Tony Evans - Tribute To Mrs. Evans (In Memory Of Dr. Lois Irene Evans)
A few days ago, sister Evans went home. She went home. As I reflected on her home-going and this passage, the principle that dawned on me was, the best way to have a life worth lived is to have a death worth dying. The best way to have a life worth living is to have a death worth dying. Paul is saying goodbye to Timothy, his son in the faith. And in his goodbyes to him, he has some very valuable lessons. Some of them, most of them I saw them lived out in the goodbyes that I just experienced. He begins in verse six by saying, "The time of my departure is at hand". He knew his life was coming to an end. He knew his time on earth was closing. And he wanted Timothy to know that it was okay.
All of us have a time. The Bible says, "It's appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment". All of us have a time to go home. The problem is, we don't know the time. But when that time begins to dawn, as it did with Paul, he said, "The time of my departure is at hand", it became clear, even though he made it out of a number of other scenarios that threatened his life, he wouldn't make it out of this one. One of the things I observed in life and in scripture is that when people walk God and he doesn't take them suddenly, he will give them a glimpse of heaven while they're still transitioning from earth. He'll let them know not only that it's time but it's okay.
Two years ago, when we found out that this rare cancer had come upon sister Evans, we hoped. We had all these plans prior to that of when we turned 70, which we did this year, that things would change. Things would be adjusted. More time to do this and that. And then we got the sudden shock of this rare disease. The disease that the doctors says has no cure. We did all that we knew to do to see MD. Anderson, Baylor, went online, what was out of the country, all of the options we looked at. Hoping that this could be arrested. We would get good news from the doctors, it seemed, that things were not progressing as they predicted, and life was not ending as quickly as they said it would. You were praying for us. And we felt the prayers extending time. And maybe just maybe God would cancel it altogether.
But as time went on, particularly over the last month and a half or so, it became increasing clear, slowly but surely, the time of her departure was nearing. But simultaneous to the time of her departure were things taking place that were letting us know she was dealing with something outside of the earth realm. For example, she said to some who were gathered in the room, do you see my mother? You see her? She's right over there by the fireplace. Do you see her? Why can't you see her? On another occasion, she said, my father. There's my father. And there was no one in the room physically. She was seeing something, as the time of her departure got close are. A few days ago, she said, two days, two days, take me up. Two days, two days, take me up. Two and a half days, she was gone.
She heard something. She saw something as the time of her departure got nearer. Like Stephen in Acts chapter 7, when he was being stoned to death, he says, he saw heaven open, and Jesus standing on the right hand of the father, giving him a standing ovation. When the time of your departure comes, you want to be close enough to God that you can hear things that other folk can't hear, and see things that other folk can't see. Because no matter how hard you plan, some things are out of your hands. You don't know whether you're going to get sick. You don't know whether life will change, whether you'll be laid off. You don't know all that's down the line of the therefore, it is absolutely critical, since you and I don't know, death has a way of surprising you. Death is the number one killer. It's the intruder that disrupts our well-being and gives us grief.
Who would have thought the that from a human standpoint, my greatest achievement, the Bible and the commentary would coincide with my greatest lost? Who would have predicted that? And yet, the time of her departure got closer and closer, and she began seeing more and more, as the pain got greater and greater. There was greater spiritual clarity as she was moving from an earthly reality to a heavenly perspective. Paul said the time of my departure is at hand. I told the folks on new year's eve, the three most difficult words I heard, and all I could do was cry like a baby is when she leaned over to me and said, "Let me go". Those three words. "Let me go". Then she emphasized that, "You have to let me go". It's time. Months before, it wasn't time. Months before, there was a different perspective. But as earth grew dimmer and heaven grew brighter, she said, let me go. The thought even now of rehearsing those three words, breaks my heart. But it became clearer and clearer it was time.
Paul says, "The time of my departure is at hand". What was it about Paul that prepared him for this time, the time that you and I will at some point face? We faced it with other loved ones. One day we'll face this time ourselves. It may hit suddenly, but for most people it comes progressively through illness. He says three things in verse 7. As he talked about his departure. The word "Departure" is a picture of an anchor being pulled up so the ship can move from the dock to a new shore. First thing he said is, "I fought a good fight". I fought a good fight. I hope you know all fights aren't worth fighting. Far too many of us spend far too much time with bad fights. The word good means that which is beneficial or helpful. He said, "I fought a good fight". The fights I had in life was to make things better.
Paul had a lot of fights. He had to run for his life. He had people chasing him. He had boats that were in storms where he was fighting for his very existence. But he said, "I fought a good fight". I wish I could come here and tell you, "Following Jesus, there will be no battles", but I wish it was that simple, following Jesus, they'll be no trials and troubles and difficulties, but the only reason you got to fight is something is fighting you. He just says, "If you're going to fight, make it a good one. I fought a good fight". So when you look at your battles in life, you must ask the question, not, "Am I fighting"? But, "Is it worth the battle"? He said, "I fought a good fight. I fought in the realm of that which was beneficial". He says in 1 Corinthians 9, "And I didn't box the air". I didn't shadow box. If it was a good fight, I went for the knock out punch. Because if it's a good fight, if it's beneficial, if it's helpful, if it's life changing, if it's impactful, if it will make a difference, you go for the knock out.
Yes, you fight for that relationship. You fight for those kids. So that they don't go astray. That's a good fight. You fight for your well-being. You fight for other people's lives are better. You fight for your best self, because that's a good fight. He said, "I fought a good fight". On this last year, two year process, but the last year has been a doozy, it has been a fight. It has been a fight. Fight with prayer. Your prayers. Our prayers. A fight every day we went to this treatment. Every day we fought, we fought. It's a good fight.
The second thing he says is, "I finished my course". I finished my course. It's good to know when your time is up that you're finished. Sister Evans words were not "I'm finished", they were I'm done. Same thing, I'm done. I'm finished. Paul was saying, "I completed what I was put here to do". Don't waste your life so that when you are finished you weren't finished. That you never got around to what God created and redeemed you to do. That there was nothing eternal about your life where the course that God had for you, and he has a course for every believer to serve his kingdom, to serve the Lord. Don't end your life wondering why you lived.
I learned a little bit more than I even knew previously about my wife. She got saved at nine. At nine, her mother led her to Christ. Her and her older sister. She got on her knees with the two of them. And led them in the process of trusting Christ as their Savior. At 15, she went to a camp and was challenged there to surrender her life to Jesus Christ. Fully and in service to him. As the story was told to me, she got on her knees at the camp at 15 and told the Lord, you could have all of my life for any of your purposes. I surrender to you even if that means I will never marry or have children. So this was a serious moment where she gave up everything over to Jesus Christ. This would lead to us meeting, us marrying. But it would also lead to her fingerprints being all over my life.
You would not maybe know all of that, but there's no place that you go or that I go that has not been touched by her fingerprints. I made it through school because she typed the papers and reviewed them. When we started the church with ten people, she was the secretary. She was the hospitality person. She was the music leader. She was the pianist. While at the same time, raising the kids. When The Urban Alternative started she made the tapes, duplicated the tapes, put them in a bag, take them to the post office, mail them. Then she would manage things so we got on the radio, so anybody who knows me anywhere in the world, only know me because her fingerprints are on it. And her motivation was something her mother told her as she grew up. All she would say regularly is, "It's for His glory" or "For His name's sake". So everything had the mark of God associated with it.
Paul says, I finished my course. I did all that I was designed to do. When it comes time for God to transition me and you and us, you want to be able to say, "I'm finished". Paul thirdly says, "I kept the faith". I didn't walk away from my faith. When times got hard, I didn't give up on Jesus. Our bedroom looks like a hospital room. With the wheelchair and a walker and all of the things that come with hospice. But at any time she could be conscious, you would hear her calling on Jesus. Or asking me or the kids to read scripture or playing scripture on a CD or listening to music. On Christmas, she had very little consciousness on Christmas. We got her in the wheelchair. She wasn't able to walk. She wasn't able to talk in any clear meaningful way. We gathered the children and grandchildren, the great grandchildren around. We just sang. Sang carols about Jesus. She just would move her lips trying to mouth the words about Jesus.
Never gave up on the faith. Never walked away from God. I don't care how bad things get, you don't walk out on Jesus. You keep the faith. You stay with the Lord. Paul said, "I didn't give up. I kept. When I wanted to give up. When I wanted to throw in the towel, when I got too tired, I kept the faith". Paul said, "I kept the faith. I didn't walk away from my belief system just because being a Christian became hard or because trials come. Because difficulties are there". Then he comes to his final verse, verse eight. Paul says, "Now there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. But not for me only, but for all those who love his appearing". Now there is laid up for me a crown of glory. Before he left, he knew that there was going to be an award waiting.
Last week, sister Evans' rung out in the room, "Award, award they're calling me for an award". She kept saying, "Award, award". They're just waiting for the song. There was anticipation about an award. Before she was gone. But Paul had an anticipation about an award before he was gone. He said, "Now there is laid up for me". When I came by the office yesterday, there was a plaque with a resolution on it. The resolution had a quote on it from sister Evans that I've never remembered ever reading, taken from a magazine article she had written or they had interviewed her. And they included it on their resolution. Let me read what she wrote in 2012.
As a woman that heard the voice of God and stayed on track as much as she could, and with the plan that he ordained and preordained for her life, I want to hear "Well done". I might not please all the people here, but I want to hear "Well done". Because what he foreknew about me and predestined for me, I took time in my life to really accomplish that. I want to leave a legacy and heritage for my children and grandchildren and for any woman that the Lord brought my way. I want to leave some inspiration and some encouragement for them foremost in my mind is I want to hear "Well done".
That must be from this point on, the goal of everybody to hear "Well done". To hear God say, "You fought a good fight". "You kept the faith". And "You finished the course". Give me another moment. He said, "Now there is laid up for me", which means that death wasn't the end. It wasn't a period. It was a conjunction. Sister Evans asked me, "How long is it going to take my soul and spirit to leave my body and go to heaven? How so long it going to take"? Explain it was like a balloon with air. When you prick it, it goes pop, and the air escapes and the rubber falls to the ground. The rubber once you pop the balloon is useless. But the air that left it is still there. When that pop occurs and you close your eyes for the last time, the life escapes. The body is dormant because it has no air, but the air is still there.
You're very much alive. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When you have that assurance that you don't get to stay dead when you die, when you have that confidence in the Lord. So if you are here today and you are a Christian, if you are here today and you love the Lord, then you follow him because this life is your dress rehearsal for eternity. If you are here and you're not a Christian, see, if you are a Christian, the only hell you'll ever have the hell you'll get here. But if you aren't a Christian, the only heaven you'll ever have is the limit bit of heaven you have here. If you're not sure of your eternal destiny, get that cleared up. Because what Jesus has done is he's taken the sting out of death. Paul says, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory"? On the cross, Jesus took the sting of death so all death can do now is make a lot of noise.