Thursday, July 2, 2009

Life As a Vapour

Just the other day we learned of the death of a pastor. He was only 50 years old; he pastored a very large church with a Christian school as part of the ministry; he authored many books; he was well-known among his doctrinal circle; he actively preached against the doctrine of which I believe. He leaves behind this large ministry, a wife as young as he was and several grown children. His death was a surprise to all who know him or have heard of him and, as he was a stong leader, this will be a great blow to his ministry.

It will also be a greatly negative witness to all the non-christians who were watching. You see, he committed suicide.

How does a man such as this come to a point of such despair that he takes his own life? In his vast ministry was there no one who he could turn to with his problems? When he preached about the Lord this past Sunday, could he find no solace in his salvation message? Did he not have a relationship with the Comforter? How does his congregation respond to the thought that their seemingly righteous leader could find no other means to resolve pain and sorrow?

So many questions, but I am left with very simple answers. This man was lost in his sin. Sin so greivous that he believed there could be no forgiveness. Even pastors can be lost.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (emphasis mine)
It isn't appropriate to make assumptions about the specific 'why' the man could no longer live with himself. However, it is important to cry out to those who would feel as though they have been left floundering for understanding. The size of a ministry does not proclaim the level of righteousness of it's leaders. Christ's own ministry on earth came down to just 11 men.
For Christians everywhere, we need to remember a simple adage that (oddly) comes from a character in the original movie, 'Anne of Green Gables':
"To despair is to give up on God", Marilla Cuthbert
For biblical comfort, we need to turn to David's Psalm 27:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not they face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in the plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (emphasis mine)
We need to pray for those who are struggling, who looked to this pastor for leadership and strength, and pray that they do not follow his example but look to the Lord for true leadership and strength. That is the only place for a christian to find solace.


Janet said...

Kim, this is a tragic end to the life of a prominent pastor. I did not know this man, and only God knows his heart.

Not everyone who claims the name of Christ is a Christian. The Lord makes this plain in Matthew 7:

I Never Knew You
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who r does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

An oral confession (Lord, Lord) does not mean one is saved. Great and mighty works done in the name of the Lord do not mean one is saved.

So, just because this pastor had a large ministry and had authored many books does not mean he was truly a Christian.

That begs the question: Can a Christian (a true, born-again, blood-bought Christian) commit suicide and still be saved?

Christ died to pay the price of my lying, my stealing, my dishonouring of parents, my coveteousness, and so on. He died for my sin. And that includes murder. David's murder of Uriah was covered by the shed blood of Christ, for instance. Paul's assent to the murder of Stephen and other Christians was covered by the blood of Christ. And I daresay that if a true Christian were to sin against God and murder himself, that horrendous sin would be covered by the shed blood of our precious Saviour.

Is it unlikely that a Christian would commit suicide? Yes.

Is it unlikely that a Christian would embezzle or steal or lie or covet? Yes. And no. We are restrained by the Holy Spirit's indwelling, but we war against our old nature.

Jesus' standard is so much higher than ours. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. If I were to be really angry with someone and were to think, "I'd like to kill him", I would be a murderer by that standard.

If I were to despair under a heavy trial and contemplate, even for a second, killing myself, I have become a person who commits suicide in my heart. And God holds me accountable for that wicked thought.

That's why I need a Saviour. That's why that pastor needed a Saviour. I do hope he knew that.

Kim from Canada said...

Thank you, Janet. I appreciate the added ideas for responding to people when they do question this situation.

Mrs. Parunak said...

I liked your thoughts on what to do with our feelings of despair. Marilla Cuthbert's line is especially appropriate. And I appreciated Janet's addition as well. I know of many Christians who have had suicidal thoughts at times. Several women I know, myself included, have struggled with hormonal troubles at various points, whether in their monthly cycles or with postpartum depression, that have included suicidal tendencies. The fact that they are hormone related doesn't make them ok, of course. They are symptoms of our fallen nature. We all need to remember the wise words of Psalm 27 and wait on the Lord.