And the dead in Christ shall rise first. – 1 Thessalonians 4:16
This past Saturday, we buried my 84-year-old grandfather. He was best known for being a working machine. Some of my earliest memories of him are of him coming in from his plant job at Milliken, coming in for a bite to eat, then heading out to the woods to operate his chainsaw. He believed a man should only work half a day, and he could choose whichever 12 hours he liked.
Papa would tell me stories about his dad. From the stories he told, my great-grandfather was a very hard man. I could definitely see how my papa turned out the way he did. I asked him one time if my great grandpa knew the Lord. Papa told me the story how near the end of his dad’s life, his dad did receive the Lord. He talked about how it did make a difference, but also how he didn’t have a lot of time for the Lord to change those ways that had been locked in his heart for decades.
Papa and I would have a lot of the same conversations over and over. My favorite was of the day he got saved. He told me of the old country church in Salem and of a Pentecostal preacher named Paul Towe. It was a simple story of him going forward to receive the Lord and then later being baptized in the river. I always liked watching my Papa revisit all of that in his mind.
Just a few months ago, I got to take my Papa to my church. He had never seen me preach before and I could tell he was excited to go. He didn’t know where we met or really anything about Lifeline Community Church. When we pulled up to the high school building, his jaw dropped and he said in a loud voice “this is your church?” I quickly realized that he thought that entire complex was some sort of mega-church. I said “No Pop, this is just a high school that we use until we can get in our building.” I still can’t help but laugh at that.
It is amazing how a man’s life will eventually be summed up into just a few sentences. I mean, all you can really say about a person is what they did for a living, how they treated people, and what they enjoyed doing. If I simply say, “Papa was a logger,” that is 4 words describing 40 years of him being in the woods cutting down trees. If I say, “Papa really loved his grandson,” that is a decade of me spending the night with him and Granny as often as I could, especially Friday nights when we would watch The Dukes of Hazzard. For several years, Papa would take up for me and have Granny fix alternative meals because I wouldn’t eat what was available. Of course, this was despite my parents wanting me to eat what had already been cooked. Every time my own children want something else to eat, I smile because I think of him.
If I say, “Papa was a Christian,” this means he simply trusted in the Lord for his salvation. Papa could not read a Bible. Therefore, he enjoyed going to church as often as he could. He told me in nearly all of our conversations the last five years how he was looking forward to going home to be with the Lord.
I can’t imagine why people want to live life without hope in the Lord. My Papa put absolutely no trust in his hard work, or the fact that he was a “good” person. In fact, he knew all of his deeds were pitiful in the sight of a holy God. Papa’s hope was not in his own work, but the work that Christ did for him on the cross.
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:57