Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read (Holiness, Ryle 51).
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with a pastor and friend to talk about the life of our friend, now with the Lord, Davin Henrickson, who died of cancer a few months ago. It’s a powerful and sobering thing to really weigh a man’s life, to be faced with the question of what he stood for and what message his days told. And it is true, as the quote above says, our lives are a sermon for all to read.
In particular, the author of the quote, J.C. Ryle, was talking about our pursuit of holiness as the mark of our lives. How serious was our quest for the character of Christ in our own lives while we sojourned on the earth? Ultimately, that is the story we’ll tell to others, because by our pursuit of Him we testify to the worth of his glory. It was the man who gave all to obtain the Treasure that told the story its true value.
I am struck time and time again by how Davin’s story is so saturated at every turn with his desire to be more like Jesus, to pursue humility and holiness. And as I asked his pastor, the man who’d walked with him through so many struggles and trials, what stood out the most about Davin and in particular his battle with cancer, this is what he told me:
“It had to be the Wednesday before he died [he died on Sunday]. He told me, ‘I’m trying to cling to the Lord,’ and it was a fight for him. But there he was dying, and he said, ‘Rob, this is a great mercy from God to me, to keep me from other sins I would have committed against the Lord.’ And that’s just utterly sobering, to see a man dying and his main concern is not to sin against the Lord.
What marked Davin was that he was a man in pursuit of holiness, to the very end. He had learned Paul’s lesson, that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Phil 1:21) and so spent every waking hour trying to please his Lord humbly and quietly. It was not that he had arrived, but with Paul strove, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil 3:12).
Whether he lived or died, Davin was trying to please his Lord; he was pressing on in becoming more like Christ. He took his holiness—not a state of arrival but an ongoing pursuit—with grave seriousness, so great was the promise of joy in knowing Christ to him (Phil 3:8).
So here’s the simple but profound question at the heart of the sermon written with Davin’s life—do I take my holiness seriously?
Do I know the surpassing worth of walking in fellowship with my Maker and Redeemer, so much so that I’ll walk in obedience with him in the call to be transformed into his character? This holiness which Christ died for me to obtain, do I spend myself as I should to lay hold of it every day, to grow into the person that I am in Him? Have I taken my Lord seriously, so that I would endure any hardship in order that he be honored, even die if it meant pleasing him? Or have I been joyfully willing to die a thousand deaths every day as I walk with him down the cruciform path which he has called me?
Though he died, Davin’s sermon continues to speak; are you listening? When you die—and we all will—what message will your life tell the world?