When a Faithful Member Passes Away

A few nights ago, I sat in Will Johnson’s hospital room with Will’s wife Jeane, their daughter Heidi, and some other family members and friends from the church.  Over a course of several hours, Will’s breathing became more sporadic and shallow. He then took his last breath and entered eternity.  Several biblical principles came alive during that time we spent together.

The beauty of faithfulness

Will and Jeane Johnson have been some of the most faithful members in Faith Church’s entire history.  Will held practically every position that exists in our church and Jeane supported his service in all sorts of ways.  Paul told the Corinthians, “It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).  Will Johnson was an incredibly faithful man.  Even though he struggled with muscular dystrophy for over a quarter century, he still used his gifts in service for Christ.  Jeane faithfully cared for Will, literally, until he took his dying breath.  Seeing God empower His children to keep their promises is a beautiful thing.

The power of the gospel

Paul also told the Corinthians that, in Christ, the sting of death has been removed (v. 55).  Yes, we sorrow, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  These truths were evident as Jeane and Heidi and the other members of our group shared stories of how God blessed our lives through Will.  Yes, there were tears, but there was also laughter.  Will’s eternal destiny was secure in Christ, and we knew that for him to be absent from the body was to be at home in the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).  That allowed Will, and the rest of us, to face death with courage because we know that death is not the end for a follower of Christ.

The efficacy of prayer

We knew that many men and women in our church family were praying for us as Will was slipping into eternity.  James said that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16).  I believe the prayers of God’s people gave us the strength to handle this experience without terror or dread.  It is simply amazing to see the power of God on display.

The importance of evangelism

One of the men who stayed with us was Jerry Jamison.  The Lord used Jerry, over forty years ago, to tell Will about Jesus Christ.  Imagine what a terrible thing it would have been if Will had faced death without a personal relationship with the Lord.  Jerry chose to be a godly co-worker and friend to Will, and the Lord used Jerry as an instrument of redemption in His hands.  What could any of us do that would possibly be more important and satisfying than that?  No wonder Paul told the Romans, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (10:15).

Our former pastor Bill Goode, also a very close friend of Will’s, used to say that death is as natural as life.  For a follower of Christ, God’s Word provides answers and direction for even the most challenging of circumstances.  I was reminded of that yet again, as a faithful member passed away.

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.