Monday morning I received a call informing me that Michael Spencer, the titular Internet Monk, had succumbed after less than five months battling cancer. His passing was all the more poignant as I’ve been following pastor Matt Chandler and his battle with brain cancer.
For the life of me I cannot understand, nor do I dare demand of God that He explain to me, why it is that He take whom He takes when He takes them.
I spent most of this week in the far Southern South, so to speak, where hotel TV seemed nothing more than infomercials, cable news, lawyer ads and endless Pentecostal shows. So I actually watched—no, stomached—Kenneth Copeland ministries’ show for about 20 minutes of ungodly self-entitlement wrapped in just enough spiritual language to dupe the ever-gullible hoards. Though I agree with those who consider him and his so-called “Word Faith” ilk as spiritual charlatans, he said something that really surprised me:
“I was talking to this one lady who’d lost a relative after she’d prayed in faith that he’d be healed. ‘I don’t understand why the Lord took him,’ she said to me. I reminded her that the Lord doesn’t take believers, He receives them.”
We sometimes speak of God “taking” beloved fellow believers as if we’d witness a favorite character in a series being killed off; the victim of the invisible hand of some distant author, scripting life behind the scenes. We shake our heads, in disbelief (and if we’re honest, disapproval) at the timing of it all.
As temporally-minded creatures, living in the wake of our Earthy severing from the loving God with Whom we once walked so intimately, we instead get wrapped up in the why and when, forgetting what death is for the brother or sister called back into the arms of our loving Creator and Savior. We even use phrase like “so-n-so went home” or other sayings the both cloak the reality of death and fail to convey the blessed glorification of those who hope in the all sufficient work of Christ.
But in the New Testament, after Christ conquered death through His resurrection, death is a defeated foe whose sting is now gone, an end of the work day where the Master handsomely rewards His own in eternity and crowns them.
Basking in the holiness of Christ that fills the Heavenly Tabernacle with light, Michael now walks in the ceaseless love for which he was created, for which his soul longed and flesh chased, for which our Savior bled that nothing would ultimately separate us from His love. Having sought God in his earthly life as deeply as he could, through whatever corner of Christianity he found Christ the Lord, Michael now “knows fully” (1 Cor. 13) as he looks into the face of God without veil of flesh or sin. In this life he held to faith, hope and ultimately, love. But now Michel needs neither faith nor hope, as he now has in fullness Him in whom he had faith and has received all for which he’d hoped. In life, having battled to squeeze out bits of sweet rest we find in Sabbath, Michael now rests in the eternal Sabbath we have in Christ. Indeed, our Lord has not so much “taken” Michael, but has truly received him. I rejoice for him.