It was a sunny late Wednesday afternoon when I received David’s call that his eldest brother, and my dear friend, Mike had died of a heart attack.
This news was not surprising to me because I knew Mike had health problems for some years, and yet it made me very sad. Too young to die, all too soon! Or was it?
Mike and I met in the late 1980’s while I was a steward at Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, California. He was part of the surf ministry and I recall his physical presence grabbed my attention.
He looked like a “jar-head” surfer with a stocky build. It reminded me of those “bad-surf-dudes” from 1970’s that you did not want to mess with. But as is often the case, first impressions are misleading.
When I got to actually know him, he was witty, funny, and courteous. One afternoon in Hope Chapel’s sanctuary he asked me about possibly going to the College I was attending—LIFE Bible College—in order to get more prepared for pastoral ministry. I don’t remember the details of our conversation but the tenor was of “one serious about the kingdom of God”. As so many do, Mike had a bright mind and was sensing a call to pastoral ministry.
Approximately one to two years later, I found myself driving out to LIFE Bible College three times a week with Mike and James Day—another dear brother wanting to get better equipped for kingdom ministry. We three formed a special bond and as brothers tend to do “iron” often “sharpened” iron.
Sometimes we’d challenge one another to walk closer to Christ or wrestled with what Scripture taught about a subject. Other times we’d comfort each other through tearful prayers. And when appropriate, we comforted each other through laughter triggered by impersonations of the “Three Stooges”, “Cheech and Chong”, “Tony Montana”, and yes even “Staff and Church Members” at Hope Chapel.
Twenty-three years later much water has gone under that proverbial bridge. What we envisioned for our lives in those earlier years of being in pastoral ministry in many ways—did not materialize. This was a source of pain in Mike’s life and one I understand well. But God addresses this reality and supplies His wisdom to us:
“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” And “Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 16:9; 20:24)
There’s a lot we don’t know because we are creatures, limited in our knowledge. What we do know, is that God is lovingly working out His eternal purposes in and through us because of Christ. Here’s our comfort, here’s our joy, here’s our inheritance as God’s people.
Solomon wrote: There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die (Ecc.3:1-2). Mike’s time came, our time is coming. What are we doing with the time God has graced to us?
Appropriate to this occasion is a partial exhortation from a poem Missionary C.T. Studd penned:
“Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.[i]
I miss my friend Mike. It hurts deeply. But to my brothers and sisters in Christ who remain, I pray: “that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
[i] Accessed (7/30/2015) http://i-am.org/members/index.php/156-devotional/493-only-one-life-twill-soon-be-past-only-what-s-done-for-christ-will-last