Pastoral Letter March 2018

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 labours, and their works follow them.”
— Revelation 14:13

Dear Friends,

This month’s magazine is dominated by reflections upon the lives of two men whom God used mightily in his service. In the past few weeks since Dick Saunders passed away, I have been reminded of several in our local area who attribute their Christian conversion to the ‘Way of Life Crusade’ held by Dick Saunders on Michael Spratt’s farm at Old Down in 1980. Then, with the more immediate news of the homecall of Billy Graham, one after another testimony has come to light of families and generations impacted for the gospel as a result of his meetings in the UK, most notably in the 1950s, 60s, and 80s. A surprising number of preachers today have some spiritual connection to the work of these two evangelists particularly.

Yet, our text does not only apply to ‘notable’ Christians. It applies to all of us. This great proclamation in the book of Revelation (written to encourage, inspire, and strengthen the churches in difficult days) is relevant to every believer. The only qualification for blessing, if you are dead, is that you ‘die in the Lord’, that is that you die as a Christian believer who has trusted in Christ alone as your Saviour.

But what does it mean to be counted among ‘the blessed dead in paradise’ (the title of a popular book written by  the founding pastor of my previous church)? The Holy Spirit gives us two answers. Firstly, that we may rest from our labours. Even for the most inactive Christian, life on earth brings many labours in the struggle with sin, temptation, and sorrow.

For many, there is also persecution to endure. It is worth noting that we will not ‘rest’ from the worship and praise of God—so if coming to church is a burden and a drag on you, and you find all manner of priorities more pressing or inviting than gathering with God’s people, it is worth asking whether you think that you will be happy in such an occupation not an hour a week, but for eternity?

We will not only be blessed in rest from labours, but also in the fact that our works will follow us. This means that those things we have done in the Lord’s service will be known, celebrated, and, yes, rewarded. Such is the grace of God towards us!

It is worth again noting that our works will not precede us, but follow us. That is important. Those things which we do in the service of God do not ‘announce’ our arrival in Heaven, and certainly do nothing to merit our place there. Instead, they follow us, that is, they provide positive proof of the grace of God in our lives. These works are the evidence of the fact that we have both lived for, and died in, the Lord Jesus, who has saved us!

We look at Dick Saunders and Billy Graham. We can see their works following them. Friend, what works will follow you? What legacy do you leave in this world? What will be said of you among your brothers and sisters in Christ who remain, and what record will be written in Heaven? This is not meant to be a guilt-trip, but a reality-check.

Don’t waste your life. Don’t let opportunities pass. Make the service of God your chief aim and delight, and Heaven shall resound with praise as your works follow you there. The praise won’t be yours, but Christ’s, the glory will be all His also, and you will hear Him say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.

Always in prayer for you, joining together on the road to glory,

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