Today was one of the harder days I have had to endure in a long, long time. My beloved seminary professor, friend, and brother in the Faith died today. So how do we handle such grief? The way I handled it today can be summed up in one word: selfishly. My tears were of a bitter selfish nature despite the love of Christ this man showed and taught me to exhibit myself. A few things need to be said about this. So I would like, firstly, to talk about how we are to handle such grief and then I would like to expound on the impact he made in so many lives throughout his ministry.
Grieving is only natural in response to losing a loved one. We are not robots. Emotions are an intrinsic part of our makeup. However, there are wrong ways to grieve for the Christian. Christians must not grieve as though we can get the lost person back. We will shed tears and we may even wail, but our tears and wailing are not going to get them back. This is the selfish mourning I spoke of earlier. The person who has died is God’s property, saved or unsaved, not ours. Isaac was not Abraham’s, but was instead God’s and that is why Abraham obeyed God. The same rhetoric makes itself known in Job:
Job 1:21 (ESV)
21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We must remember that the loved one we have lost is not ours. We also must not grieve over a Christian who has died as though we have no hope for him.
John 3:16 (ESV)
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
If the person has believed in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement, then they are unequivocally saved by it. There is no chance of a person coming to faith in Jesus Christ and then not getting into heaven.
1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
Now then, how do we grieve? In light of the Scriptures and in light of the love God has through Jesus shown us. We may cry, wail, be distant, be silent, be heartbroken, etc. We simply may not shake our fists at God and forget the cross of Christ.
Now, a few words about the man of whom I write.
The man’s name is Brother Ronnie Tarver. He was saved out of alcoholism and heathen styles of living by the grace of God. He became a preacher of the gospel of God and was a powerful one at that. He taught many a preacher how to read their bibles and preach after earning three doctorate degrees himself. He was a missionary and preached in a variety of places hostile toward the word of God. He preached in India and Romania and countless places in between, I am sure, but those are the only places that come to mind. He was a warrior of the gospel and fought fervently for truth. He was a mentor to me and my closest brothers in the faith. He laughed with us, he cried with us, he pastored us. When we had a question about what to do or how to handle a situation, we would go to Brother Ronnie. Such a blessing he was to us and so thankful I am that God would put him in our lives.
As we were in the process of trying to comprehend what happened today, one of my brothers in the class Brother Ronnie was teaching made mention of how often he said, “We must plant seeds knowing we will never sit under the shade the tree will eventually cast.” While I know this is not his quote it fits him very well. He did that very thing with us. For it, we thank God. For him, we thank God. While it was a hard day, I can still affirm that all things such at this are for the glory of God and the good of those that love him. We will miss Brother Ronnie. I doubt very seriously that he shares that sentiment.
Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
He is now one of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us, cheering us on to victory in Christ. So, in his stead and from his tutelage, let us run the race set before us. Soli Deo Gloria.