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Finishing Yesterday’s Sermon 7-2-17

Posted by Doug Sachtleben on

Dear Church Family,

Good afternoon! I hope you’re able to enjoy some time with loved ones as we celebrate Independence Day. 

I wanted to send out this follow-up to what I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s sermon. For those of you who couldn’t make it, we looked at Ecclesiastes 3:1–4:6 and our struggle with time and the brevity of life. As the familiar poem in 3:1-8 points out, God marks out the boundaries of our lives – a time to be born and a time to die – and we live out all of our activities within His providential rule over time.

The call for you and I is to respond with gratitude, at God caring for us and bringing fruit to bear from our work and service, and with contentment or as 4:6 says “a handful of quietness.” It also brings home the need to be good stewards of the time God gives us here on earth; to number our days rightly, as Moses wrote in Psalm 90.

Along those lines I closed with part of a personal story, at least as much of it as I could share yesterday. And, I promised to fill that story in a bit in an email, so here goes.

Growing up in New Jersey, one of my earliest friends at church was named Mark Jones. We hung out at Sunday School and Boys Brigade and other church activities. Mark grew to have one of the most attractive personalities of anyone I knew. He loved people and people loved being around him. We parted ways for college, but reunited when Robin and I came back to NJ after college to help as volunteer youth leaders. We worked alongside Mark and saw his love and ministry to teens.

We ended up going our separate ways probably almost 30 years ago. He went to Dallas Seminary and has been in pastoral ministry, spending the last 10+ years as the Worship Pastor at Trinity Bible Church in Richardson, Texas. We became Facebook friends and watched each other’s family grow in pictures. 

Mark is a wonderful singer who loved to use his voice to praise God. At some point, a number of years ago, a Facebook friend asked him to record a song. He did, and since so many of us appreciated it, Mark began a weekly Sunday morning ministry. Before others arrived at the church where he served, he would record a song that became a weekly part of Sunday worship for many people.

A month ago, on a rainy Friday night, Mark slipped and fell down some stairs, doing enough ligament and tendon damage in both legs that he couldn’t walk. Doctors did surgery to repair the damage, casted both legs and sent him to a rehab facility to learn to walk again. His FB posts documented his ongoing recovery, and he was making steady progress. From his bed in the rehab facility, with his voice regaining strength, Mark continued to be a blessing with Sunday morning worship. There was this post on Father’s Day, and then this one on June 25, just over a week ago. Last Wednesday morning, he wrote a post to husbands about ministering to their wives in which he talked about his wife, Rebecca. They spent that morning laughing and talking together. Early that afternoon Mark’s breathing became labored, shortly after he suffered a heart attack. He was rushed back to the hospital where it was discovered that a blood clot had gone to his lung. Within just a few hours he passed into the eternal presence of Jesus Christ. What started as a freak accident ended in an almost unimaginable way.

Over the last few days there has been an outpouring of hundreds of testimonies on the FB pages of Mark and his wife, of people thanking God for how He had used Mark in their lives; one after another commenting about how he lived out the life and love of Jesus Christ.

As I meditated on the passage in Ecclesiastes last week and grieved for the passing of a friend and for a family’s loss of a husband and father, Mark’s sudden passing was a striking illustration of the fact that we are finite beings who cannot see the end from the beginning. Our lives are fleeting and would be futile and hopeless were it not for the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, in Christ, we not only have reason to be grateful and content, we also have a God who brings beauty and excellence out of our faithful labor, and who ultimately holds out for us an eternal rest.

May God fill you today with a sense of gratitude for His gracious watch over your life. May He refresh you with the truth that He is able to bring good fruit to bear from your work and service. And, may He keep us living with the knowledge that our time on earth is passing quickly, and give us the grace to live as good stewards of the time He has given us as a gift.

Pastor Doug

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16

Tags: death, ecclesiastes, eternity, friendship, life, marriage, time