Time is a funny thing, a living paradox in action. As it passes and we recall the moments of yesterday, they seem so far away and yet, somehow, like they just happened. Sometimes we can only vaguely remember what happened a year ago, and at the very same moment we feel intimately tethered to those seasons in our life without understanding why.
A year ago on April 29, my friend Davin died of cancer after battling it for a year. His Christian courage during that time, as well as his death, had a ripple effect on many lives. He died clinging to Paul’s hope that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Whether friends, family or brief acquaintances, he impacted us all in ways I think we’re still discovering. He was the wheat that fell on us, and his story continues to grow (John 12:24).
In her biography of Ronald Reagan, When Character Was King, Peggy Noonan wrote that the best way to feel the force of a man’s life was to see how it impacted the people who knew him. I think the same is true for Davin, and I hope to give a brief account of how his life has changed mine over the course of the last year. I hope others who knew him better than I will do the same.
First, I’ve been forced everyday to contemplate the short time I have to live on this earth in faith and good works for the glory of God. So often I look at my children, my wife, or my friends and think, the time I have with them is incredibly short, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Life is fragile, short and will be gone for us all in the blinking of an eye. Wisdom means recognizing that fact and living with a purposeful faith, eager to be a fruitful steward and to make the best of our time.
A year ago I was working in the automotive industry, fairly miserable with my situation and despairing about life. I had kind of given up hope that things would ever improve. Then when Davin died I went back to the thing I love—writing—and as I did, rediscovered my passion for serving others with written truth. His death brought me new life.
I kept writing, applied for different positions, and eventually landed in Peoria, Ill., where I now work as an online editor. All of that came about because one faithful, humble brother died in a way that showed Christ as supreme, inspiring me to obediently use my gifts to serve Him as well.
Second, our lives can deeply impact others no matter how small they seem to the world. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” and his works, done in faith, can be mightily used by God to accomplish whatsoever He purposes. Davin isn’t enshrined on some monument in Washington, D.C., or remembered by the masses for some famous play, movie, book or song he wrote. He didn’t build a famous bridge or lead a nation through war. But he followed obediently in the path he was called down, and God has used that, too.
Like the widow whose pennies were more precious to God than the fat checks the Pharisees were cutting to the local synagogue, the smallest acts of faithfulness to God and his word are more precious to Him than the most grandiose accomplishments done by those who disregard the Lord.
Here’s one example. Charles Dickens is probably as famous today as he was in his own time. He wrote international best sellers like Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. There isn’t one biography, but many. Worldly acclaim. He was also an adulterer and a terrible father who was by all accounts in love with his own fame. The world may be impressed, but God is not. More precious are the silent deeds of faith the world never sees than the ones it praises.
It’s an encouragement to be faithful wherever God has placed us, whether that’s in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky or New York. When we’re freed from thinking people need to see our good works for them to have real value, we can labor joyfully for the Lord and his pleasure in whatever we do. Homebuilder, accountant, insurance agent, writer, pastor or clerk, we can do it all to the glory of God, because all of it has value to Him.
Finally, I’ve learned from Davin that pain and heartache are real, but they are not the final word. On Sunday—and in good Providential timing—our pastor was wrapping up the book of Job. Despite all Job endured, the blackest of dark nights and the great agony he faced, God restored him double for all he lost. For all those lonely days and nights, there were twice as many sweet ones, before and after. The Covenant Lord is also a faithful Redeemer, healing where he afflicts and giving us crowns after our crosses. In the end we’ll say with Job, after we’ve received double for our pains,
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you” (Job 42:5).