Editor’s note: The views in this column are of the author.

By Bill Ellis
Special to Inside The Pew

SCOTT DEPOT, W.V. – The biggest surprise of my life is that all of it is so very brief. The Rev. Billy Graham, speaking of

Bill Ellis

his latest book, “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well,” is quoted as saying, “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die.”

We all have an appointment with death. There is an uncertainty about life, but none about death. I regularly read the obituary columns.

Some obituaries speak of hope and eternal life. Others seem to offer no hope. Abner was King Saul’s cousin and a commander in his army. At the death of Abner, King David, sang a lament in which he asked, “Should Abner die as a fool dies?” (2 Samuel 3:33).

Brief sadness comes when I read of all the things a person has done, but not one mention of that person’s relationship to God. Most discouraging are the words that come from a writer who has taken poetic license to an extreme and has a person walking heaven’s streets who left no testimony of ever having a desire to walk with God.

Many years ago, I heard a discussion among mountain men about death. One of them concluded, “As a tree falls, so shall it lie.” A person’s testimony cannot accurately be changed after death.

In the midst of the bereavement at death, there is also bright and abundant hope when a Christian dies. The Christian has hope beyond the grave. Jesus said to Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died four days earlier, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26).

A short time later there was rejoicing. Death had been conquered. Read to the end of that 11th chapter and note these events. Jesus went to the grave of Lazarus and said, “Take away the stone.” Then He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” and then Jesus said, “Loose him, and let him go.”

On March 2, Kitty and I were in Sullivan, Ill., to celebrate the life and death of Don F. Pedigo. Celebrate death? Of course, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” and that is the hope of every believer in Jesus Christ.

Lloyd Larson, Frank Mathis, and Mark Ellis recalled fond memories of their association with Don at Peoples Church of God in Decatur, Ill., and remembered him as I do, “a man’s man who dressed well and always wore a smile.”

As a churchman, he was involved with the music and missions of the church as was his family and as a church leader he often served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and was able to get more done than any board chairman I have ever known. His work and service for the church was highlighted by always taking on any task as a committed, knowledgeable, concerned, and determined leader who stayed with every assignment until it was successfully completed.

Our churches and country need more men like Don Pedigo. I will always be grateful for what this good, gracious and godly man meant to me and my family and thousands of others in our nation and abroad.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent. He is the writer of more than 2,000 newspaper and magazine columns, articles and contributions to books.

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