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Weekly Devotional for Preachers
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

Recently we attended a memorial service for a 98-year-old saint named Rolf Egeland. A few years before his death he’d written this to be read at this funeral:

Thanks to all of you in Heaven and on Earth!!!!!! Not knowing when God would call me home, I wanted to leave a note for all of you expressing my deep appreciation for you.

When you read this, my thanksgiving for you, I will have already thanked, in person, the God of all gods for so loving the world, that he had a plan of redemption which included me, and I have already thanked Jesus for his willingness to be my redeemer so that I could choose Him as my Savior and Lord. By now I have thanked the Holy Spirit for his patience with me in trying to direct me in the right choices and in teaching me God’s word ….

Rolf’s thanks continued for a page. To use a phrase from John 21, his death glorified God. There Jesus told Peter, “when you are old you will stretch out your hands and [be led] where you do not want to go.” John explained,

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me! (John 21:19)

My 73 years conspire to make me consider my mortality more and more often. I’m surprised by how many old people I know now. Another high school classmate died recently. I’ve been asked to preach on 1 Timothy 4:6-7 (“My departure is near. I’ve fought the good fight ….”). So I was arrested by John’s phrase—the kind of death that would glorify God.

Tradition says that Peter was indeed crucified—upside down, at his request, because he didn’t consider himself worthy to die as Jesus had. But it wasn’t being crucified that glorified God. John is said to have died of old age, presumably in his bed, in about 98 AD. And his death, too, glorified God.

One of our basic pastoral responsibilities is to help our people die well. That age-old ministry assignment is not only about bolstering their deathbed courage or helping them plan their funerals, although those are pastoral privileges. We prepare them by obeying and echoing Jesus’ command to Peter, “Follow me!”

A God-glorifying death comes at the end of a long walk with Christ. Rolf’s funeral was a triumph not only because of his sure hope in Christ but also because he’d served Jesus fruitfully for 84 years.

Like Bunyan’s Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, Pastor Peter became a stalwart trailblazer for the flock of God. In his first letter, he joyfully heralded our “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

Then he emphasized our Christian duties,

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. (1 Pet. 1:13-14)

Like our pastoral predecessor, we shepherd God’s flock by modeling and teaching how to follow Christ. In his second letter, Peter wrote,

So I will always remind you of these things … as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. (2 Pet. 1:12-14)

Therein is the sweet finale of a death that glorifies God—a tent soon put aside.

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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