Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not.” 2 Timothy 4:2
It was years ago and something that I will never forget. I am a pastor and that often gives me the opportunity to help people at some of their hardest moments. Over the last 38 years I have officiated at hundreds of funerals. Some of them were tragic and some of them were celebrations of life. Regardless…they were all difficult. I believe that every service should be as personal as I can make it. I heard a story once of a pastor who was asked to do a service for a man he didn’t know well. Unfortunately, he kept calling the gentleman by the wrong name. Finally, in sheer desperation, his wife shouted out, “John, his name is John.” Gratefully, I have managed to avoid something like that thus far. But there was one funeral I will never forget.
I said earlier that I am a preacher…a pastor. Well, I happen to be a singing pastor. You see, long before I started preaching, I was singing. I’m certainly no Frank Sinatra, but I can carry a tune. That led to opportunities to serve families in another way. When the funeral home needed a vocalist, I would sometimes get a call. One day…the call came. I was to sing a couple of songs…one at the beginning and one midway through the service. So, my time came…no pun intended…and I sang my first song and then the second. An older pastor was speaking and he was really into the sermon. As the vocalist, I was sitting in a side room where I couldn’t see him, but I could see the audience. And then…it happened.
As I said he was preaching hard, and all of a sudden two things happened in a split second. First, a moment of silence. It went from “Katie bar the door” to dead silence. Then, in a moment of time, there was something that sounded like a clap of thunder—literally. And finally, there was the sound of chaos—-people screaming and crying. It was a very frightening moment. Immediately I stood up and looked into the room where the preacher was lying on the floor. It seems as he was preaching, he suffered a massive heart attack, fell on top of the folding pulpit which then caused it to collapse. That was the clap of thunder.
The funeral home folks called 911 and they quickly arrived and carried him out. I’m not sure if he passed right there on the floor or in the ambulance, but he didn’t make it. When they had left with him, I wondered what in the world do you do now? The funeral director came over and said, “Dewayne, can you finish the service?” I told him I could if he would get me a Bible. The preacher’s Bible was still laying there so he picked it up and gave it to me and we finished the service. It was one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed—especially at a funeral. As a side note, in a day or so, the funeral home called and asked me to do the service for the pastor who had died, and it was my privilege to do so.
I would suppose that there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this but the big one is—we need to be ready. We need to be ready to step into any situation that might arise. There is a verse in the Bible that says we should be prepared whether the time is favorable or not. That is good advice. We never know when we will have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. I don’t know exactly how well I did finishing the funeral that day, but I hope I was able to bring some peace into a crazy chaotic moment.
There’s also another lesson—another truth—from this story. We should be prepared to step into eternity. When we think of death, we often think we will all live well and long, die easy, and go to heaven. The truth is we just don’t know how long we will live, but we can all be prepared. I like what a friend of mine said one time. He said, “I’m prepared to go to heaven, I’m just not ready to go.” He was just saying that he was prepared to go to heaven he just wasn’t ready to get on the next bus. I’m sure the pastor who was speaking that day was prepared, but he probably didn’t have any idea that he would board the bus right then.
The good news is that because of the Good News, we can all be prepared. Because of what Jesus did on a Roman cross two thousand years ago, we can know that we are going to heaven. It’s not about religion or church—it is about faith in Him dying and coming back to life three days later. It is about believing that He was who He said He was, that He would do what He said He would do, and about repenting and trusting in Jesus as the Way to eternal life with God. If you haven’t made that commitment, I’m hoping you will. Google it and check it out—check Him out. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared” and I hope you are. When it comes time for us to board the bus, we can have the confident assurance that He will be there. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne