Richard E. Simmons III speaks to the crisis of COVID-19 and how it applies to Easter during our Good Friday 2020 Live Stream.
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For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world.
The times we are in presently certainly seem momentous with COVID-19 affecting the lives and well-being of individuals across the globe, however, this Easter weekend let us not forget what truly matters.
On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. And on Easter Sunday we celebrate the glorious day of resurrection heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith.
Well, good morning. I’m really sorry that as I come to you this morning, that we couldn’t provide you that good buffet breakfast. But I’m glad I can be with you in these really, I guess you could say, unprecedented times. Before we start, I would really like to thank two people, that really were a major part of making this happen. Mat Whatley and Becky Gray. They spent a lot of time getting this ready. Hopefully, you can see me, and you can hear me well.
But what I’ve tried to do this morning, and, oh, by the way, this message will be up on our website sometime today. And, we’re going to send everybody a link where you can watch it. You can send it to somebody. So, a number of people have asked about that. But this morning, what I’ve tried to do is craft a message that applies to what we’re facing and combine it with the message of Easter. Now, I really would ask you to hang on with me because I’m going to go in several different directions. And, then kind of bring it all together at the very end.
A number of years ago, I had a guy that I knew at the time pretty well. This was still when I was in the business world. And, this particular individual was very accomplished in his work; he had done quite well. And, I’ll never forget, he approached me one day and asked me, he said, “Richard, what is it that really drives me. I’m so driven. What do you think, what’s behind that?” And, he was really kind of troubled about it. And, it’s been so long ago, I don’t remember what I said to him. I don’t know that I gave him a very good answer. But several years later, I read some words by Tim Keller that really kind of nailed the answer, and really is applicable to what I want to talk about today. Keller says,
“We all have a basic motivational drive.” He says, “Every human heart has something that drives them.” He says, “It gets us out of bed; it gets us through life. It moves us to do what we do. And, for most of us,” he says, “I believe it’s fear.” He says, “After all of these years of pastoring, I truly think this is it. The fear of missing out. The fear of not proving ourselves. The fear of not living up and being somebody special. And, of course, the fear of failure.” But then he says, “Most significantly, the fear of death.”
I recently watched the end of the movie Shawshank Redemption. And, Morgan Freeman, who, his character, I think his name was Red. He was getting out of prison after having been behind bars for like 25, 30 years, and he was terrified, as he really didn’t know how to live out in the real world. And, then as he was reflecting on his existence as a free man, he says, “It’s a terrible thing to live with fear.” You know, I think he’s right. And, what we are seeing is that fear is wrecking a lot of people’s lives as they face these uncertain times. But you know what? Nobody ever really talks about their fears, particularly men. Because as you’ve heard me say, it’s in the book The True Measure of a Man, real men aren’t supposed to be afraid. And, so we never talk about our fears.
I recently read in a book by Steve Farrar. He says that “Men.” And, I know that we have a number of women listening in on this message, and we welcome you; we’re glad you’re here. But this will make an interesting topic to have with your husband. He says that
“Men are like icebergs.” He says, “90 percent of our true selves are hidden beneath the surface waters.” He says, “In public, we may appear to others as if we don’t have a care in the world, that today is just another day in paradise. But underneath the exterior of every man is a story of fear, of struggle, and of pain. And, Farrar closes by saying, “You know, we are all broken people. And, we live in a broken world.”
And, I think he’s spot-on there.
There’s a guy by the name of Richard Swenson. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the name. He’s an interesting guy. He’s a physician. And, his focus is on what he calls, “cultural medicine.” I’d never heard of that. And, what he does, he researches the intersection of health and culture. And, he looks at how culture impacts our mental, emotional, our psychological, and even our physical health. And, he wrote these words; this is pretty interesting. He wrote these words well before this pandemic came along. Listen to what he says. He says,
“People have always been stressed.” He said, “It’s simply part of living this life.” He says, “There’s always been change to cope with. There have always been economic problems, and people have always battled depression. It’s the nature of life to have its ups and downs. So, why all the fuss?” He said, “I’m not the one making the fuss. I’m only writing about it. I’m only being honest about what I see all around me. I sit in my examining room and I listen to people. Then I report what I hear. And, I can tell you,” he says. “Something is wrong. People are tired and frazzled. People are anxious. People are depressed. People don’t have time to heal anymore.” This is interesting. He says, “There’s a psychic instability in our day that prevents peace from implanting itself very firmly in the human spirit. And, despite the skeptics,” he says, “this instability is not the same old nemesis recast in a modern role.” He says, “Something has changed.”
And, I find that phrase, psychic instability, to be a good term for what’s going on in people’s lives. I’ve heard from two different news sources that at least a third of the people in our country, right now, are having real mental health issues. And, you know, I believe that that’s true.
So, what I’d like to do is drill down and get to the heart of this issue. Because it strikes me that this Coronavirus has really shattered our assumptions that our world is safe and it’s well under control, that we have things under control. And, this is one of the reasons I believe that nations, particularly our nation has drifted away from God; we feel secure. We don’t really need Him. But when we do this without recognizing it, we are throwing open the door for fear to infiltrate our lives. And, why is that?
I wrote about this two weeks ago in my blog. And, I got this from Tim Keller.”
As we move away from God,” he says, “we begin to experience a real sense of finiteness here on earth.” He says, “What we end up doing is trying to take on a position in the universe that’s way too big for us as human beings.”
Think of it kind of in these terms. I was thinking about this as an illustration. My next-door neighbor has four children. The youngest is three years old. And, he’s a pistol; he’s full of energy, he talks a lot. He’s always moving. Two nights ago, he’s running down the, he’s in his pajamas, about 6 o’clock at night. He’s running down the sidewalk to where a bunch of where the older kids are. And, he’s got this plastic sword, and he’s got it stuck down the back of his pajamas, into his pajama bottoms. And, he’s running along, and you can see the sword sticking up. And, he’s running with the idea, “I can get my sword out with all of these big kids.” And, so I was imagining this boy, kind of imagined this, with his mom at a big department store at Christmastime, where there are just lots of people. And, she’s got a hold of him and she’s looking for some gifts. And, finally, she stops and sees something she’s really interested in, and he’s wanting to get away from her. And, for just a minute, she lets go of his hand, and she’s looking at an item. And, all of a sudden, he’s done. He’s headed to wherever. And, after a minute or so, she realizes it, and of course, as any mother would be, is terrified. And, he’s in some other part of the store and he’s looking around. And, then all of the sudden, he realizes, he looks around and he doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know where his mama is. And, all of a sudden, he sees these big adults, and they’re looking at him. Because he’s a little three-year-old by himself. And, then a security guard starts to approach him. And, he’s just terrified. And, he bursts into tears. And, he’s just terrified until he finds his mom.
I share this because maybe this has happened to you before, or maybe it happened to you as a kid. Or, maybe it happened to one of your children. But in this little made-up story, he tried to take on something that was way too big for him to handle as a child. And, without realizing it, that’s what we do as adults. We take on this world, this universe. It’s way too big for us! And, let’s face it. Modern people believe that they can run their lives better than God can.
You know, I think leading up to this virus, I think this is the way Americans were living. And, I believe God is telling us there’s nothing more foolish than to think you have life under control, particularly when it’s not controllable. And, people today, I figure, experiencing that, and fear is consequently weighing down their hearts and their lives. That’s one of the things that’s going on.
Now, what I’d like to do is maybe share a couple of other, I really believe they’re profound insights into fear. St. Augustine, this is amazing. I looked this up because I couldn’t remember. He lived 1600 years ago. And, he said this about fear. He said your fears tell you a lot about yourself. He says,
“You can always follow your worries to that which you have built your life around.”
Then, the highly regarded therapist Rollo May. This guy is not a Christian; he’s a skeptic. He made this observation. He said,
“Anxiety comes when something that you have put your real security in, something that made you feel in control, something that made you feel like you had an identity, it’s threatened. Or, maybe it even implodes.”
And, then I stumbled on these words just the other day from an article, that psychologists have claimed for years that if you deny something that you fear, think about that for a minute. When you deny something that you fear, if you refuse to face it, that thing begins to control you in your subconscious. And, it will have a huge impact on your life, though you don’t even realize it.
And, of course, the greatest fear humans have to deal with is the fear of death. And, yet we act and live as if it doesn’t even exist. In fact, Freud said,
“We have shown an unmistakable tendency to push death aside, to eliminate it from life. We have tried to keep a deadly silence about death and dying. Thus, the dictum could be dared in the psychoanalytic school. At the bottom, nobody believes in his own death.”
Aren’t we interesting human beings? We have this great fear, and yet I think we refuse to face it. And, it begins to control us in many ways, though we don’t even see it. In fact, listen. These are very powerful words from the Book of Hebrews in the Bible, in the New Testament. And, it says, you know if we don’t employ, and I’m going to come back to this in a few minutes. But if we don’t employ the means that God gives us to find peace, it says, “We will be slaves to the fear of death all of our life.”
Now, I bring this up because, you know, if you think about it, Good Friday and Easter are all about death and resurrection. And, unfortunately, this Coronavirus is also about, when it gets right down to it, a lot of destruction. A lot of economic destruction, a lot of destruction in people’s families and their lives. And, then the virus itself destroys.
So, how does this play out into our lives? How does this play out in real life? What does this really do to us? You know the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal had an interesting take on this. He said,
“Human beings are all on a desperate search for happiness. And yet,” he says, “most find it to be elusive.”
Now, you think, this is 400 years ago. He says this, “Unhappiness,” he believed, “is the most obvious and most pervasive feature of human experience.” And, if you think about it, nobody wants to admit that they’re unhappy because if the goal of life is happiness, and you admit, “I’m an unhappy person,” it’s like you’re admitting, “I failed at life.”
This reminds me of an interesting situation I ran into 20-something years ago; this was when I was in business. Every week it seemed like I had to go to Atlanta. And, one week I had an early meeting on Monday morning, which meant I had to go over and spend the night that Sunday night. And, so I, and I was married and had three young kids at the time. And, I stayed in Birmingham until late in the afternoon and then drove to Atlanta. I got there a little after eight. Checked into my hotel which was right there in Buckhead. And, then I needed a place to eat. And, right down the street was a restaurant that you may be familiar with; I don’t know if it’s even still there. It’s called Houston’s. A really good place to eat, and I figured it’s Sunday, about 8:30, I can go slip in there. I took Forbes Magazine with me. I figured I would go in there, eat, and read a magazine. Well, I show up, and to my shock, the place is jammed. Sunday night, 8:30, 9:00. And, I go up and ask the maître de, “What kind of wait am I looking at?” “Oh, 20, 30 minutes. There are a bunch of people waiting.” And, then I happened to notice, there was one seat up there at the bar. And, I said, “Can I go sit up there and eat?” And, she said, “Sure, go ahead.” So, I go up there, I sit down. I order. And, then I notice right to my left were two young, very attractive young ladies. And, they were having a big time. You could tell they’d been there a while. And, they’re laughing and they’re talking loud, clearly had been drinking a lot. And, I’m sitting there waiting for my meal, reading my magazine, and all of a sudden I find myself listening to them. I’m looking at the magazine and I’m listening to them. And, at some point, they said something and I started laughing. And, then they realized, “He’s listening to us!” So, they start engaging me in a conversation. And, I’ll never forget this. I eventually said, “Well, what do you ladies do for a living?” They said, “Well, we’re both strippers.” I said, “I beg your pardon?” “Yeah, we’re strippers at a strip club.” And, then they said, “What’s your favorite strip club in Atlanta?” And, I had to politely tell them I’ve never been to a strip club. And, I think at that point, they kind of realized, I was kind of a square. You know, here’s a guy by himself, reading a magazine, got a wife and three young kids at home. And, at some point, the conversation, again, I kind of steered the conversation and it got serious. I said, “Let me ask you something. If you had to grade your life, give your life a grade as far as the happiness you experience, 10 being the highest, one being the lowest, how would you rate your life?” And, I can remember, the looks on their face went to just real seriousness. And, there was silence there. And, finally, one of them said, “I’d say a three.” And, I’ll never forget this. The other one said, “Negative 10.” And, it opened up the door for me to have a, I shared my faith and shared with them. But I tell you this story because I’ll never forget this. As I was getting up to leave, I looked around that restaurant, and I saw all of these people laughing and smiling. And, I wondered, “How many people are like these two young women?”
You see, we can fake it so well in this life. And, Pascal believed that unhappiness was a major problem for almost every person. But this is what is so interesting. This is what he attributed it to. He attributed it to our mortality. He said,
“Death is the most obvious fact of life.” And, he says, “It slaps us in the face when we realize our own helplessness in overcoming it.”
And, I think that’s what this COVID 19 pandemic is doing; it’s slapping us all in the face.
Tuesday night I heard on a Zoom message; Tim Keller delivered an Easter meditation. And, he shared about a third-grader there in New York who had died of the virus. And, a seventh-grader in Brooklyn who had died of the virus. And, a young nurse with three children who had volunteered her time to help at a hospital; she contracted it and died. You see, we’re all vulnerable to it. And, this is what we’re up against. And, Pascal says,
“What happens is deep down we know that death is coming and that when we do die, we experience the loss of everything that we have in this life.” And, he says this, “This is why people love pleasure so much.” I mean, pleasure’s a gift from God; it’s a good thing. But he says, “For so many people, it’s a diversion.” He put it this way. “The only good thing for men is to be diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation, which takes their minds off of it or by some novel and agreeable passion that keeps them busy, like gambling or hunting or some absorbing show. In short, what is called diversion.”
And, this is why Pascal says,
“This is the problem with human beings. We are fugitives from reality. We don’t come to terms with our mortality.”
There was a man who lived in the 16th century. I read this a number of years ago, but I thought it was pretty interesting. He was considered one of the most significant philosophers in the French Renaissance; he was quite the scholar. His name was Michele de Montaigne, and he was a skeptic. But he recognized the exact same thing that Pascal saw’ the unhappiness of life because of human mortality. And, he says,
“There’s only one way for us as humans to escape the horror of cosmic isolation.” He said, “You have to find a multitude of ways to preoccupy your mind. You have to look for diversions.” He says, “Variety in life always brings solace, it dissolves, it scatters.” And, then he wrote, and these are his words, “By changing places.” In other words, new residences;
always getting a new house, say, every 10 years. Or, getting a new occupation. Or, always finding a new and a variety of friends. He says,
“By doing that,” he says, “I escape into the crowd of other thoughts and diversions, where it loses my trace and it leaves me feeling safe.”
Because that’s what everybody years for; they want to feel safe. But for de Montaigne, diversion guaranteed the illusion of mental and emotional survival, temporarily preventing and experiencing this life of hopelessness.
Now, some of you may not find this funny. But you know, as men, I think we find spectator sports to be at the center, kind of, of life. Because it’s such a great diversion and it’s so enjoyable. And, even back during the great recession in 2008, 2009, what you find is that sports are a great way to take your mind off of the difficult times. It was a great diversion. And, I ask you to think of the mass depression, at least here in the South, that would set into men’s lives if they canceled the college football season coming up because of this virus. I think that is just depressing for so many people, for a lot of you listening, and I’m a big fan. So, don’t get me wrong; I’m not throwing rocks at you because I love it as well. But I think, and as I share that, and as I’ve reflected on that, I think we’re learning a lot about ourselves. And, we’re learning a lot about our lives as we go through this pandemic.
And, I do believe that the Apostle Paul confirms all of this, all of what Pascal has said, and all of what de Montaigne has said about our mortality, and how it impacts our lives. In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul is speaking to the Christians in Corinth. And, listen to what he says. He says,
“Therefore, we do not lose heart, though our outer body is decaying, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
And, I think a key phrase in that verse is, “losing heart.”
You know, I looked this up. Do you know what this literally means in Greek? It means to be weary or grow weary because of fear. You know you don’t lose heart in an instant; it happens over time. But it’s to be weary or grow weary because of fear in your life that you have to deal with every day. And, so why do people lose heart? Paul tells you. Our outer bodies are decaying. The New International Version says, “outwardly, we are wasting away.” What he’s saying, we’re all dying physically. And, we know that. And, because of it, he says, “People lose heart over it.” But Paul says to the Christians there in Corinth, the believers there, he says, “But we don’t lose heart.” Because as Christians if we are seeking God, if we are growing in a relationship with Him, he says, “Your heart and soul are being renewed every day.” And, I love that word renew. It means to restore, to make like new.
And, so the question that I would ask you this morning. Are you losing heart as the years go by? Are you losing heart over this virus? I think a lot of people are, we’re getting weary over it and wondering, “Is this going to ever end?” Are you losing heart or are you experiencing daily renewal and experiencing a real inner strength and encouragement, a peace, a peace that, as Paul says, “passes all understanding?”
As I was researching this, I found this really very encouraging little story. And, I’m familiar with this man. I’ve known his son in the past. His name is Robertson McQuilkin. He was president of a Christian college. And, he was once approached by an elderly lady facing the trials of her old age. Her body was in decline. Her beauty being replaced by thinning hair, wrinkles, and skin discoloration. She could no longer do the things she once could. And, she felt herself to be a burden on other people. She said,
“Robertson, why does God let us get old and weak? Why must I hurt so much?”
And, after a few moments of thought, McQuilkin replied,
“Well, I think God has planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical, but the strength and beauty of age is spiritual. We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary, so we’ll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty which is forever. It makes us more eager to leave behind the temporary, the deteriorating part of life. And, to be truly homesick for our eternal home.” He says,
“You know, if you had stayed young, and strong, and beautiful, we might never want to leave.”
I think those are some really profound words to think about.
Now, before moving to my closing remarks, I want to share something with you that I think is quite fascinating. And, I think it’s very pertinent to the message, and really validates what I’ve said thus far. And, you know, it really validates, and I haven’t said this yet. But it validates that we are eternal beings. I don’t think we think about that. We are eternal beings.
I read a book recently called Why Everything Matters. It’s a book on the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, which is to me, one of the most fascinating books of the Bible. And, I read about a guy by the name of Julian Barnes. He’s an award-winning novelist. And, he wrote a memoir. It was titled, Nothing to Be Frightened Of.” And, in the memoir, he admits,
“I’m afraid to die!” And, this admission, he says, “But it’s really embarrassing because I’m agnostic.” And, he reasons, “Okay, if there is no God, then there is no afterlife, then there should be,” the title of his book, “nothing to be frightened of.” He says, “I can’t figure this out. I am terrified of dying.” He says, “I think about it every day, and sometimes in the night,” he said, “I’m roared awake and pitched from sleeping to darkness, vicious awareness that this is a rented world that we live in.” He says, “Awake and utterly alone, I find myself beating my pillow with my fists and wailing NO! NO! NO!” He says, “My dreams are even darker. Sometimes I’m buried alive. Other times I’m chased, surrounded, and outnumbered.” He finds himself held hostage wrongly, condemned to the firing squad, informed that there is even less time than he thought. He says, “This is usual stuff for me.” And, he says, “Perhaps this is the usual stuff because death is the sum of all of our fears, of being alone, abandoned, and condemned.” But he said the point of the book, of the memoir, is, “I shouldn’t be frightened of anything as it relates to death because none of that exists.”
Now, in the book that I just have written, Reflections on the Existence of God, there are 57 short essays. And, there’s one essay on death and dying. And, point out how so many of the famous atheists over the years were very confident of their beliefs. In fact, there was a lot of arrogance, a lot of making fun of those who believe in God. But what’s interesting, and I’ve got this well-documented. They get to the end of their lives, and they’re terrified of dying. In fact, several of these men had lost their faith. They ended up losing their faith in atheism. The question is why is this? Well, I think the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us why in Ecclesiastes 3:11. Listen to this. This is so significant. It says,
“God has planted eternity in our hearts.”
He’s saying we are eternal beings living temporal lives on this earth. Again, if you’ve ever given this much thought. I am an eternal being. I’m going to live eternally. And, this explains why Julian Barnes is so terrified of dying. His intellect tells him there’s no afterlife; there’s nothing to be afraid of. But his heart senses and knows that he is eternal and that he will live eternally.
You know, earlier I said in Hebrews 2:15, that if we don’t employ the means that God has given us to find peace, we will be slaves to the fear of death all of our lives.
The big question is what is the means that He has given us to find peace? And, I would just say one word; Jesus.
Jesus and the resurrection. You know, Paul says, “We serve a God who raises the dead.” And, in that verse, in Hebrews 2:15, it says,
“Jesus came into the world to deliver us from the fear of death, that we would otherwise be slaves to all of our lives.”
That was one of the reasons he came into the world, to deliver us from this fear. So, how does this happen? How does a person find this peace?
Well, when a person puts their faith in Christ and surrenders to Him, at that moment, they are entering into a relationship with Him, a whole new life, and it’s not just a relationship. But God becomes our Heavenly Father and we become His children. It says,
“He adopts us into His family.”
In John 1:12 it says,
“For those who receive Christ into their lives, to them, He gives the right for them to become children of God.”
And, He says,
“My desire is to walk with you through life as your Father. I want to walk with you through all of your fears, and I’m going to walk with you even through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Now, I want to share with you six real short verses that really gives us great insight into this.
The first is Deuteronomy 31:6. Listen carefully. It says,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble. Why? For the Lord, your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
“Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Isiah 41:10, one of my favorites. I’ve had my children memorize this as young kids.
“Do not fear. Why? For I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
And, then the familiar Psalm 23:4.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for Thou art with me.”
And, these next two are referring to fear. In Hebrews 13:5, He says,
“I’ll never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.”
And, then the last words that He gives to His disciples, the very last words in Matthew 28:20. He says,
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I don’t know if you noticed, but in those verses, God is commanding us not to fear; this is not a suggestion. He’s commanding us not to fear because He hates what fear does to us. And, why shouldn’t we fear? In every one of those verses, it says, “Because He is with you.” He is with you. I will walk with you through life. I will walk with you through this pandemic. You see, listen to this; this is so crucial to grasp. He wants to teach us how to transfer the responsibility of the outcome to Him. This is faith. This is what it means to trust Him.
As David says in Psalm 56:3,
“When I’m afraid, I will put my trust in You.”
Now, let me just say this. This is really kind of what we do here at the Center. We work with men in their relationship with God. We teach them how to walk by faith, how to trust God. In fact, I’m going to be teaching on that next week; how to build a strong foundation in the midst of these storms. And, if there’s any way we can help you, we have all different types of options, all different types of men’s groups, one on one meetings. We have counseling. You know how to get in touch with us. You have our email address. You can get our phone numbers; you can get in touch with us. We’d love for you, usually, we give people cards at these breakfasts; we don’t have those cards today. But we invite you to be involved in our work. We invite you, and I guess would say, if there’s any way we can help you, we would love to.
I want to end our time together with two powerful stories. And, I think they’re a very appropriate ending to this presentation. This first one, I read three or four years ago at one of these Good Friday breakfasts. And, so you may have heard it. I’m guessing a lot of you have not. Those of you who have heard it, you’ll love hearing it again; it’s so powerful. I’m just going to read it.
Author Mark Buchannan shares a powerful story from when he was a pastor. It was late Saturday evening as he read over his sermon for the next morning. Getting into bed later, the phone rang. It was a nurse from the local hospital, speaking frantically. She didn’t know Buchannan, but he was the only pastor she had heard of in town, and she faced unfamiliar territory needing his help. There was a man at the hospital who was dying. His health was quickly going downhill, and his final moments overflowed with extreme anguish, howling, and writhing. The man’s family was terrified as they watched. The young nurse begged Buchannan to come to the hospital as fast as he could. When the pastor arrived at the patient’s bedside, he witnessed something he said that he would never forget. The man was twisting. His limbs were flying everywhere. He was thrashing, moaning. But the worst part was the look of terror on this man’s face. He was glimpsing at hell. Buchannan didn’t know what to do so he prayed, “God, please help me.” And, then he put his hands on the man and began to pray, “Shalom,” which means peace. The dying man began to settle down. His breathing returned to normal and his body stopped writhing. And, then he became lucid, and they began to talk. The pastor asked the man if he knew Jesus Christ. It turned out that 25 years ago, the man had some kind of spiritual experience but had never surrendered himself to Christ. Buchannan proceeded to lead the man and his wife into a relationship with Christ. And suddenly, an incredible feeling of peace encompassed the room. The pastor then told the dying man what to expect in God’s kingdom. When he left the hospital to head home, he said there was tangible light and a spirit of celebration in that room. The next morning after the church service, he stopped by the hospital to see if the man had made it through the night. Pausing at the nurse station, he was told the man was still alive, and he could go back and see him. When Buchannan walked into that hospital room, he did not recognize the man. His life had been so transformed that he radiated joy, strength, and vitality. After that day, the pastor never saw the man again. But a year later at the end of another church service, Buchannan was leaving the building when he noticed a woman lingering in the back of the sanctuary. It was the man’s wife from the hospital. Buchannan eagerly asked her about her husband. She told him that he died just last week. And, although those few days on earth were the best days of their entire marriage. She said he was filled with such joy and such peace.
You know, death is the exit door that leads into eternity. It’s the end of our earthly journey that takes us to be home with our Heavenly Father.
And, finally, just a quick little story and then I’m done, that relates to Easter. And, I love sharing this because I think it really kind of helps us focus on the significance of what took place on that first Easter morning. I go back to Rollo May, who I quoted earlier in the presentation. He’s the highly regarded therapist. And he wrote a book a number of years ago titled My Quest for Beauty. And, the book, perhaps now largely forgotten, described his lifelong search for beauty. And, May recounts this visit to Mt. Athos, which is a peninsula in Greece, inhabited only by monks from the Greek Orthodox church. And, he went there because he was recovering from a psychological breakdown. And, when he arrived, he arrived there right at Easter. And, he said, he vividly described the deeply symbolic service on Easter morning, with all of its religious icons and ritual, and with incense filling the air. He said during the service the priest gave to each person three wonderfully decorated Easter eggs. And, then he pronounced,
“Christ is Risen.”
Everyone in the service, including Rollo May, was instructed to respond,
“He is Risen Indeed!”
Rollo May was not a Christian. Nevertheless, he talks about how profoundly moved he was by the experience. And, he was seized by a moment of spiritual inspiration, and he posed a question that’s at the heart of this message that I’m sharing with you this morning. He asked this question.
What would it mean for our world if He had truly risen?
What would it mean to our world? Well, it would mean everything.
It would mean that Jesus is the Son of God. It means that God exists. But most significantly, as we think about the message this morning, is that we should expect when God’s everlasting kingdom becomes accessible to us, we should know and expect that it will be more wonderful than anything we could ever imagine. As the Apostle Peter put it,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Thanks be to God. Let us pray.
Oh, Father, we are so grateful that You haven’t abandoned us, that You’ve given us Your Son Jesus, that You sent Him into the world to deliver us from the fear of death. But most significantly, You sent Him into the world to deliver us from our sinfulness, that we could be forgiven, that we could have everlasting life. And, that we can have a relationship with You, not only on this earth but that which extends out into eternity. I pray Your blessing on everybody, every person watching this presentation. I pray your blessing on them as they go into the Easter weekend. And Lord, I pray that You would give us peace as we rest in You, that we trust in You when we are fearful. And Father, we thank You for this and pray all of this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Thank you for being with us this morning.
Listen to the audio of this talk.