19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ – Luke 16:19-28 ESV
This morning I went for a run and about a mile into it, I encountered a most unusual but divine appointment with an elderly man and his wife. As I began to pace myself a very nice SUV pulled up to the side of the road directly in front of me. An elderly man got out and went around to the back seat to tend to his wife, who clearly looked ill. I walked over to the man and asked if everything was ok and if there was anything I could do to help. He replied, “No everything is not Ok. We have business today with death.“
That was the first red flag and with further probing I discovered that he was driving his wife down to Galveston, Tx to choose a burial plot for them both on the island. While his reply was cryptic and unexpected, I believe it had serious spiritual implications. I tried to share the gospel with him. To my disappointment he told me what he thought of the church. He said, “the church has never done anything for me or my wife. She suffers from Dementia and when that happens you have no church, no family or friends who want to help you. All those people care about are themselves.” I tried to explain to him that I was not like the others he may have encountered and I asked if I could go to his home to share Jesus with him and his wife. Im not sure why but he thought I was a Mormon (which really bugged me. I guess I need to change my approach) but I dont think it would have made a difference what religious affiliation I claimed; this man’s heart was made callous over a long time and at the age of 87 years, he could only see his life to be nothing more than a nurse to his wife until she died. I assured him that I wasn’t a Mormon- that I was a disciple of Jesus, the true son of the Eternal God, who created everything. He seemed distracted, impatient. He did share with me how difficult his life has been but in spite of it all, he believed himself to be a decent person who gave to charity and prayed once in a while before bed- “that’s our church” he said. He asked me where I lived and when I told him he said, “oh that’s where all the poor people live. I live where all the money and the rich people live. I have $80k on me now and I plan to go spend it on burial preparations. It all comes down to money.” He said he had to go and I blessed him as he drove off. I felt like a failure because I could not gain the gentlemans trust. I continued my run filled with anger, for what the church did to him or rather didn’t do for him. Either way, the man was right. Today he had business with death.
This is a very personal subject for me. My own father has been hurt by the “church” by religion and those that claim to be Christians. Because of that it’s very difficult to approach him about the truth of God’s love and His word. There is grace and the working of the Holy Spirit in all of this, yes- but there is also the part we play as the sower of Gods word, the priesthood of the believer whose mission is the Great Commission! How did the Church miss this guy? How is it that no one is taking care of this elderly man and his wife in her sickness? Somewhere along the line he believed the lie that he needed no one because no one seemed to need him.
Oh, wake up Church! Rise up from your slumber! I want to shout- bang my fist against a wall. I know many will say, “well we dont really know what happened in that mans life to make him that way, so we shouldn’t judge”. Cowards, I say. I like Job’s reply to the wisdom of man. It fits well in the face of apathy;
“How would you fare if He searched your soul? Do you think you might deceive Him as you would any other person? No. He would bring charges against you even if you secretly show partiality. Aren’t you horrified at the weight of His majesty? Isn’t the dread of Him enough to drop you where you stand? All your quoted proverbs turn to ash; your clever comebacks crumble like brittle towers of clay.” (Job 13:9-12)
Eventually that elderly man will stand before God and he will either be embraced by his Heavenly Father or he will frantically reach across the chasm for the Fathers hand but will fail. The time has come to choose- a life of self service or the life of selflessness. If you have not given your heart fully to God because you believe you’re a “decent person”, repent and turn to God for love and forgiveness. If you are walking in faith that Jesus is your savior, then do not neglect to “feed His sheep” (John 21:17). We must stop the excuses, stop “playing church-club” and start being the church!
If your not there then admit it. It’s a start- cry out to God, tell Him how you feel. The first step to cross the finish line is getting on the track. Confess to your church, your friends- let God and those full of the Holy Spirit cheer you on (Heb 3:13,14). I promise you wont be the only one who feels powerless. There are many people in the church who feel as though they dont have anything to contribute. What a horrible lie from the enemy! The Devil will sneer at the stubborn, empowered, perseverance of one righteous man but will cower before the army Christ’s bride as they stand together covered in the righteousness of Christ (Math 16:18).
I implore you Church, to come alive today; and have no dealings with death.