Dying Well

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  • February 25, 2015

My father in law taught his daughters how to live. I think what will stay with me forever is how he died. Watching him die was a profound experience. Dad died being sung over and prayed for by his wife, children, grandchildren, lifelong friends, and members of his church. With little pain or struggle, he fell asleep.

At his funeral, I read Paul’s words to the Philippians.

Yes, and I will rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, [20] as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:18-21)

When the Apostle writes this, he is in prison and the prospect of execution is looming over him. Death is near and so many of his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ pray for his deliverance. While Paul expects God to hear their prayers, his greatest concern is that whether in life or in death, Christ would be honored in his body.

My father in law shared a similar concern. He wanted to honor Christ in his life. And moreover, he wanted to honor Christ in the way he died.

When the doctors said “pancreatic cancer,” dad’s faith remained. I remember when he came home from an extended stay at the hospital, knowing that his condition was fatal, dad climbed up the steps, caught his breath, and called the family together to the top of the staircase to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

Dad was far from perfect. He was an ordinary follower of Christ. But that’s what makes his death extraordinary to me. It gives me hope as an ordinary follower of Christ that God’s Spirit will help us to persevere faithfully to the end as well.

My brother in law recorded dad’s final prayer on his deathbed. He said things like, “My God you have known me from my mother’s womb.” Five times he said, “Take me and use me Lord.” He cried out, “Don’t let my soul be lost. I submit my soul fully to you; into your hands I commit my spirit. Praise the Lord who has heard my prayer.” He ended by saying “Praise God” over and over and over again.

Dad didn’t leave riches. But what was often said at his funeral was that he left a legacy of faith in Christ. With John, dad would say, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)

I’m grateful to God for the way dad lived. And now I’m grateful to God for the way dad died. Whether by life or by death, Christ was honored in his body. Praise God.

Seven Mile Road, let me add, Shainu and I find ourselves constantly growing deeper in debt to you. We are indebted for the ways that you have prayed for, loved, and served us throughout all of this. As Naomi said, “May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.” (Ruth 1:8)

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road.

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