“When my life work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide, when the bright and glorious morning I shall see; I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, and His smile will be the first to welcome me.
“O the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face and the luster of His kindly beaming eye; how my full heart will praise Him for the mercy love and grace that prepare for me a mansion in the sky.
“O the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come, and our parting at the river I recall; to the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home, but I long to meet my Savior first of all.
“Thro’ the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white, He will lead me where no tears will ever fall; in the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight, but I long to meet my Savior first of all.
“I shall know Him, I shall know Him, and redeemed by His side I shall stand. I shall know Him, I shall know Him by the prints of the nails in His hand.” (Fanny J. Crosby, 1894, “My Savior First of All”)
Music has a tendency to elicit emotions, thoughts and memories. This song does so for me. It was one of my parents’ favorite song and sung at both their funerals. So, when we sing the song in church, I often do so both a lump in my throat but joy in my heart.
Even though my dad died at age 51 suddenly of a heart attack in 1974. My mother died with cancer in 1997. I didn’t lose my parents. I miss them, but I know exactly where they are. They have both seen their Savior.
In our church today we have a prayer list a mile long. We have so many in our church family and extended family suffering from serious illnesses. And we have a number of families who have recently lost loved ones. I have friends back in West Virginia who are going through illnesses and surgeries and also family members who are likewise suffering the infirmity of living as sinners in a sinful, fallen world.
Add to that the situation of the world around us: daily shootings and killings; abuse and crime; diseases of various kinds; natural disasters. It’s almost enough to make us want to just throw up our hands and surrender. And I would be the first to do that if I didn’t know what I know about this world and our future.
I am not a morbid person. I read the news and mourn when a lost six-year-old ends up dead; when thousands die of a new disease; when car wrecks and disasters leave families devastated. And I feel really old now when I look at my hometown newspaper and find obituaries for young people I went to school with or worked with.
Then I pick up my Bible and turn to Psalm 46 and read: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear…” God, the one true and living God is a Sovereign God; He is in control; always has been and always will be.
As I read more and more of His Word, I find that, as His son, I am not a citizen of this planet; I am an alien here. My citizenship, my home is in heaven. And while I have to walk through this sinful, weary world to get to my home, I have a work to do here. I have a story to tell, a story of grace and mercy that will one day take me out of this world into a better one, a perfect one. And I must tell that story to all around so they’ll have that same hope.
Recently I’ve visited funeral homes, hospitals and nursing homes. I don’t enjoy any of those, but they are a part of this world, a world whose evil is brought on by man’s sin. And as I see people in hospital beds and nursing homes, I realize that’s my future too.
I’ve heard, much more often from doctors: “That’s normal (to be expected) for a man your age.” My age?
But with each passing day, I feel the presence of passing time and the curse given in the Garden of Eden. And I know one day, I may end up in a funeral home where folks will pass by and say, “Doesn’t he look natural. Oh well, that’s normal for a man his age.”
But that’s okay because in July of 1963, as a boy in a camp on the Greenbrier River in Summers County, West Virginia, I confessed my sin to the Lord, my inability to save myself or have any part in my salvation. I acknowledged my faith in Jesus Christ, that He was God, that He died on the cross paying for my sins, that He rose again the third day and I trusted Him as my personal and eternal Savior and Lord.
I don’t remember the exact words I said that night. The exact words don’t matter. God read my heart; He saw what was in me and He transferred my sin from “to be paid by Larry” to “paid by Jesus.” That night I gave up being a child of Satan and was adopted into the family of God, an eternal son of the Father. So now I accept this truth:
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
One day the glasses will be gone, the dentures, the high blood pressure, the cholesterol, the aches and pains. I will see my Savior first of all…not because I deserve it but because of His mercy, love and grace.
When I was 11 years old, I chose heaven and accepted Christ as Savior. What is your choice today? It may be your very last day to make that choice.