My good friend and mentor, John, passed away December 13, 2003.
For ten years I had the privilege of spending time with John most every week. During the last 7 months of his life (because of his limitations) I also had the opportunity to spend an extra 20 to 30 minutes each week with him talking about life, while driving to and from a meeting we had with some other friends. He genuinely cared for me as he spoke into my life. As was his passion, he spoke into the lives of many men over the years. He never backed off tough situations or areas in which I needed pushed on… and he would make it a point to ask me the tough questions as well as encourage me to ask him the tough questions. We would talk and pray and I listened and learned very much from my friend.
Perhaps the most powerful thing he did for me (and many other men) was to remind me that I could be very successful in everyone else’s eyes, but before God I was a failure if I didn’t love Christ more each day. The Christian life is about knowing Him, not about doing things for Him. I heard this more than a few times from John, every week in some form or fashion. The difference was that he understood it and he meant it. His relationship with our Savior was incredibly compelling and powerful!
John’s last words to me were, “Thanks so much for the love I had demonstrated to him and his wife and reminded me of how awesome and loving our Heavenly Father is.” And then he stated it again in a written note on a letter he had sent to several hundred people just before his last surgery. Right to the end he was encouraging those around him to love Christ and be faithful to the end. He even included a ‘P.S’ in this letter saying that surgery had been successful! He told us that regardless of the outcome of his surgery that it would be a total success …since to die would be gain as he would be with Christ, and to live meant continued service to our loving Father.
John understood that and lived it!
The words “To God be the Glory” were on the handout at his memorial service at the church where he served as an elder. That is exactly how most of us who knew John would describe how he lived. Hundreds of men of all ages came to his service. What was so amazing about his service was that at the age of 84 and having lived in Plano for less than twenty years in retirement, most men would have only had a handful of folks at their service. However, because John spent much of his time investing in the lives of younger men, he left a legacy and he was faithful to do so to the very end. John was both a Paul (teacher and mentor) and a Barnabas (encourager) in my life.
John was buried December 27 in Elgin, Illinois where he was buried next to his first wife, who tragically died at the age of thirty-eight. His grave is just a few feet from that of a son who also died tragically at thirty-one years of age. John suffered much heartache and loss in his life and through it all he became more and more like Christ. I am blessed to have known him; his legacy will live in my spirit for my remaining years. Through his example he taught me humility, what really matters, and he always pressed me to love Jesus more each day and to make sure my wife and kids knew I loved them too.
John’s message of loving God and people more than anything else continues to sink in… after all you can’t go wrong when you choose to love the Lord and others above all else!
What are you living your life for?
– Article contributed by Tim Chastain, Director of Men’s Teams for the Master’s Men ministry.