“Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit.” These were the last words of Christ as He died on the cross and “gave up the ghost.” Death is terrifying to some, but for Christians, the sting of death is graciously removed. Jesus taught us not to fear death. His last words indicate that God the Father is waiting to welcome us into eternity with caring hands—hands to comfort us, heal us, and protect us. In eternity, we will never again have to worry. Never again will we experience pain.
Death to the Christian is the funeral of all his sorrows and evils
and the resurrection of all his joys.
James H. Aughey
This week we have been compelled to consider death as God welcomed into eternity Don Ward—our friend, coach, teacher, and loving husband, father, and grandfather. We are greatly saddened by our loss and are reminded of it by the Bible class podium without Don, who challenged our boys to give 100 percent for God; by the whistle that hangs waiting for him in the physical education office; by the unoccupied spot on the basketball bench; and of course, by the empty seat at the Ward dinner table. But our tears are for ourselves, not for Don. Don has been freed from his diseased body and is rejoicing in the presence of the Father. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
But Don would not want us to focus on our sorrow. When he first announced to the faculty that the doctors had discovered cancer, he made it clear that he and Katie would not be focusing on the pain and sadness but on thankfulness and trust. And Don, always a man of his word, did just that. He demonstrated his thankfulness and trust in God as he underwent treatments and endured the pain. Everyone he encountered saw this testimony of God’s grace. He longed to be back with the students he loved and pushed aside the pain so that he could spend more time with them. In the spring, he wanted so badly to be released from the hospital in time for the awards assembly—and the Lord granted him his desire. Earlier this semester, he would come to school in spite of the illness and was buoyed up just by being in the gym with the boys whom he loved—always thankful, always trusting.
But how was that possible? It was because of his faith in Christ and because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, paid the penalty of our sin and conquered death. Having trusted in Him, Christians no longer have to fear death. Instead, we anticipate the welcoming arms of our loving Father. Don is with the Lord today, and his death challenges us to consider eternity—“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
Thank you, Don, for your example in life…and in death. We love you, and we miss you.