As Christians, we don’t need to be convinced that dying makes a difference.
If it weren’t for Jesus’ death on the cross, we would still be wallowing in our unforgiven, condemning sins, awaiting judgment, having no reason to live and and no hope for the future.
Yet, does dying make a difference today?
Thursday night/Friday morning, I got a call at 12:35 AM. My brother Jeremy was calling me to let me know that Tiziano, a brother in our church had passed away, after a year-long battle with cancer.
At first I was a bit dazed, having been woken up by deep sleep, and I didn’t understand why he was calling me at that hour. The family had requested that a pastor come comfort them. Grief knows no time barriers.
By the time I got there Tiziano had been dead almost an hour. The family was still under shock. The tears came later…for all of us. At that point though he just didn’t truly remind me of Tiziano. Tiziano has always been a lively, passionate man. What I saw still lying in that bed was simply a shadow of the friend I had lost. It was a little like seeing an amputated limb…it no longer seemed to belong to Tiziano.
Tiziano was the first member of our church to ever pass away. Though we had been preparing for the funeral for days before, nothing could prepare us for what happened on Saturday, at his funeral.
Tiziano was well loved in the church. He was one of the believers who had been around the longest. He had been heavily involved in remodeling our old warehouse into a place where worship and teaching and praying happen regularly. He always sat in the second row with his wife Ester. I never saw so many tears, even on the faces of people I was not accustomed to seeing them on.
However, the most remarkable thing was that Tiziano had a lot of unsaved friends. Our church can comfortably hold 150 people. With standing room only we can fit 200. However Saturday, at Tiziano’s funeral, there were still another 100 people standing outside! All 300 people, of which 250 were unbelievers, heard the gospel three times during the course of the funeral. Tiziano himself shared his testimony through a video.
In the days preceding his death, Tiziano was continually witnessing to people as he sat in his bed, awaiting the inevitable.
We don’t know what fruit we will reap because of Tiziano’s death, but we certainly can say that his dying has been a clear witness to many people. People were still asking for copies of his video testimony as we watched his body be interred. Accustomed to the hopelessness and grief present in the funerals of unbelievers, they saw what it was like for a Christ follower to pass into a certain, joyful eternity with God.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15 ESV)