February 13, 2015
This week, I spent a few days down in Houston, Texas, to attend the funeral of Becky’s (my wife's) grandmother. The pastor who officiated the service was great, and his sermon asked us to consider if we are prepared for heaven. Becky’s grandmother spent fifty years teaching first graders about God and faith so that they might be prepared to enter the gates of heaven someday. It is a great question – are you ready?
It strikes me, though, that being ready in the one moment you die is more than being ready in that moment. Becky’s grandmother lived a lifetime of faithfulness until she entered the gates of heaven. This is, in fact, the story of all those that follow Jesus. There is one moment of conversion or decision that leads to a lifetime of following Jesus.
Are you ready? Absolutely. Sure. For what? For anything. Everyday.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said that a preacher ought to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. I always thought that was an odd statement. For years as I was growing up, I was sure that my dad was misspeaking the quote. Surely Wesley meant that a preacher ought to be ready to preach, pray, or bury someone at a moment’s notice. You know – perform a funeral, not die yourself. I was wrong.
The more I learn about what following Jesus means, it means being willing to do whatever God asks of you, whether that means to preach, pray, or die. Many of you would rather die than preach or pray. Becky gave the eulogy for her grandmother and did an absolutely beautiful job. She was willing to stand up in front of her friends and family and speak. Public speaking is often a greater fear than death. I think praying out loud is also that way. I know that because when I am at an event where a prayer is needed, there is palpable relief that I show up and a professional prayer can take that responsibility.
I think that John Wesley was wrong. His instructions aren’t just for preachers – every Christian needs to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. Today at your workplace, there might be someone that needs to hear you preach. All that means is that you tell someone why you follow Jesus. Today as you go to lunch, there might be someone having a bad day, and they need you to pray for them. Take that opportunity – praying is simply talking to God. And Jesus says that if we are to follow him, then we also must be ready to die.
In Luke 9:23, “Jesus said to everyone, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.’”
What it means to take up our cross daily is to deny yourself. Be ready to preach if your brother needs it. Be ready to pray if your friend needs it. Be ready to die if the kingdom of God needs it. I thought about this as I sat in the funeral thinking about the fact that someday there will be a funeral for me. My only hope is, at the end of my life, someone says “He was ready.”
Let’s get ready.