Monday, June 26, 2006

The Beauty of the Gospel: Reflection on the Death of a Friend

Yesterday, Julie and I recieved news that a very close personal friend of ours, Matt Wigfield, was found dead in his apartment.

It so strange to hear about the death of a friend. Matt and I knew each other for almost 10 years, and spent a ton of time together. Those of you who know me best could probably recite by heart many of the stories that I shared with you regarding Matt, the One-eyed-wonder, and myself. Throughout High-School and College, Matt, One-Eye, and myself were frequently together doing something stupid. In fact, Tim Jordan's (Julie's brother) first run in with the law was at my house with Wigfield. I remember sitting next to Matt on the night he first professed Christ, and then praying with him, and discussing the Bible with him in the weeks after his profession. I loved Matt like a brother.

When I heard the news on my way to church Sunday morning, I was in total shock. You don't expect friends to die. But then again, you don't expect friends to struggle with addiction either. In High School, Matt had an on-again-off-again battle with addiction to Marijuana. But once Matt was in college, addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs began to take hold. Matt was in and out of jail, in and out of rehab, and in and out of discipleship repeatedly during that time. My father-in-law welcomed Matt into their home and loved him like a Son, and preached the Scripture to him daily -- but the addiction never let go. Over the last two years, Matt's spiritual status became more and more ambiguous . . . and fruit of conversion less and less obvious. On numerous occasions Tim and I confronted and prayed for Matt . . . his repeated struggles never changed our love for him.

As I worshipped Sunday morning, I was overwhelmed by a flurry of thoughts, as I still am: the helpless feeling of not knowing the spiritual condition of one of my closest High-School friends, the hope that Matt was in heaven, the desire to pray for grace, but knowing that it was too late for that now. I felt guilty for not praying more when he was alive, and I hated myself for not keeping in touch.

In the middle of all of my tears and confusion there was one thought that was crystal clear: "Thank You God, for the gospel! Thank You Lord for saving me!" The gospel is all that matters in times like these, because it is the only thing that offers hope. It offers hope because the gospel is about God's ability to satisfy what Matt could not. Matt's performance as a Christian was, at best, lackluster. But if Matt had faith, however weak, the gospel made him righteous! As Alexander Maclaren said, "If I trust to him, and am thereby holding firmly by him my union with Him is so real, that . . . His fulness passes over into my emptiness, His righteousness into my sinfulness, His life into my death." It is the power of the cross alone which can take an addict, and make him a saint, celebrated by God himself.

But perhaps more poignently for me this Sunday as I wept, was an extreme thanksgiving that God would save me . . . that God would open my eyes . . . that he would call me. I rejoiced in the gracious statement of Paul, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the worst," because it made sense to me. I wept as I thought of how arrogant and self-righteous I had been when Matt slipped into addiction. I thought I was so much different than Matt was, so much better; and then I remembered 1 Cor. 1:21-31: "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those whom God has called . . . Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Why is the gospel beautiful? Because through the gospel, God lays hold of those too weak to lay hold of him.

13 comments:

Laura said...

Thank you Tim for sharing your heart. I am thinking of you and Julie and praying for you guys and the family.

LMLogan said...

Amen!! Praying for you guys!! love you!!

Anonymous said...

We are praying for you guys. It's never easy to lose a friend or family member. We don't know what day will be our last and need to live as if today were our last day.

Kristin said...

Sorry Tim and Julie, I typed the previous post.

Kristin

journeyer said...

Our hearts are heavy with you, and our prayers have not ceased. May your sorrow be made smaller and your hope be made higher by the mercy of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the comfort of the Spirit.

jeileenbaylor said...

Thank you all for your love and prayers. They mean so much! We made it to PA late last night. The viewing and funeral will be today at noon. There are lots of unsaved friends, so if you could continue prayer in that way, we would greatly be blessed. We head back to PA this afternoon.Tim has class tom. morning and I have to work.
Thank you again for your love and prayers. We really appreciate you.

Da fadder said...

What comforting words Tim that God would use Matt's life to magnify Himself before us all. I was touched by your statement that "He (God) lays hold on those who cannot lay hold on him".

Like many I do not fear what I don't know but rather what I do know and fail to heed. I cling to His grace to do for me what I am unable by will or by works to do for myself.

Matt did make a profession of faith. His attitude always seemed willing to obey but his character seemed to lack the will-power to perform.

I will expect to see Matt in heaven someday simply because his problems were no suprise to God nor were they more agregeous(sp) than Gods love for man was able to overcome.

The scriptures state clearly that "If God be for us , who can be against us." Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again who is even at the right hand of God, WHO ALSO MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US."
"NOTHING can seperate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus." Ro. 8:31-39


I concur with you that if we learn anything from this tragedy it is how thankful we should be for the grace that set us free from SOME of the demons with which other men struggle.

Da fadder said...

What comforting words Tim that God would use Matt's life to magnify Himself before us all. I was touched by your statement that "He (God) lays hold on those who cannot lay hold on him".

Like many I do not fear what I don't know but rather what I do know and fail to heed. I cling to His grace to do for me what I am unable by will or by works to do for myself.

Matt did make a profession of faith. His attitude always seemed willing to obey but his character seemed to lack the will-power to perform.

I will expect to see Matt in heaven someday simply because his problems were no suprise to God nor were they more agregeous(sp) than Gods love for man was able to overcome.

The scriptures state clearly that "If God be for us , who can be against us." Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again who is even at the right hand of God, WHO ALSO MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US."
"NOTHING can seperate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus." Ro. 8:31-39


I concur with you that if we learn anything from this tragedy it is how thankful we should be for the grace that set us free from SOME of the demons with which other men struggle.

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