Dave lived most of his life in opposition to God. For over 60 years, he did what he wanted, how he wanted, and when he wanted. My dad had known him for quite some time and when Dave became a Christian, Dad was awestruck. Dave started coming to my dad’s men’s group on Saturday mornings. One time, Dad called and said, “James, I never thought I’d be praying with Dave Jones at a small group.”
It all started Easter Sunday 2007. Dave was sitting in the pew at church. He said, “I just finally got it.” Dave wasn’t saved and he knew that he needed to be. God drew Dave to himself and saved him. Dave received Jesus into his life for the first time.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).
Dave had battled with cancer before becoming a Christian and this past winter, around late January or early February, the cancer returned. He wasn’t in good shape after a few weeks. His voice was raspy and fading due to a paralyzed vocal chord. His strength was failing. His energy was lower. Still, Dave clung to Jesus. He had a strong desire to live and he was learning how to desire heaven at the same time. It’s human nature to keep fighting and be healthy. We run from pain and hurt to safety and security.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
I met Dave at one of the men’s times in Omaha. Here was a 60-some year old man, yet a spiritual baby, conversing about life, cancer, holiness, and pursuing God. It was beautiful. Before I met him, I knew he had been fighting cancer and I told my dad to send him an article by John Piper called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” Piper had prostate cancer a few years ago so I knew it would come from first-hand experience. After reading, Dave said, “I don’t know if I see cancer as a gift yet, but I’m learning.” Dave was learning that Jesus was there for him, though for some reason he designed for Dave to have cancer.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21b).
Last week, Dave was hospitalized because his cancer was spreading and wreaking havoc inside his body. My dad went to the hospital to see him two days in a row. The second day, I called home, “How is he doing?” I asked. “He’s 100% worse,” Dad said matter-of-factly. As our conversation continued, I was so touched as my dad told the story about what happened in the hospital that night. Here’s the e-mail he sent to his men’s group:
I visited with Dave for a couple of hours on Wednesday at the hospital. Although he was very weak and in pain, he communicated very well. We had a great conversation about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We read passages, talked about their meanings, and prayed. Dave has concerns about his family and friends, especially Steve, his mentally retarded son. I could tell that his heart and soul was ready to meet his Lord, because his concerns are focused on others and not himself. Out of the blue he asked me about a mutual friend. He asked if this person was where they needed to be. “What do you mean by that?” I asked. ”Spiritually,” Dave replied. I told him probably not and he asked if I could talk to this person about Jesus. Then, I told Dave, “I just talked to [this person] earlier in the day and discussed your life. I shared the saving grace of Jesus Christ and how it [has] made all the difference in your life.” The Lord is awesome! But, I promised Dave I would talk to our friend again the next day and I did…As our visit came to a close, I wondered what I should say to him since I may never see him again on this earth. So, in my mind I decided to say, “Brother, I love you and I will see you on the other side.” But, before I could say my goodbye, Dave said goodbye to me first: “Tim, I’ll see you on the other side”.
That night, my dad sat next to Dave’s bed and read John 14:1-6. Dad read, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” When he finished, Dave said in his raspy, cancer-stricken voice, “Read it again.” I’m sure is nothing more special and comforting than to hear the words of Jesus being whispered into your ear when you are facing death. It was the last time my dad saw him. Today, Dave Jones died, and yet he lives because he is home with Jesus.
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26).
As I was reflecting on Dave’s life and death tonight, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why did God save him, give him cancer so quickly after, and then die very soon? The only answer I could think of is that Dave’s life, despite being finished on this earth, will be used by God to reach others. Dave did not get saved in vain and he did not die in vain. Dave’s salvation experience is not a reservoir of spiritual residue. Rather, God will use it to be a pipeline of blessing to those who knew Dave in order to draw people to his Son.
Dave’s love for Jesus, concern for others, and God-centered attitude in suffering will inspire others to consider this Jesus he surrendered his life to. Though his time as a Christian was short, it was not wasted. And for that, I praise God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).