I don't often do this, but below is an excerpt from my personal journal that I wrote this morning after I heard about the passing of a precious friend and church member, Yates Pittman. Death has a way of deepening our spirituality as death reveals the reality that each and every one of us will one day face. Death, especially unexpected death, forces us to take a hard look in the mirror and forces us to reflect on the meaning of life, death, and eternity. Below is a journal of my thoughts and reflection on the death of a great Christian man who has had considerable influence in the lives of the congregation of Forest Hills Baptist Church. I thank God for men like Yates, and I am praying heavily for his family and our church who are currently mourning the loss of such precious life. It is has been a strange past 12 hours. I walk into church Sunday Night, ready to enjoy the service. When I arrive, I get summoned that Pastor Ray will not be there, that he is at the hospital with Yates Pittman. Yates, an older faithful gentlemen in our church, fell while playing with his grandson. Come to find out, it was a very serious head trauma and he fractured his upper spinal cord. So there I am, called to always be ready to preach the word, I preach from Psalm 46 to a scared and concerned congregation.
I preached the same text I read over the body of Yates' brother just a week ago. A powerful psalm of comfort and strength. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". I preached as best I could without notice or preparation. I stressed to the people that we do not fear, because God is our refuge. When tragedy strikes us, God is a person we can run to for comfort.
After the service, the news we were getting wasn't very good. Yates probably wasn't going to make it. The doctors gave hims 15% chance of coming through this. They eventually medivac him to Greenville to see if the injury could be repaired. With all the countless medical innovations the past century, life is still in the hands of almighty God. He gives and he takes away.
I went to bed last night praying for this dear man and his family. I spoke with Yates that morning a church, healthy as ever. You never know when your last day will be. You never know what will be your last moments. Life is a fragile thing. We are mere seconds away from eternity. Most of us tend to think we are invincible, that we cannot be broken and that we cannot die. A lot of times we think we are superman flying to and fro from our busy schedules assuming we are impervious to the shadow of death. However, this is simply not the truth. We are fragile creatures who at any moment may be standing in the gap of eternity.
As I woke up just an hour ago, I received news that Yates had indeed went to be with the Lord. The shadow of death had overcome him, but our Lord Jesus Christ provides the victory. For me, his death serves as a bitter reminder that death hangs over my life, ready to take me at a moments notice. I do not know how long the Lord has given me on this planet. I do not know how long he will let me preach the wonderful Gospel. I do not know how many years he will give me with my precious Kaitlyn and my future children. What I do know is this: My life is in his hands, and he has been more than gracious and good to me. If he takes my life today, He has done me no wrong. My life is His. It has always been His and it always will be. At the end of the day, just as the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians, "to live is Christ, to die is gain". I have no fear of death. I will not fear my last breath. Why? Because Christ is my refuge. He has protected me from the power of death by absorbing my death for me. He has overcome my sin and liberated me from my condemnation. How gracious and good is my God. Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered. He has won my life and is victorious even over death. To God be the glory!