The headlines declare the death of notable people of the day who impacted the world with their physical prowess in sports, talents in the entertainment field or lasting historical significance on the landscape of the political world. Monuments rise in their honor, institutions are named after them and the annals of history fill with the stories of their exploits. The heroes of the day live on in the memories of the historical significance their lives had on the world about them. Little known are the myriads of men and women who pass through life unnoticed by the world at large but impact a greater sphere of influence in the hearts of a community of believers.
Since time began, the stories of simple people living godly lives and passing to glory received little press with the world at large. Without the record of God’s people preserved in the Bible few would know who Moses, David, Elijah, Mary, Peter, Dorcas and Philemon were. A host of other names fills the register of the saints who have gone home to be with the Lord. In every generation, common men and women never find their names pressed on marble or remembered on pages of history because their lives are spent with the eternal hope of a better land beyond the vale of death. They do not live for the accolades of the praise of men but the honor of a loving God.
Jesus tells the story of two men who lived very different lives. One man was a rich man who lived on a daily portion of incredible wealth. He was well respected in his community as a man of significance and influence. He had five brothers who made up a family that enjoyed the sumptuous lifestyle of the rich and famous. There was little significance given to the other character in the story that was laid at the gate of the rich man. His name was Lazarus. He was a man of great poverty and miserable existence. The beggar was covered with sores unnoticed by those who passed by. He was ignored by the rich man. The life of Lazarus was sustained by the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.
Life was different for each man at an extreme level. What bound them as one was death. There is little doubt when the rich man died great fanfare was given for many days on his behalf. When Lazarus died, hardly anyone gave notice. The difference is how God sees the death of the two men. Lazarus “died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried” (Luke 16:22). Jesus reminds His disciples that life is not about the honor of men but the blessing of God. It was after death that life was at the extreme opposite. Lazarus was in the eternal blessing of God and the rich man was in the poverty of darkness and pain.
The death of God’s saints take place daily. Throughout the world, angel’s wings carry the people of God to a place of rest and comfort. A small gathering of fellow disciples will gather to mourn their passing. Some notice will be given in the community of news. By and large, few will know the significance of what these godly lives have impressed on others. Simple men who served as elders of a local church, women who were an influence of righteousness helping a small church grow and examples of saints who face the challenges of life with courage, determination and faith. These are the real heroes.
John sees many wonderful visions in the Revelation. In the midst of the tribulation of God’s people the aged apostle declares, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:12-13). The saints are men and women who serve the Lord faithfully dying with the hope and promise of eternal life on their lips. They have lived before God in faith keeping the commandments of the Lord. Death is not viewed with fear but joy as they face the promise of eternal life. Dying in the Lord is peace, comfort of spirit and joy of sleep to awaken in glory. They take rest from the labors of life.
Men fear death. Saints embrace death. The end of life is found to be a blessing so that tears can be wiped away, sorrow removed and pain forever taken away. There is joy in seeing a life lived fully for 94 years to pass in glory for the hope longed for since early childhood. Incredible faith is found in the eyes of one who faces the certainty of death with the blessed assurance of the joys that lay beyond. There is no fear. Peace fills the heart.
The works of God’s saints live on in the hearts of those who knew them and loved them. Their teaching fills the mind. The faith of their courage helps the fainting heart to find strength and carry on. Few will know the lasting impact of these simple lives upon a host of fellow saints who carry their names with them. Blessed are those who die in the Lord. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).