What a tough few weeks it been for our church. Although there are undoubtedly more sad stories and suffering than we realize, two men in particular — and of course their families — have been rocked to the core. First, Tom Pickett passed Sept. 2 of a heart attack while walking the beaches of South Carolina. Tom was instrumental in the plant of Vista Community Church and has remained a faithful supporter and friend in many many ways since he moved to Myrtle Beach a few years ago. Tammy and I, along with a few others at Vista, have known Tom for over a decade and I can confidently say that he is one of the best men we have EVER known. We spent a few hours together with Tom on those very beaches just this past summer.
Tom’s service was an uplifting and celebratory time, just the way he would’ve wanted it. It was inspiring to hear folks from his high school days, his childhood, his jobs, his churches and his neighborhood, share about his missional life, and how he had impacted their lives for the glory of Jesus. Tom lived out his faith, even through times of great trial and challenge. He was first a follower, and looked to his Lord for direction in all things. Take a moment and hear Tom’s story in this testimony / tribute video our friend Josh Fronduti put together. I love Tom’s quote encouraging us to live each day purposefully, with passion, in service to God…just as he tried to do:
“God has measured out for each of us a certain number of days to spend in THIS life, and there’s a purpose for each one. We each still have time to find a passion that would please Him, and invest in that passion — even if that investment begins with nothing more than a daily prayer.”
Within days of the news of Tom’s passing, we embraced our friend, Vista Dublin elder and Lifegroup leader, Tim Clark, and his wife Mary, after learning that Tim has a large brain tumor. As you would suspect with two such deeply faithful people, they have been resting securely in God’s sovereignty while they endure the unenviable task of pursuing a treatment path that may or may not bring physical relief to Tim’s grave condition. Their kids have each traveled from out of state to join them in the past week, to band together, pray, and treasure their time.
The Clarks have been so well loved and supported by you, church, as you’ve stepped up to pray, to serve and to lead. God is so evident in this story, and continues to be glorified. A few of us received emails from Tim late at night while at the hospital, requesting that we pray for the nurses and other medical staff who don’t yet know Jesus. That’s our Tim! Always thinking of and praying for others, all for God’s glory.
Of the words of God we are privileged to have in Scripture, which are the ones to read and hear just now? Are any of them exactly right? (Aren’t they all exactly right?) But of course, it is the Spirit in which they are approached, and the community that is bound together by them, and the knowledge of the merciful God Who speaks them. I was led to read 1 Peter 4:12, but started reading at verse 7 and was stung by what I read:
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. –1 Peter 4:7-13
For Tim and Mary, like all of the rest of us, the end is still to be determined. It threatens, but the end is unknown for us, and until it does come we live with it’s inevitability and by faith in God’s timing.
The end of this life has come for Tom, too quickly for his family and for those who love him, but certainly precisely in God’s timing.
What astounds me about the remainder of these words of God are the challenge to live soberly with the end in mind. And when I read the guidance and direction of these verses, and Tom’s wise words, I find a surprisingly accurate description of Tom, and Tim and Mary!
These three saints have lived life with loving abandon for others with joy and in the strength of God. This is why you will find Tim and Mary’s faith to be unfazed, their outlooks and attitudes indistinguishable from before the news. Because a life of true faith lives firmly rooted in reality yet irrespective of reality.
Please pray for Tom’s family and friends, and thank God for his beautiful life of faith now being finished in eternity with Jesus.
Please pray for Tim and Mary as they rely on a faith that has been wonderfully forged and is being even more deeply formed as they trust Jesus through uncertain times and steep trails.
…that in all things God may be praised through Jesus,