At the end of 2010, I had the privilege to become acquainted with Happy, a petrol station employee. The morning of our meeting was very special: I have told the story of how Happy gave his heart to the Lord, and the affect it had on me. http://paul-barnard.blogspot.com/2010/08/morning-i-met-jesus-at-petrol-station.html
Since August last year I have visited him a few times, and his whole life has truly been turned around. He started living with joy and purpose. His co-workers became his congregation, and like a committed pastor, he has served them with love, care, and the Word of God.
I recall that upon leaving him one time, I thought that this uneducated man, who had only known God for a few months, could certainly teach a class of theology students and pastors about living with a passion for Christ. Talking to him was exciting, but draining. He tried to ask a 1000 questions in an hour. He was so excited about Christ and the Word of God, reading, talking, and doing. Christ was his life! As I drove off, I thanked the Lord for this inspiration and the privilege of knowing this man.
Sadly, I met Happy the week his son was murdered. He told me the story of how three of his brothers died, and I was overcome with the painful reality of the poor (mostly black and brown) people of South Africa. You can talk to almost anyone from this background, and they will be able te tell you at least one horror story of a family member who was murdered, or died because they could not get the necessary medical treatment.
On Sunday afternoon, a few minutes before I had to gave my sermon on 1 Cor. 15, I received a phone call that left me speechless. The voice on the other side was that of an elderly woman. She struggled to talk through the tears. I suddenly realised what she is trying to tell me. Happy had died earlier that morning: he was murdered for an old cell phone and fifty Rand, while on his way home from work. He didn't die immediately; he died waiting for help. By the time the emergency services reached him it was to late.
Happy's last words were a prayer for his mother. He prayed that God will be with her, knowing that she already carry the pain of losing his three brothers, and her grandson.
Happy's mother then told of his love for God; how he turned his life around; what a blessing he was to his family, and especially to her. There was a change in the tone of her voice: she became more quiet and serene, saying that for Mothers Day, she had received the ultimate gift. Her beloved son is with God --- he will know no more pain; he will be able to rejoice in the presence of God for all eternity. What more can a mother hope for?
The sermon I had to deliver struck me with full force I am going to stand before the congregation and I am going to proclaim Christ has risen! What an amazing message of hope for a broken world, what a amazing message of hope for me. 1 Cor.15: 1-15
"The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says;...Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection. If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries."
Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (1 Cor. 15:16-20). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.
Do you believe that Christ has risen? Do you live with the logging te be with Christ? Paul says in Phil. 1:21 "Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose."
Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (Phil 1:21). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.