Two events this week caused me to think about life’s important questions.
First, I had the privilege of leading the memorial service for a good friend. His sudden death at age 62, and a special ten minutes I shared alone with his body at the funeral home prompted some deep soul-searching.
The second situation was learning of another prominent “falling away” of a major Christian songwriter. His reasons for rejecting Christ stunned and saddened me–again.
These two incidents remind us of the most important questions in life that each of us must answer.
One of them might be life’s most crucial question.
Life’s Crucial Question
If you’ve read my latest book, River of God: Where Religion Began and Why Grace and Love Will Triumph, you know it begins with the following hook:
“I’ve tried to write the clearest book on religion that’s ever been attempted. Why? Because the most important question a person will ever ask in life is, ‘Is there a God to whom I must answer?’ If the answer to that question is yes, then the second most important question is: ‘How do I come into right relationship with him?'”
When I wrote those words, I believed they were the two most important questions a person could ever ponder because the answers would determine their eternity.
I still believe it.
Eternity is a long time–to state the obvious. How could anyone treat that subject casually or foolishly?
Not me. Too much is at stake.
Today, I add a third question to the above. It might be even more important than the others. But first, let me unwrap the incidents that prompted my thinking.
I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my friend, Tim Allen, before he died. He was riding home from work on his bike when he detoured toward an Urgent Care facility because something was wrong. He collapsed at the door–died almost instantly–and entered the portal of heaven. (He bled out due to an aortic tear.)
His heart rate at the end was 141 beats a minute. We know this because Tim was a math guy who wore a watch that showed his route, heart rate, and other things. When he fell, the last heart-rate reading showed “142.”
What a way to blast off into eternity.
A week later, a woman escorted me into a room where Tim’s body lay in repose. I stood by it for ten minutes, talking to him, thanking God for his life, praying and singing two stanzas of “Amazing Grace” over his body.
I later learned that his widow, Julie, at exactly that same moment, was singing the same two verses out-load in another place. Only God can create that type of “harmony” during troubled times.
As I gazed at Tim’s body, I half expected him to open his eyes and smile–including his very familiar chuckle. I knew it was possible. Raising the dead is nothing to the Living God. If He had chosen that miracle, He would have had to re-create Tim’s eyes–because Tim donated them upon his death.
That wouldn’t have been a problem for God either.
(Tim also donated 85 pints of blood in his lifetime–helping 261 other people to live. That’s ten gallons of blood–700% of his body total. What a gift.)
As I looked at my friend’s body, many comforting verses came to my mind: “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) and, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
And, maybe the grandest of all, John 11:25:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.”
That Scripture is emblazoned on the wall of George Washington’s crypt at Mount Vernon. Our first president believed its truth. It should be stamped on the heart of every follower of Jesus.
The second incident, reported by Gary Randall of Faith & Freedom, shared the tragic story of prominent Hillsong songwriter, Marty Sampson, who recently abandoned his faith.
“Time for some real talk,” the Australian writer wrote in a since-deleted post on Instagram. “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.”
“This is a soapbox moment so here I go … How many preachers fall? Many,” he continued. “No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.”
The “All I Need Is You” writer said he’s “not in” anymore and desires “genuine truth.”
“Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth,” he wrote. “Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I’m keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others.”
Christianity “just seems to me like another religion at this point,” Sampson said.
I almost cried when I read these words. Pondering them, as well as the life and “graduation” of my friend Tim, reminded me what might be life’s most crucial question:
Who do you trust?
That question points the way to answering the first two critical questions (Is there a God? and how do I get right with Him?).
Chapter Three of River of God details the three “Sources” of truth-available to all human beings:
- Voices of People – which are finite and change like the wind.
- Voices of Deception – the devil and his angels and the “lies” they whisper into human hearts.
- The Voice of God – through creation, conscience, and the special revelation of the Bible–a 66 book library, written over 60 generations, by forty plus authors who were inspired by Him.
Years ago, I learned to trust the Bible above all things. As I share in River of God, you can depend on the Bible’s veracity because of its unique continuity, circulation, translation, survival, prophecies, accuracy about history and its influence on the world.
The Bible offers more evidence for “reality” than anything else on earth. It is a time-tested compass that points us to the only Savior–Jesus Christ. He, too, stands head and shoulders about all other religious founders and leaders.
Gautama Buddha once said, “I’m still looking for truth.” Jesus Christ said, “I AM the truth.”
Note in Marty Sampson’s sad comments that he turned away because he had questions (we all do), and now trusts science and his feelings more than Jesus and God’s Word. Notice all the “I’s” of narcissism in his tragic falling-away announcement.
He has chosen to trust himself, his feelings, and other human voices–and it doesn’t “bother him” (facing God in eternity?) That’s sad and extremely dangerous.
I also have many questions. So did Job–whose book I’m reading presently.
But I learned from the Bible that my ultimate source of trust must always be in the character of God–His love, grace, justice, holiness, and perfection. He will give every person what they truly deserve–don’t worry about fairness. He also provided a way of salvation for sinners through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A wise human being, like my friend Tim, hangs onto God’s character and His Book. The rest is shifting sand.
That’s not blind faith–it’s wise trust–to aid you in answering life’s most crucial questions.
Shirley and I were enjoying our regular “Family Night” gathering with our two moms on Monday when a call came that our close friend, Tim Allen, had suddenly died at the age of 62.
No, not that Tim Allen.
Our Tim Allen and his wife Julie have been close friends for nearly three decades.
Also, on Monday, I read a sad story about another kind of death–this of a spiritual nature. It broke my heart more than the passing of Tim.
Two deaths. One hope. And one very important question that every person must answer.