by Tim Patterson
PLYMOUTH, MI – At times when I write, I do so from an overflow of recent experiences and residual emotions. I may do so because I have just watched the sunrise from my back deck and sensed the wonder of the Creator God and His use of colors from a palette that only He possesses. It could be the results of an encounter with a Believer who is far and away more passionate about his or her position concerning being a VAXER or ANTIVAXER, than being passionate about sharing the Gospel. (As you can tell I am a bit reactive to that one!)
This past month, Sabrina and I have had our share of family and friends passing from this life to the next. None were the result of COVID-19. One was expected, though we are never prepared for the inevitable and the other was very unexpected. Both were heartbreaking.
I participated in the internment and services of both individuals and shared the following life event in each of the memorials. To illustrate and give impact to the great hope we find in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, I told a story from my childhood. The focus is on the first stanza of verse 55.
Our Final Victory
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
As A result of being reared in West Texas, as a young boy I had to find creative ways of entertaining myself. The area around the hot little hamlet in which we lived was composed of sand, mesquite bushes, jack rabbits and oil wells. Not much else. So, my options of self-driven entertainment were limited.
My mother would send us out to play in the mornings and lock the screen door behind us. We could return for lunch and a quick respite and then it was out the door we would go for the afternoon. Sometimes, if it was unbearably hot, she would show mercy and allow us back in, but we would be confined to our bedroom. (It was a small house, and we could get “under foot” easily.)
One such hot afternoon, my best friend Ricky and I came up with the grand idea of catching wasps in wide mouth Mason Jars. The process was simple but precarious. Locate a good-sized nest of wasps on the eave of a house and make preparations to capture them.
The first step would be to punch small holes in the flat part of the two-section metal lid. Then we would take a step ladder and carefully approach the wasps. With the lid removed, we would very gingerly and slowly place the large open jar over the nest and move it side to side and dislodge the nest. It would then fall into the jar, and we would slide the thin lid between the eave and the top of the jar, not allowing any wasps to escape.
After the daring capture, we would retreat to the bedroom and begin the most difficult part of our adventure. With the second jar prepared we would very slowly slide the lid on the jar containing the wasps to the side, just enough to allow a wasp to push its antennae and head out of the jar. I would then, using a pair of tweezers taken from mom's dressing table, grasp the wasp and hold it. With another pair of tweezers my friend would remove the stinger. Once the stingers were extracted, they would be placed in the second jar.
Many of you may be thinking that this does not seem like great entertainment. It was good, but it was not great. The great fun happened when we had collected twenty or thirty stinger-less wasps in a jar and took them into the kitchen where my mother was preparing dinner.
It was then that we would fain an accidental loss of the jar lid and release the very angry and agitated wasps into the atmosphere. That is when the real entertainment began!
My mother began screaming and swinging whatever was in her hands as she ran around that small, little kitchen. We only became concerned when she tried to go through the screen door and it was still locked. That is when Ricky and I began to yell, “there’s no stinger, there’s no stinger! They can’t hurt you.”
It is at this point in my message I will say, “Though we may be terrified of the sting of death, and fear may cause us to lose all sensibilities, the fact is, that Jesus has removed the sting of death and those who know Him as Lord and Savior, have nothing to fear.”
In a time of such uncertainty, fear and death, in which we now live, may you know the “peace of God that goes beyond all understanding,” and that the sting of death has been extracted and victory over death, hell and the grave has been given to all who believe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.