John Taylor died today. Last Sunday, John sat in my Sunday school class at church and talked about turning 90 in January of 2020. He talked about the work he did for the Lions Club, an international service organization established on June 7, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois. With a membership of more than 1.7 million, representing 46,000 local clubs, in 190 countries, the Lions Club seeks to create a spirit of understanding among all people, promote the principles of good government and good citizenship, and to take an active interest in civic, cultural, social and moral welfare of the community. Special attention is made to help people see and hear. Membership in the Lions Club is by invitation only. A person must be sponsored by an active member of good standing in the club.
The Lions Club has lost a good member, and the people at First Baptist Church of Rockledge, Florida have lost a faithful friend. John faithfully attended Sunday School, the morning worship service, and sang in the choir. On Wednesday morning, June 29, 2019, while walking his dog, John had a heart attack and died.
The sudden death of John is a teachable moment.
The death of John reminds everyone that life is short, death is certain, and eternity is real. It is appointed unto all men, once to die, and after that the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Every person must be prepared to met God (Amos 4:12). No matter how hard a person tries, Death will come.
An old legend tells of a merchant in Baghdad who one day sent his servant to the market. Before very long the servant came back, white and trembling, and in great agitation said to his master: “Down at the market place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around, I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid her. I will ride to Samarra and there I will hide, and Death will not find me.”
The merchant lent him his horse and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later the merchant went down to the market place and saw Death standing in the crowd. He went over to her and asked, “Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make a threatening gesture?”
“That was not a threatening gesture,” Death said. “It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
The death of John was shocking. He was in good health until the moment his heart gave out. John laughingly spoke of joining four other people in the small congregation about becoming 90, and everyone having their picture taken together. They would celebrate a long life. That blessed event has been delayed. Death leaves many anticipated events undone.
The death of John serves as a warning to young people of how quickly life passes, and how uncertain tomorrow is. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away” (James 4:13). The Bible tells Christians to be cautious about speaking of future plans. “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” Every Christian should practice saying those words, literally. A person never knows if they are saying “Good bye,” to someone for the last time. Because this is true, people should be careful how they treat one another. Let Christians be careful to greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12). It may the last act of love and affection one Christian can give the other. Be sure to love, and forgive one another.
The death of John reminds people to consider their eternal souls. “So many people never pause long enough to make up their minds about basic issues of life and death. It’s quite possible to go through your whole life, making the mechanical motions of living, adopting as your own sets of ideas you’ve come to any conclusion for yourself as to what life is all about” (Catherine Marshall, Christy). What life is really all about is knowing God, and enjoying Him forever. This is the chief duty of man.
The death of John encourages Christians to believe that to be away from home in the body, is to at home with the Lord. “We know very little about heaven, but I once heard a theologian describe it as “an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant,” and there is not a better way to think of it than that. Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:
‘My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.’
To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face, and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us” (James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986).
The death of John is a testimony to the truth that life can have purpose, definition, and meaning, even if the world at large does not know who a person is. John had been an obedient son, a good husband, a loving father, an active church member, and a servant in his community. John was one of a vast multitude of unsung saints that make up heaven’s population. He has gone to his eternal reward. John Taylor will be missed.