The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins
"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.
In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.
With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.
Aug7WedAugust 7, 2013
A while ago on this blog (May 31, 2013; "Two things at the same time"), I explained that "the trickiness I am working on" is, on the one hand, "to run hard toward my enemy, wholeheartedly fighting for my life and trusting God and praying with all my heart for strength and health and healing and a long life," WHILE ON THE OTHER HAND, "quietly and peacefully accepting the reality that this cancer might in fact be the beginning of the end of my life (as we know it), just as God has always intended."
So here and now, ten weeks later (and now in the second week of a six-week "Rest Period" prior to the surgery that is to come next), I turn my attention again to that second thing, and think again about dying. About me dying. Deb and I are taking seriously the challenge of realistically facing my (possibly imminent) death and we are trusting the Lord for the strong faith required to do so bravely. On our wedding anniversary this year (May 28th), we planned my funeral (which somehow never occurred to us to do on any of our previous thirty-five anniversaries.) Later that week, we picked out and purchased two grave-sites in the cemetery of my choice. (If it looks like you're going first, you get to pick these things.) You'll have to excuse me if this sort of talk seems a little beyond the limits of good taste and polite conversation, but Deb and I are being stared at by a great big thing and we're trying not to blink.
But what kind of great big thing IS the prospect of my physical death? Surely, it is not a giant to be frightened of. Lately, I have come to see that it is the same sort of awkward and quite possibly painful reality as my physical birth. Neither physical birth or physical death is a lovely reality. (Evidently, I myself was born a pretty beat-up and pathetic looking baby. So I have been told.) But this comparison doesn't in itself make my physical death a giant to be frightened of.
The thing is, for the people of God, "chosen in Christ before the foundations of the earth and predestined to be adopted," death is a necessary experience. But don't take my word for it. Here's the apostle Paul on the subject of why we have to die.
1 Corinthians 15:50-55 ESV
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood CANNOT inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body MUST put on the imperishable, and this mortal body MUST put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
Now there's a great question. Where is the sting of death?
What I am seeing these days is that, for me, and the likes of me, death is a NOT a Fee-fie-fo-fum giant. At the same time, it is not a beautiful or a lovely thing. To say it is would be saying too much, and just making things up in an effort to make ourselves feel better.
So how IS a man to think about his own death? These days, I'm thinking of it as a big ugly bug. And these days, it sits there, right in front of me, staring me in the face, poised and ready to pick me up and fly me away from everything and everyone I know and love by sight. But I should face this big ugly bug without fear, for as it is written in God's Word, it has lost its sting. The sting of dying with all my sins unforgiven: gone. The sting of separation from the God who invented and personifies Love and Joy and Peace: gone. Even the sting of separation from my loved ones is gone. (Well, sort of. But that's a topic for another day.)
So that's it. My physical death remains a big ugly bug of a thing, but it has lost its sting. And so this is my confidence, as Christ is my Saviour: that when --not if, but when-- this big, ugly, non-terrifying but nevertheless-intimidating bug is given permission to take hold of me and fly me away, I'll see things as they really are, as if with new eyes.
With immortal eyes, I'll see that I'm being carried to meet my glorious Lord Jesus Christ face to face, "the hairs of his head white, like white wool, like snow; his eyes like a flame of fire; his feet like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace; and his voice like the roar of many waters."
And with my new eyes, even the big ugly bug will look different to me, and I'll see that I'm actually being carried into the presence of God on the wings of an angel.
And even now, to all who have ears to hear, the Lord Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." (Revelation 1:14-18, ESV)