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Sunday Sermon - 6/16/02
Many Are Called - Matthew 20:16

Many Are Called

"The last will be first and the first last, for many are called but few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16)

We just attended a 3-day weekend event and in general, had a joyful time. But the event contained moments of wonder and sadness that brought us to tears. Someone had anticipated that, and at each place on every table, there was an individual container of tissues, marked with a computerized label: "There will be no tears in heaven; until then, God has given us a helper - Kleenex."

Life is filled with so much separation and the loss of someone we love is like losing part of ourselves. Before the weekend event, we attended a "viewing" for Elda, at a local cemetery, and were able for a time to be with Tom, Elda's son, and his wife, Marie. It had been very difficult for them, and yet they were doing well, so much so that I asked Tom about it.

He responded about a number of things, but especially he spoke of a Christian hospice nurse, and Zack the pastor. I would like to speak of them and also Tom, for each of them have something wonderful to offer.

There had been some concern as to whether Elda had a personal relationship with the Lord. What He offers and wants from each one IS very personal, and Elda's religious background and yours are not enough. Jesus said to a religious man, "You must be born again" (John 3:7). We need to be changed inside.

Three days before Elda departed this planet, the hospice nurse asked her, "Do you KNOW you're going to heaven?" Elda responded, "I'm not sure." The nurse asked her, “Would you LIKE to be sure?” Elda answered, “Yes, I would”, and she received the Lord Jesus into her heart. Before, it wasn’t certain where she would go, but now Elda belongs to the Lord – forever.

You may wonder about someone who accepts the Lord at the “last minute”, but to God, it’s not a problem. It’s not years of service that defines us or causes us to be acceptable to Him – it’s a changed heart. Jesus discussed this carefully in parable form, in Matthew 20:16. As a new mother can tell you, it’s not how long the labor but the finished product that matters. To be reborn in Him is what is important.

“The last will be first and the first last, for many are called but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16). To be chosen is to be changed, to be “born again”, as Jesus told the religious man, in John 3:7. Simply trust in Him as Elda did, and He will do the rest.

The hospice nurse gave Tom and Marie something wonderful, and especially she gave something to Elda – a changed heart and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, the King of glory.

Zack the pastor gave something else to Tom; something we all need. He told this son of Elda, two or three weeks before she passed on, “You will feel relieved when she passes on, and you don’t need to feel guilty about it.” Surprising words, but understand that Elda suffered terribly from cancer, especially in the last weeks of her illness.

Our reasonable tendency is to wish the suffering will be over, and the next step is often a lot of guilt because we felt that way. Tom and Marie understand Elda is with the Lord. Her suffering is over and she is HEALED in every way. Guilt is reasonable only when we have done something wrong. When we love someone enough to want their suffering to be lessened, guilt is not necessary.

And in all this, Tom did something very special. He prayed Elda would see an angel, one of those placed around her by the Lord for her protection. And she did. The Lord answered that prayer, as He does all prayer.

Elda asked, “Who is that lady?” Tom answered, “Where is she?” And Elda pointed toward the corner of the room. Tom asked, “What does she look like?” and was told, “She has long white hair and a long white robe.” Tom later asked, “Is she still there?” and Elda replied, “I don’t know, you’re in the way.”

It was a time of suffering, for Elda and for those who love her. But she’s with the Lord and He’s wiping away “every tear” (Revelation 21:4). We would stay here much longer if we could, but the Lord has something much better in mind.

Malcolm McLeod wrote about “a little bird that will never sing the melody his master wishes while his cage is full of light. He never learns an entire song until the cage is covered and morning beams are shut out.” He continued, “A good many people never learn to sing until the dark shadows fall.” Elda entered the dark shadows of life but now she is singing in the presence of Her Lord.

You need to be born again, just like all who have every lived. You need to understand that a lifetime of guilt is no longer necessary, because Jesus Christ died to set you free from guilt, sin and death. You need to see that the Lord protects His own and He has angels that surround you and watch over you at all times.

Lord, just like Elda, we feel Your call. We understand that to be “chosen” is to finally trust in You. Thank You, Lord, that you pay “full wages” of eternal life, even though it has been a long time since You first called. We receive You now. We trust in You. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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