Reformed Baptist Fellowship

I’m Dying

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 4, 2009 at 1:23 am

Perhaps those words are shocking to you to read.  They are somewhat shocking for me to write, but it’s true.  I am dying.

I’m not entirely certain how much longer I have.  It may be a matter of days or weeks.  Lord willing, I will yet have some months and even years, but I am still dying.

I remember some years ago hearing about a man pointing to a grave marker and noticing that the years of birth and death were separated by a dash.  He said, “That’s my life, that dash.”  We all live in the dash.  We are, the Bible tells us vapors, we are blades of grass and flowers.  We are here today and soon gone.  I am temporary, ephemeral.

This knowledge works on me as a man and as a pastor.  I try to live with the consciousness that this may well be my last day.  The sermon I am preparing may be my last sermon.  It may be the last time I ever exhort my brethren, the last time I ever plead with the lost.  What do I want to say?  What burdens do I want to leave behind?

Knowing that I am dying affects my friendships.  I think when I leave a conversation that I may never speak to this brother or sister again.  How do I want to part with them?  Will I be glad with that last conversation?   Was it loving and kind or petty and cruel?   What if that last email I shot off was my last before I died.  Is that how I want to be remembered?

I think of my times with my children or my wife…that parting hug or kiss may be my last.  The words which I have spoken or things I should have said and did not.  I do not want to die with regret.    Yes, I think differently now that I am dying.

Everyone reading these words is dying.  You know that don’t you?  You know you are in the dash?   What do you want your epitaph to be?  What are the things you are fighting for or over that you’ll be pleased you gave your energy to in light of your approaching death?  May God help us not to squander the little time we have left.

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville
  1. Jim,

    Thanks for the sobering reminder which is so easy to lose sight of. May the Lord grant us grace to preach as dying men to dying men.

    Bob G

  2. Jim, Nicely said — and needed. THanks

  3. Thanks Brother for the sobering, yet encouraging words. I often forget this vital truth and fail to redeem the time for the glory of Christ. May God grant us much grace that we might be dead to ourselves and alive to Him; living as both ‘dead’ and dying men.

  4. This reminds me of a coversation I had with a fellow in which the topic was what you want to be rembembered for, as a man, once you are dead.

    A good swimmer, mountain climber, or sharp business man? Absolutely not.

    A humble & faithful servant, defender of truth, a Godly husband/father/shepherd? Absolutely yes.

  5. […] wrote an article that I found both sobering and encouraging. Being such to me I wanted to link it here in order that it might be an encouragement to you. […]

  6. Thank you, Jim. Here is a true story for you. My son was about 4 (he’s 25 now) when I said much the same to him in devotions — with the point being “We are dying, from the day we are born”. Later, in the store with his mom and two of our church’s older ladies — an older man came up to my son and asked, “How are you, young man?” — to which my young son promptly replied in a very deadpan voice, “I’m dying”. “OH!” the old man said and quickly walked away. He never did find out why my son responded like that. Both those ladies are now with the Lord — but they loved to tell that story!

  7. I once felt that this somber mentality carried an important truth but now I wonder… I wonder whether we could ever really take this notion very seriously. If we did, would we ever plan for the future? Would we attend seminary or date with the intention of marriage or have children? Would we make promises or plan to preach expositorily through a book of the Bible or start a long-term project? Would we save money? I doubt it, but that is precisely because we could never really be fruitful consistently talking and making decisions as though this might be our last day. I submit that it sounds more pious than it actually is.

  8. Benjamin,

    I believe you are seriously misunderstanding what Pastor Jim is saying. I also can attest that a realization of this truth has neither hindered his ministry nor his joy.

    His point was:

    “Everyone reading these words is dying. You know that don’t you? You know you are in the dash? What do you want your epitaph to be? What are the things you are fighting for or over that you’ll be pleased you gave your energy to in light of your approaching death? May God help us not to squander the little time we have left.”

    Remember what James says in chapter 4:
    13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will[g] go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

    We may still be able to live somewhere and do this or that, but it is only “if the Lord wills.”.

    Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”

    Basically, as Pastor Jim has often said in the preaching, what will matter a hundred, a thousand years from now? Where is our treasure? Is it here or in heaven where Christ dwells?

    And, personally, the thought that I might be with my Savior later on today actually cheers me on and reminds me that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). And I believe that whatever joys God gives me here on earth, as much as I am thankful for them, are not worthy to be compared to the glory which is to be revealed either!

  9. Thank you Marie for gently trying to turn me in the right direction. With sincere brotherly affection, I agree with you that the notion of death these days, in the greater soundness of our Christian minds, is a joy hardly to be feared and perhaps even greatly to be desired. I also am of the persuasion that GOD directs our steps with precision, and that a person who does not conceive of all his yesterdays and his tomorrows as preeminently an expression of GOD’s will is evil in his attitude toward life, as James said.

    Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that I have misunderstood Mr. Sevastio, but I do not see how that I have. I realize that his sentiments were not that we should all assume we are going to die any second, so let this day, this moment, be a grand ending. But, I do believe his idea was that the hypothetical death-at-any-moment, which is always possible, should fundamentally define and direct our daily lives. Akin to Pascal’s wager, we should hedge our bets in the direction of the possibility that life will end soon and we must be ready to face it with decisions and gestures that are pleasing to our Beloved.

    I’ve heard this sort of thing before as everyone here has. It was an important perspective for me at one time in my life. I lost my brother at a rather early age (he was seventeen) and this thought was an ache in my heart for many years. I was given rousing speeches and moving illustrations by teachers I respected that our lives are short, that we can only read a fraction of what we might like in a lifetime, so we must read the best spiritual works of the best authors. All this was well and good, if we had nothing to do but sit about and study… but, of course, we had callings to pursue which might not be equivalent to ministry or to teaching. Computer programmers, for example, have to read hefty technical manuals and that’s hardly the sort of fare my teachers had in mind.

    We cannot really live, in other words, as though every day might be our last nor as though we can or should even try to achieve this supposed “ideal.” What I am suggesting is that the ideal is based upon false assumptions and isn’t “ideal” at all. Even the notion that our end is near, thus we should avoid being vindictive or dismissive or rude because we do not want that to be our legacy is not exactly a mature way of thinking precisely because it is so terribly self-centered.

    If I refrain from sin, let it be because I love so dearly my precious Christ, whether I will die soon or not. If I keep my head turned toward the kingdom, let it be because the glory of GOD is my great longing, even if I remain completely unknown. My legacy will be of interest to me only in that look or that word I receive from Him when I see Him face-to-face.

    Whether I die today or a hundred years from now, my days can only consistently be governed by my love for Him, not by my death or my eagerness after my reputation in those last few hours. It just isn’t as lasting a concern nor as commanding a thought which brings us to our knees in repentance and grateful obedience as love for Christ. For as Christ Himself taught, those who are forgiven much also love much, and do memorable deeds for Him like precious Mary who annointed Him.

  10. Brother Benjamin,

    I give a hearty amen to the truth that our ultimate motivation for obedience is love for God. I also amen that we are not to seek a name to glorify ourselves but are to seek to exalt Christ’s name in all things. I also don’t believe either of these are being denied!

    You wrote: “Even the notion that our end is near, thus we should avoid being vindictive or dismissive or rude because we do not want that to be our legacy is not exactly a mature way of thinking precisely because it is so terribly self-centered.”

    I think you are reading into this something that is not actually there. It may be easier for me to see, knowing my pastor’s servant-heartedness, but honestly, calling the position immature and self-centered is a seriously false assumption. The real question is if the position is Biblical or not.

    Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.”

    Ecclesiastes 7:1 says, “A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

    First, there is nothing wrong with having a good name. In fact, it’s to be desired more than riches, and that’s why the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. It’s wrong to have a good name at the expense of truth, in order to build our own kingdom, or at the expense of the good (better!!) name of our brethren. But having a good reputation is not a bad thing in and of itself.

    Sure, meekness would result in much of that reputation being built without us being conscious of it. But we are given these verses:

    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”- Matthew 5:16

    “Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things”- Titus 2:9-10

    “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation”- 1 Peter 2:11-12

    Why are we to have a good reputation? So people will glorify God and so we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

    So if I speak words that are uncaring, what am I doing? I am seeking my own desires and pleasures rather than God’s.

    James 4
    1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

    Do I want to be remembered as a person who was always complaining, nit-picking, and talking bad about others, or do I want to be remembered as one who encouraged others in the Lord and served them with gladness? I want to be the latter, but NOT for my own sake! I know that I fall so very short (if Paul saw himself as the least of the least of all the saints and the chief of sinners, then surely I should). I also want to live in such a way that Christ is exalted and not blasphemed because of me. The only thing that is worthy to last from my life is the fragrance of Christ that I leave behind. Do I want my last action on earth to be the fragrance of my sinful flesh or the fragrance of Christ?

    This sermon by Gary Hendrix would be good to listen to. It challenged and edified me!

  11. […] Jim Savastio wrote the following words: Perhaps those words are shocking to you to read.  They are somewhat shocking for me to write, but it’s true.  I am dying. […]

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