I dropped my daughter off for a cousin play date at my brother-in-law’s house one March afternoon. Every time I see my brother-in-law, Peter, he insists on a hug, but he didn’t initiate one this time. I thought it was odd, but I’m not at all the affectionate type so I let it go. I certainly wasn’t going to initiate a hug, THAT would be way too WEIRD. I said goodbye to my little girl and turned back to my van to drive home.
That was the last time I ever saw my brother-in-law…the very last time I would ever see him, this side of heaven. A month later he died suddenly from natural causes.
REALLY wish I had that last hug.
On April 6, just days before Peter’s death, Dr. Rogers preached a sermon on John 4:27-42, about the ripe harvest and the urgency for evangelism. We tend to be lazy and think we have the whole rest of our lives to share the gospel. It isn’t until someone is old or sick and near their death that we finally get serious about evangelism. Truth is we don’t know what time we do have and the Bible tells us the time is NOW! We may not have another 30-40+ years ahead of us to share the gospel.
Peter died at an age many would consider too young—32. He left behind his dear pregnant wife with whom he was very happily married, and a 4-year-old son. It is a tough blow that stunned all of us. I am thankful for Peter’s solid faith in God and I am thankful for his example. Indeed he didn’t miss an opportunity to share his faith with others he met. He didn’t put it off until the eleventh hour.
At the hospital while we were awaiting the results of the EKG, Peter’s father-in-law commented that he never met a man like Peter—he would always talk about God, and he really enjoyed life. “Everything he talked about, he talked about with zeal.” It’s true, it didn’t matter what the subject was, nothing bored Peter.
Peter truly cared about others. As I said earlier he always insisted on a hug, and his was not a weak embrace—it was a firm and hearty hug. Walking in Philippians 2:4, he put others before himself. He was a servant—offering to help however he could, just to make another one’s life a little easier. He often pushed the swing for my daughter, so that I could have a break. I never asked for it, he just would take over. It’s the little things. He listened to you without interruption. He spoke tenderly and truthfully. He loved others deeply as 1 Peter 4:8 calls us to do—a love that originates only with Christ. You couldn’t know Peter and not also encounter the God he worshiped and loved.
I never grieved for anyone like I have for Peter. (Although my being pregnant may contribute to the emotions.) It doesn’t help either that I missed that last hug. You don’t really know what you have until you lose it. In a very small way, Peter’s death gave me a faint understanding of John 16:7. Obviously I do not intend to say that Peter’s spirit indwells or counsels me by any means. But his influence on me is greater after his death than it was beforehand. I had shamefully taken him for granted (as I do everyone—I never did very well at loving others). Now I aspire to the example that Peter lived, to love others and to share the gospel freely—for the glory of Christ. I fail miserably in these things—I am entirely dependent on the Lord for his grace.
I don’t intend to place Peter on some pedastool or romanticize his life. I am well aware that Peter was human, he wasn’t perfect. I knew him during some of his adolescent years—a rather dark and worrisome period of his life. But the Lord had a hold on him and his transformation is undeniable. God’s light shined brightly in his life.
Across the back of his forearms, Peter had these words tattooed: “Where, O Death, is thy sting. Where, O grave, is thy victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Amen!
Our pastor is currently preaching through Philippians, noting how the apostle Paul desired to exalt Christ in all of his life AND in his death. Peter’s life definitely gave testimony to how great Jesus is and his death brought even further glory to Christ.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliot
All glory and praise to God.