WHEN IT'S OVER
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Loyal pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years)
These thoughts are being written on December 29, 1970. Two days ago my oldest daughter, Becky, who is married and a student at Tennessee Temple College, left to go back to school. I have been thinking about her leaving and my mind turns to all of the millions of people who had to say good-bye in the last few days and the millions of others who will join them in sad farewells. The furlough that has been anticipated so long has now come and gone. The long-awaited days home from college are now over. Misty-eyed parents try to busy themselves in the activities of life, and weary grandparents mull over memories and thumb through family albums realizing it will be perhaps another year until the cutest grandchildren in the world come again. How may one prepare himself for these difficult times? In order to answer, let me go back 28 years and relive with you an experience from my youth.
I was always a rather small boy and as timid as I was small. Perhaps it was my introversion that led to much meditation. Every Sunday night and every Wednesday night after church services I would walk about a mile to a pharmacy in order to buy a malted milk, which in those days sold for a nickel! I would walk slowly and meditate about life. One night after a mid-week service I asked a buddy of mine, whose name was Bob, if he would join me for a malted milk. I was flushed (the proud possessor of 10 cents), so I invited Bob to join me for the two-mile round trip to the pharmacy for a malted milk. As we slowly walked I began to meditate and I spoke my meditations to Bob. I said something like this: "Bob, do you realize that everything finally comes and that everything ends! We await a ball game and think it will never come. Yet, sure enough, the day comes and we are sitting on the bench awaiting the start of the game. Bob, everything eventually comes. Do you know that death is that way and life is that way? It seems to us now that we will never grow up, but we will. It seems now that we will never get married, but we will. It seems now that we will never go to college, but we will. It seems now that we will never go to the service, but we will; and it seems now that life will never end for us, but it will."
I am afraid I may have bored Bob somewhat with my philosophizing, but a long time after we said good night I was lying awake in my little room, six feet by eight feet, in the back of our small apartment. I was thinking of those times when something delightful has ended for people. Maybe it is the time when the furlough ends, the vacation ends, the child goes off to college for the first time, the boy leaves for service, retirement comes, etc. I began to wonder how a person could eliminate that empty and melancholy feeling which comes at the end of something delightful.
Two things came to my mind. First, one should plan a new beginning to start at every ending. In other words, one should plan something to which he can look forward to doing the day following the termination of a happy time. Here is one of the great secrets of life. On the airplane on your way back to college, read a book you have wanted to read for a long time. Save your money for days and weeks ahead so that on the very day you return from your vacation or trip you may purchase that one thing you want so badly. Have a hobby that is so interesting that it becomes an avocation upon retirement. Be ready for that last day. Be ready to attack that melancholy feeling with a new beginning.
Of course, that is exactly what being saved is. When each person faces the end of life (and each one will!) he should have prepared for a new beginning. Blessed be God, that is exactly what happens to the Christian. He has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sadness of death is minimal because of the new beginning that follows.
During the night in the little bedroom after the malted milk I also decided this: One should spend his life on things that are eternal. Hence, I dedicated myself to seek out the things that will never end and invest my life in them Such things as soul winning, the Word of God, love, etc. have occupied most of my attention and time since that night. These are eternal and will never pass away.
I told Bob that night that the day would come when life would be over and that we would, as in the case of the ball game, be facing eternity. As I write this article "that day" may have come for Bob. He is in intensive care at St. Paul's Hospital in Dallas, Texas, after a serious heart attack, partial paralysis, open heart surgery, and other complications. Bob is now at death's door. Neither of us thought seriously about death that night drinking the malted milk at the pharmacy, but I reminded Bob that it would come as all things do. Now it may have come. As much as I would like to escape the thought, it will come for me, too. Thank God, I have made provision for my new beginning. Thank God, Bob has made provisions for his new beginning. He, as Pastor Bob Keyes, has for many years been a faithful preacher of the Gospel and one of America's great soul winners. He has given much of his life to things that are eternal and has prepared for a new beginning. I, too, must spend my life on things that are eternal, for everything finally comes to pass on this earth and, like the ball game, the end of the vacation, the termination of the furlough, and the day of returning to college, death will come and life on earth will end.
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