ministry. His treatments were not successful; they were stopped. He was silenced again, but he had taken the fleeting moments to tell others of the love of God.
Friends visited him to pray and to listen to his prayers. With passing time, he was unable to pray, but joined in singing the old hymns. This knowledge also passed. His wife gave me a glimpse of their acceptance of the situation by referring to Christ's attitude to Jesus' Calvary walk: "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2 KJV). My friend was not accepting the situation in resignation but with joy!
On his last Sunday, his wife slipped away for an hour to attend the morning service at the local church. Before leaving her husband in the hands of a caregiver, she carefully selected a church programme on the television for her husband to listen to, although he did not appear to be aware of any of his immediate surroundings. Upon her return, the caregiver reported that his patient had said the word "Amen" on a few occasions — proving that although he was unable to communicate in everyday conversation, his spirit was alive and well, and his final word was "Amen" (So be it).
May we also seize the moments to tell of the difference God's love has made in our lives. We may feel inadequate or feel we have little to offer, and sometimes it may almost take physical effort. Regardless, may we seize each moment given, and allow the Holy Spirit to finish the work we began so timidly.
Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for the "great cloud of witnesses" who have taught us by their example, encouraged us by their words, and expressed the joy of the Christian life to the very end. Help us to be faithful witnesses in our world. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.