Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Die Well in Three Steps

Few spoke, and those who did used hushed tones. The constants in the room were the labored breathing of the dying man, the whooshing of the ventilator, and the beeping rhythm of the heart monitor. Young and old alike, they stood, each keeping his or her own death vigil. Would David speak again? Rally to leave them with some final wisdom? Or would he slip quietly into Eternity, into the Presence of his Savior and Lord, Whom he had so faithfully served these many decades?
       For over an hour,  Michael, the grandson who denied the existence of the old man's God, sat beside his grandfather, holding his hand and occasionally talking softly to him, despite the lack of any response or acknowledgement from David. For the younger man, this could  have one of two outcomes: either David would cheat death and rally to live awhile longer, or he would cease to exist.
       The respiratory therapist came into the room carrying a tote with her supplies.
       "I'm sorry, folks, but I must ask you to either leave the room or move away from the bed," she said. "It's time for Mr. Baugh's breathing treatment."
       As some turned to step into the hall and others moved back from the bed, Michael gently patted his grandfather's hand and slipped his own hand away.
       Suddenly, David's eyes flew open, and he reached his hand toward Michael.
       "Michael!" He spoke with surprising strength. Those who were about to leave spun around to face the family patriarch. "Michael! Please, please come to Jesus." Wearied from the effort, he sank back down into the pillows and closed his eyes.
       A few seconds later . . .
       "Michael!" Again he stretched his hand toward his beloved grandson. "Don't wait. Come. To. Jesus!"
       As if he had spent the last wisp of strength, he collapsed back into the pillows, only to rally a third time.
       David entered Glory a few days later. Michael's story is a work in progress.

* * * * * * *
       Words have power The Word spoke the whole universe--with the notable exception of man--into being. Words can wound or heal, build or destroy, bless or curse. But there is something very special about last words. Families and friends gather near a beloved one about to pass, hoping to catch a kernel of profound wisdom. Consider the following examples:
  • "This, is the last of earth. I am content." ~John Quincy Adams
  • "Let's roll!" ~ Todd Beamer
  • "Let me go to the house of the Father." ~ Pope John Paul II
  • "Thomas Jefferson still survives." ~John Adams (Actually, Jefferson and Adams died on the same day.)
  • "Turn up the lights. I don't want to go home in the dark." ~O. Henry
  • "Put out the light." ~Theodore Roosevelt
  • "It is well. I die hard, but I am not afraid to go." ~George Washington
  • "I still live." ~Daniel Webster
       The last words that meant the most to David Baugh were those of Jesus Christ: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8, ESV) Those who knew him best say that he was always ready and eager to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and make every effort he could to draw others--stranger, friend, or family member--to repentance and salvation. He did that with his hard-won dying breath.
       As for the title of this post, "How to Die in Three Steps," one need look no further than the life--and death--of Rev. David Baugh.
  1. Come to Christ, repenting of your sin, acknowledging Him as God's Son, and accepting His death, burial, and resurrection as full payment for your sin.
  2. Live your life as a Christ-follower, seeking always to draw others to Him.
  3. Share His Good News as long as He gives you breath
Having done that, when you meet Him Face to face, He will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)