These are some reflections from Rick Liles, one of our elders, on the loss of some admired men, along with a pastoral challenge for men to lead well.
On Sunday we celebrated with my Father his 87th birthday; a great blessing indeed. Saturday he and I worked together on the farm and enjoyed a quiet lunch on the tailgate of my truck; it was a good day! But, I have also just experienced the loss of two significant men in my life; the first was on Friday night when my uncle Jim went to be with the Lord and the second was on Sunday afternoon when my friend Charlie Freeman was escorted home by the angels. These were men who embodied Christ-like love and a servant’s heart and I will miss them. Both loved God, loved their family and loved their country. Both were men who had developed God-given character because they walked with Him and had experienced, and continued to experience, His grace. They were fiercely committed to their family and friends and were not afraid to speak their minds when the time came. None of these examples are of perfect men, but they are examples of Godly men, caring men, strong men, committed men and humble men; they are also examples of great patriots, who loved their country in spite of its ills.
These men (and I include my Dad) were/are a part of what has rightly been labeled “the greatest generation” and unfortunately we see that generation passing away and numbering less and less among us. As I reflected on my experience with these men, I wondered what made them and others of this generation so special. One thing was that they were men of strong faith in God which had produced through His grace great strength of character; men with firm commitments and convictions. They knew where their strength came from and were not afraid or ashamed to acknowledge their dependence on God. They loved and stood for their family and they were unwavering in their commitment to them. They were great friends who were extremely loyal, kind and caring, yet every bit men, and strong ones at that. America needs far more men like these and my world will be far emptier because two of them are gone. While I have lost the input of two, I have purposed in my heart to learn from and enjoy the remaining time with my living link to the greatest generation.
My friends, especially my male friends, I ask you, who will take their place? Who will distinguish themselves as “men of integrity, honor and Godly love”? Who will become men who fiercely love and defend their families? I encourage you to look deep inside yourself and accurately evaluate your stand and progress in this life; look deeply into the truths of scripture and boldly ask the question, “is this me”? Is what I see revealed in scripture the direction I am heading? If I continue to lead (and we all do lead our families) in this direction where will we end up? To this point I would say our generation has failed miserably, but I am encouraged to see more men loving God supremely and seeking His face and guidance; however, we must continue and not waver. By God’s grace, become men of great faith. By God’s grace, become men of commitment to His principles and statutes. By God’s grace, become men who love, honor, protect, defend and lead their families. By God’s grace, become men who are great patriots. By God’s grace, become men who are loyal friends. Let us become men who can boldly look at our families and say with all confidence “you can follow me because I am being well-led”.
I listened as the preacher spoke of my uncle Jim; he stated that “Jim preached his own funeral by the life he lived, which was full of faith, and the faith with which he died”. I know the same can be said of my friend Charlie who everyday lived what he believed. I have also watched my Dad love and care for my Mom; love and cherish his family and friends; love God and love his country. Great men (all by God’s grace), there just are not enough of them and when I grow up I want to be one. When the preacher stands over me at the end of my life I want him to be able to say; this man lived and died by faith; but if that is to happen, it will be because I have become a man of faith through the grace of God.
I can honestly say that I am conflicted as I write this today; on one hand I celebrate the victory of Uncle Jim and Charlie, on the other I know I will deal with great sadness and loss. I know they are present with Jesus but that means they must be absent from me.
My Dad is 87, my uncle Jim was 90 and my friend Charlie was 80; all seemingly long lives and yet life is so short. Where are you investing you one life? Where are your priorities? What are you committed to? I know for me this has been a significant time of introspection and I see myself woefully lacking. By God’s grace and mercy, I intend to grow up and I pray the same for each of you. I love you all.