October 13th, 2010


My friend Joe (not his real name) appeared to be the complete package.  As to talent, he seemed to have it all and he operated in it quite naturally.  When ministering, his audience was all ears.  In business, he was the consummate professional.  His family adored him and his friends counted themselves blessed to be involved in his life.  Now, I know he was human flesh, just like you and I, and no doubt his sins were as great as ours.  However, as he navigated through life, he appeared to be operating ‘smack dab’ in the center of God’s grace and mercy.  He proclaimed the goodness of Jesus when life was sweet and when times were difficult, and his walk was usually consistent with his talk.  He was passionate, loving, and always hungry for more of God.  He displayed the brand of Christianity that made a person want what he had.  I considered it an honor to be his friend.

One morning we woke up and Joe was gone.  Totally unexpected, this young man had suddenly graduated from this world and was no doubt experiencing heaven while we wiped away our tears.  In the middle of shock and disbelief, we did the best we could to praise and thank God for giving Joe his heart’s desire – at that very moment he was face to face with Jesus.  But we could not shut down the pain of loss, nor could we shut down the questions in our minds.  How can this be?  How could this have happened?  In the midst of experiencing signs and wonders and miracles all around us, how could we get our arms around the possibility of this being God’s will?  Could it really be His plan to end the earthly life of such a young, productive, making-a-difference man after God’s own heart?  He was in the middle of so many projects, blossoming and maturing in ministry, and still raising small children.  Why him?  Why would God spare the life of one person and not the other?  I mused over that thought.  Why had He spared my life a while back by moving my car and me off the highway to avoid a head-on crash, and then allowed this man to meet with such an early death?  Why Joe?  I have known for years that God is not predictable, and His thoughts are often different from mine, but I was really going to have a hard time getting my arms around this one.

Several days later I learned a very important lesson that will forever change my understanding of God’s sovereignty.  A certain friend of mine, who is a mighty prayer warrior, was on her face talking to the Lord and crying out to Him, asking that same question, “Why Joe???”  The Lord met her in a mighty way, and she shared His words with me.  Following is my feeble attempt to capture the message from that conversation.

In tears she cried out to the Lord, “Please help me understand why you did not step in and save Joe’s life when You could have intervened and prevented this tragedy.  Why Joe?  I don’t understand.”  The Lord replied, “Who’s Joe?”  She said, “What?  Now I really don’t understand!”  The Lord further replied, “Do you think Joe is more special than anyone else, that because of his good deeds, his life should have been spared?  When will people discontinue putting other people on pedestals?  When you exalt one another, you are not exalting Me.  I want you to quit looking at one another and turn your gaze to Me.  Yes, Joe was a good man and was involved in a lot of good works.  And no doubt, you will greatly miss him.  But he was just a man, and life on earth will go on without him.  Others will step up and carry on the work of the Lord.”

I must tell you that hearing these words sent me to my knees in repentance.  I have been guilty of putting other people on pedestals.  I have been guilty of thinking some people are indispensable in their earthly work.  It was a great misconception to think it would have been better for Joe to remain here until old age, rather than to have the heavens open up and welcome him into the Kingdom where he would have been immediately ushered to the Throne of his Beloved, Jesus Christ Himself.  Lord, I surrender my understanding to Your will, and I declare one more time that You are good, Your ways are perfect, and so is Your timing.

Jesus must be first in my life, and my eyes must be continually on Him.  He will not take a back seat to anyone; He will not allow idols in my life when I profess to be His follower.  Life is a breath and then it is gone, but His love endures forever.  Although God’s ways are always perfect, my comprehension is not.


I wrote this piece several months ago, and now as I prepare it for posting, I am once again musing over the words in the message.  I must stop and consider how often I have judged physical death to be the worst thing, when I profess to have my own eyes on Eternity as I anxiously await its arrival.  How many other worldly mindsets do I hold onto?  Lord, once again, please renew and transform my thinking to line up with Yours.  I will live every day like it is my last, and I will do my best to not question Your ways.  I will miss Joe, but I am determined to praise You, Lord, for preparing a place for those whom You call your own.  I know our days are numbered, and no one can take us out before we have lived out every one of them.

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