I am old. I am not afraid to die

Bob Thomas is editor of New Life, an evangelical newspaper in Melbourne. He is a former Moderator-General (national leader) of the Presbyterian Church of Australia

It’s not usual for an editor to intrude too much into the content of his publication, but there is so much anxiety, fear and dread [about] at the moment, especially the fear of dying, that I feel I must give a word of testimony which I hope might bring some comfort and allay some fear in the community out there.

“Happy day that fixed my choice on Christ, my Saviour and my God.”

I’m not afraid to die because I have repented of my sin and am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and according to the infallible Word of God, I know that “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

I say this as someone who’s in a precarious situation as the coronavirus closes in, being 75 years old, having type two diabetes, being obese, having high blood pressure (thankfully controlled by medication), having arrhythmia, the Leyden factor in my blood, but controlled with warfarin– and probably a few other things as well.

And I could say this ever since the last day of the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade, when I was 15 years old. That was the “Happy day that fixed my choice on Christ, my Saviour and my God.”

I’d been brought up in middle class respectability in the western suburbs of Newcastle, NSW, been sent by my parents to Jesmond Baptist Sunday School where I learnt a memory verse every week, sang CSSM choruses and Sankey’s hymns. My grandmother took me to Brown St Congregational Church on Sunday evenings. I went with my mates to the Methodist Scripture at school, and when my mother told me I was a Presbyterian, I started attending St Andrew’s, Wallsend.

Even then, you see, the Lord was setting me up to become editor of New Life. Perhaps our Sunday School superintendent had some prophetic power too, as at one of the dreaded Sunday School Anniversaries he made me sing a solo:

“Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! It’s the Good Newsboy and he’s coming down the street.
Listen well and you’ll hear him tell
of a story wondrous sweet.

Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! It’s the Good Newsboy
and he never wears a frown;
telling all of Jesus, he’s the happiest boy in town!”

It seemed as though he was speaking directly to me

Spiritually though, I was like a car with the engine running but standing stock still in neutral.

Then Billy Graham came to Australia and held the ‘59 Crusade which was such a wonderful blessing to so many of us. I went to every meeting in turmoil of soul.

It seemed as though he was speaking directly to me, only to me, pointing to me, putting his finger on my sin and telling me that there was one, and only one, remedy for sin: “You must repent of your sin; you must put your faith in Christ as your Saviour and Lord; you must trust in His blood shed on Calvary’s Cross to atone for your sin! The Bible says: ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life!’ Come now. Say ‘God I am a sinner. I don’t deserve your mercy. But you’ve shown your mercy in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I put my faith and my trust in Him.’ The buses will wait…” And the rest is history.

From that day on I have known that “I am His and He is mine, forever and forever.” I’ve been through “many dangers, toils and snares” since then, but He’s been “with me, with me all the way.”

Well, in God’s mercy, my life’s been comparatively long

More than 20 years ago now, I was laid low with pulmonary thrombosis and spent a night near Heaven’s Gate. It was a sleepless night – people coming in and out giving me injections, taking blood pressure, pulse, etc, etc, etc.

But the Lord gave me an incredible peace that night, truly “the peace of God which passeth all understanding”, and he brought to my mind this lovely old hymn of Richard Baxter, which I sang (not out loud) over and over:

Lord it belongs not to my care whether I die or live,
to love and serve thee is my share, and this thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad
that I may long obey;
if life be short, shall I be sad
to rise to endless day?”

Well, in God’s mercy, my life’s been comparatively long and I’ve been privileged to serve Him in undreamt-of ways. I’m glad to be able to sing: “My times are in thy hand; my God, I wish them there; my life, my friends, my soul I leave entirely to thy care.”

Dear Fellow Christians, can you share a testimony to encourage unbelievers to believe and believers to persevere? “Speak just a word for Jesus, tell how he died for you; often repeat the story, wonderful, glad, and true!”