Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By the Bed of the Dying

C.T. Studd has been described as the Michael Jordan of Cricket.  (Pick your sports icon: Babe Ruth, Tom Brady, Koby Bryant?...whatever.)   As a college student in the late 1800’s C.T. became a legend and an inspiration playing the most popular sport of his day in England.  He was a rising star destined for riches and renown as a professional player.   You could say he had everything going for him; he was having fun, he was successful.  But he was also drifting away from the things of God.

Then came his brother’s illness.   C.T.’s  younger brother George contracted some kind of sickness that left him bed-ridden and debilitated for weeks.   He was suffering and presumably headed towards his death.  C.T. spent time sitting beside his dying brother and it was there that God met him and prompted him to contemplate life. 

There is something quite powerful and transforming about sitting by the bed of someone who is dying –or even very sick.  I am currently becoming more acquainted with this as my dad’s ALS disease continues to paralyze more and more of his body.  I got to hang out with him this summer and I plan to join him again in just a few weeks.

Grieving beside his brother, C.T. thought "Now what is all the popularity of the world to George? What is all the fame and flattering? What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?"   The reality that life is a vapor (James 4:14) came to bear upon his soul and the brilliance of worldly fame began to pale as he thought about what really mattered.

Pastor Dave Jones at Bethel Grove Church here in Ithaca was talking this past Sunday about sitting beside a friend dying of pancreatic cancer.  This friend was the best man in his wedding.   Dave said  “sitting there you come to realize something that you should behold every day!  You realize that this life and this world are out of your control.”   It’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we are stronger than we really are –more wise than we really are, and even more important.   We go thru life with a false sense of invincibility and an inflated view of our significance.  But death has a way of slapping you back to reality!   Watching someone die reminds you that we aren't that powerful and in fact we are all terminal. You come to a new place of desperation as you grasp the truth that you are not the king of the Universe!  From that vantage point, many are given the grace to see and finally know Him who is the king: the one who is in control.    Sitting there watching someone’s life expire you get to see the emptiness of those things we typically glory in and recognize the greatness of God.   

God miraculously spared George Studd’s life and he suddenly recovered from his illness.  But thankfully, C.T. never recovered from the transformation he experienced sitting by the bed of the dying.   He returned to college much less passionate about cricket and much more passionate about Jesus.  He begin sharing his faith and joining with other men for the purpose of prayer.  C.T. Studd committed his life to the cause of world missions.  Banding together with some other classmates, C.T. toured college campuses with the “Cambridge 7” challenging students to live for God and give themselves wholly to the work of God’s kingdom.  After that he departed to foreign mission fields.  

Everyone needs to come to the realization that this life and this world are out of your control.   But thankfully, our God is in control and he loves us. 

Here is a video of C.T. Studd sermon quotes: 

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