The scriptures say that when David had completed all that God planned for him, he died and joined his ancestors. Sometimes we are surprised when death comes to someone young, or someone who appears to be doing everything right. But the Bible makes it clear that there is a time for each of us to die. It is not a random thing, nor is it preventable. The Bible says we die when we complete the mission that God has made us to do, whatever that may be.
This should be an amazingly liberating idea for a Christian. You can basically do that whole Matrix thing around bullets if it’s not your time to die! This should essentially set you free of all kinds of fears that might have held you back before. But sometimes there is actually a purpose to the WAY and TIME that we die.
Lately, a friend of mine has been posting updates about another missionary who is dying of cancer in a “closed country”. Stewart and Bev* have worked for 20 something years in this hard place, and not one person has been saved. They spent years traveling into the interior of this country, ministering among the lost, yet no one has responded to the message of Salvation. They just plodded along faithfully, loving people and hoping that the message was coming through loud and clear. Then Stewart was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
As they prayed together, the family felt that the Lord was telling them to “live out this death in the eyes of your neighbors.” So they began to make preparations for Stewart to die in that country. When they heard that Stewart was dying, the people in the interior where they had ministered all those years asked the family if they would move in with the tribe and allow Stewart to be buried where they live. The family was deeply touched by this, but it would be impossible without government permission for a foreigner to be buried in the land.
That same day, a lawyer for the tribe came to the house to consult with the husband and wife. “Let me take care of everything. And is there anything else you need?” He asked. They needed to transfer the title of their vehicle into Bev’s name so that the government would not seize their property once Stewart died. The lawyer agreed to handle that paperwork as well.
Within a few days, the family received permission to move to the interior, buy a burial plot, and for Bev to keep the car. All their concerns had been handled with minimal stress on their part. Now they could focus on dying well, as God had commanded them. Even as he grew weaker and weaker, Stewart continued to receive visitors. They would sit at his bedside, sometimes talking, sometimes crying. They marveled at Bev’s peace and strength in the face of her husband’s failing health. They began to ask Bev about the source of her peace. The door creaked open.
Women who had been cautious about the foreigners brought food and sat with them in their grief. One woman confided to Bev that her husband had passed away that year, and she was so angry and scared. She asked Bev how she could be so calm and strong. Bev shared her source of strength and offered peace to the woman. The door swung wider still.
The family contacted the grown children and asked them to come home to say good-bye. The children left college to return to the mission field. The village people surrounded them with love, like members of their own family. The children are comforted as well as being a comfort to others. Stewart is living out his death in front of the community.
Precious is the death of the Saints in the eyes of the Lord. This is a homecoming with a purpose. No one knows the kind of impact that Stewart’s death will have in this closed, barren mission field. But there is a purpose, and there will be a harvest of souls. A peaceful and strong Christian is powerful in death.
*Names have been changed because the country is a Muslim country, closed to missionaries.