(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
When a person is called by the Lord to be one who will preach the gospel and shepherd the people of God as Pastor, they are totally unaware of the kind of experiences that they have before them. In fact, it would not be good for a Pastor to know what lies ahead. Many of those experiences in the ministry are happy and joyful ones such as the birth of beautiful babies, the wedding ceremony of some wonderful couple and the baptism of people as they come into the kingdom of God through faith. Many times, the Pastor will be called upon to help a family through some crucial situation in their lives and there is great joy in being able to help people in such times. There are other times when the phone rings during the night and someone has died suddenly. Or, there may have been a terrible wreck and some love one has been snatched away in a moment. The person God has called into the ministry lives with a constant pressure that other people know nothing about. What will that person be faced with next? It would be easy to live in a slight state of depression if one lived in fear of the coming day. But, the Lord has given us some great and precious promises upon which we can base life. One of those promises is that no one is above another in God’s sight. The poor and the rich are judged by the same standards. God is no respecter of persons as we find in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Let me give you an example of God’s mercy and grace.
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I recently preached a funeral message for a highly place person in the community. Everyone respected him for his gracious demeanor and for his respect for others as well as his honesty. Many said: “I have never heard him say bad things about anyone.” He was dedicated to his job and treated all people the same. This man was highly educated and respected greatly by his peers. But, like everyone before him and those coming along later, he died. He left history and entered eternity. He was a Christian so where he was going was of no question because he had, by faith, trusted Jesus as his savior and relied on the Lord’s promises. The funeral was a large one with a multitude of highly placed professionals in attendance which spoke of the respect they had for the deceased.
I remember when I was Pastor of Metter Baptist that I received a phone call one day from the personnel at one of the funeral homes in the city. “Brother Bill, we have a little lady here that passed away recently in the nursing home her in town. We have been holding her remains for several weeks as we have searched for someone to claim her body and give us some information about her. We have not been able to locate anyone who knows her even though we have advertised her passing in the local papers of several cities around us. No one has responded so we are asking if you will do a service for her. She will be buried in the pauper’s section of the cemetery.” I told the person that I would be glad to help out any way I could.
When the day and hour arrived, I went to the local cemetery and found only three people there; the funeral home employee and two men who had prepared the grave. In a few minutes three workers from the nursing home who had grown to love the little lady also came. They told me the little lady was a good Christian person who love the Lord; studied His Word a lot and was kind to everyone. For the first time, I helped carry a casket to the gravesite. So, we gathered around the grave and I performed the gravesite service for the little lady. The gravediggers stood by with hat in hand out of respect for the deceased. The nursing home people stood by with heads bowed. Some of them cried. The fellow from the funeral home joined us in paying our respects for this person who had left history and entered eternity.
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In a few minutes it was over and they prepared to close the grave in the pauper’s section. Suddenly I had the thought that I would like to see this person. The casket was opened and there was one of the prettiest little ladies I had ever seen. Her white hair was perfectly done. She was dressed in a white lacy dress. She did not look like someone in their nineties. I looked at her for a moment and thought: “There was a time when this person was just born.” Someone said: “Oh, what a beautiful baby!” She probably grew up with other children and experienced life which we can only speculate about. She may have even had children as most people do. But, here she was. No one to claim her body. No family or kin of any kind claimed her. The moment impressed me profoundly. I have never forgotten one detail of it.
But then, Pastors have also been asked to perform the service for one who was well known and highly respected. The lesson is this: Whether one was loved by many, highly educated and articulate, graceful and generous or whether they occupied the station in life of this little lady buried in the pauper’s section, the salvation that God offers through Jesus Christ is available to both on an equal basis. No one is above the other where God is concerned as long as the people involved have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That decision is the dividing line in life that makes all the difference in time and eternity.
Just remember this: it’s not what one has done that makes the difference. It’s what Jesus has done for us and the promises He has made concerning life after we leave this world. And, he judges everyone on the same basis: What have you done with Jesus?
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 49 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 31 of those years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com
Brother Bill hits the right places in his words. I feel he has done a wonderful job of bringing the word of God to us all. He tells us what we need to learn, not what we necessarily find comfortable to see. I like that. The word of God is not about a popularity contest. It is about the truth, the promise and our eternal souls. Bother Bill, I thank God for you.
That was beautiful Bro. Bill. You made me cry. 🙂
I got a tear in my eye as I recalled the experience and wrote it for the article. Thanks, Penny for your comment. Bro. Bill