Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Death of a Man of God: What Really Matters

Anyone who knows me well knows that John Piper is one of the foremost influencers of my theology and ministry. For more than a decade, I have been blessed and mentored from a distance by this man of God through reading his books, listening to his sermons, and having the opportunity on a few occassions to meet him personally.

One of the reasons John Piper is such a blessing to many is because of his father Bill, a Greenville, South Carolina itinerant evangelist. I learned today that Bill Piper passed away, and a funeral will take place in my hometown to memorialize him.

Interestingly, this news came to me at the same time that I was pondering my own future. At 35, I still, God willing, have much more to do in advancing the Kingdom of God. But at my age, it is easy to get caught up in the "professional" side of what I do . . .wondering, for example, what I will be doing in five or ten years . . . .still in associational work? Back in the pastorate? Teaching in a seminary?

John Piper's recent blog entry memorializing his dad just reminded me today that none of those things really matter. What does matter is the legacy of faith I leave for my family. I read with tears the following words that Piper wrote in memory of his father, and prayed that one day, when I leave this world for the next one, similar words might be spoken of me by my sons:

An exerpt, with what I consider the most moving parts highlighted:

The doctor in his green frock came at 12:40 and listened with his stethoscope to four different places on Daddy’s chest. Then he pulled back the sheet and said, “I must apply some pain stimuli to his nail base to see if he reacts. Then he used his flashlight to test Daddy’s eyes. “The nurse supervisor will come and get the information we need about the mortuary.” Thank you.
Alone again, I felt his cheeks. Finally cool after the fevered and flushed fight. I felt his nose, as though I were blind. Then I felt mine. I thought, very soon my nose will be like your nose. It is already like your nose.

The nurse came. No thank you, an autopsy will not be necessary. Mackey Mortuary on Century Drive. My name is John, his son. My cell phone is . . . . “You may stay as long as you like.” Thank you. I will be leaving soon.

Now I just look at him. Nothing has changed in his face here in the darkness of this dim light. Just no movement. But I have watched his chest so long—even now, was that a slight rise and fall? No, surely not. It’s like sailing on the sea for days. On the land the waves still roll.
He has four-day’s beard and dark eyes. I lift an eyelid to see him eye to eye. They are dilated.

Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for sixty-one years of faithfulness to me. I am simply looking into his face now. Thank you. You were a good father. You never put me down. Discipline, yes. Spankings, yes. But you never scorned me. You never treated me with contempt. You never spoke of my future with hopelessness in your voice. You believed God’s hand was on me. You approved of my ministry. You prayed for me. Everyday. That may be the biggest change in these new days: Daddy is no longer praying for me.

I look you in the face and promise you with all my heart: Never will I forsake your gospel. O how you believed in hell and heaven and Christ and cross and blood and righteousness and faith and salvation and the Holy Spirit and the life of holiness and love. I rededicate myself, Daddy, to serve your great and glorious Lord Jesus with all my heart and with all my strength. You have not lived in vain. Your life goes on in thousands. I am glad to be one.

I kissed him on his cold cheek and on his forehead. I love you, Daddy. Thank you.

What a legacy!

So often those of us whose profession it is to ready souls for eternity are drawn toward the temporal . . .the advanced degree, the denominational recognition, the numerical growth of a church, the celebrity that certainly accompanies minsitry as much as it does any other profession . . . .in light of eternity, none of that matters. And on the Day of Judgement, if these things are brought up at all, I suspicion they will only have been barriers to what we should have been doing and a justification of God's judgement on us. God, grant us the grace to treat temporal things for what they are . . . .temporal.

Help us to live with eternity in view, that such things might be said of us as are now said of William Piper!


No comments: