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Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord
By MUN KWOK ON
All the passages below are taken from the book, “We speak of God,” published by the Barker Road Methodist Church in 2001.
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on ... they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them. (Revelation 14:13 NIV)
I have had many wonderful experiences in my prayer life. God, by His grace, occasionally chooses to answer my prayers in line with my desires; these are naturally greeted with much joy and celebration to the glory of God. But there were many times when my prayers were not answered in the way I had hoped.
Let me share two such incidents and the precious truths that I learnt from them, and take this opportunity to give thanks to God.
I believe in the power of prayer and hold fast to the promise that "Nothing is impossible with God". It is with this hope that I pleaded with the Lord to heal my brother Kwok Heng and my mother of a terminal disease. Both of them eventually died of liver cancer after a brief battle with the disease. What precious truths did I learn from the Lord as I wrestled in prayer and exercised faith for a miracle to happen?
In 1981, my mother had to undergo an emergency operation. It was discovered that her liver had ruptured due to an undetected cancerous growth. She was given no more than four months to live.
The family was shocked and devastated by the news. I was the only Christian in my family and I remember kneeling beside her in the Intensive Care Unit, crying out to the Lord for mercy and grace. I wanted God to heal my mother.
During the last few months of my mother's life, I shared the Gospel with her. She believed in the Gospel but seemingly could not reconcile the truth of the Gospel with her traditional upbringing in ancestral worship. Probably out of fear of incurring the wrath of "other gods", she found it difficult to accept the reality of the Gospel in her life.
So was my mother saved? I do not know. I can only leave her into the hands of God. However, I do know that God used my mother's death as a catalyst for a great spiritual awakening. In the years following my mother's death, I saw God's mighty work of redemption among my family members and our relatives.
In 1982, my brother Kwok Heng became seriously ill. As he walked through the valley of darkness, he came face to face with the Lord and eventually devoted his life to full-time Christian service. Kwok Heng became very concerned that all the other members of our family should also come to know the Lord. He spent a lot of time encouraging our sisters to seek the Lord. My father began to search for meaning in his life and, after some encouragement, started to attend Sunday School classes and services at a Methodist church.
Eventually, my father and three sisters came to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and were baptised. Kwok Heng also witnessed to an aunt and she accepted Christ as her Saviour and Lord before she passed away. One uncle and two other aunts also accepted Christ.
I had prayed that God would heal my mother and God answered my prayer but not in the way I had expected. God showed me that, in this instance, the healing of the physical body was not His ultimate goal; His priority was the eternal healing of souls.
In January 2000, Kwok Heng discovered that he had an advanced stage of liver cancer. The church community and many of Kwok Heng's fellow missionaries prayed with us. Again, we prayed that God would miraculously heal Kwok Heng. Once again, God had a different plan.
As Kwok Heng's body wasted away, I knew that it was not the physical pain and suffering that disturbed his peace. He was not afraid to die. He knew that he would be with his Heavenly Father in heaven. However, Kwok Heng could not understand why he had to die so soon. He enjoyed his work and was well received among the people he worked with in the mission field. There was so much more to be done, so why was God calling him home so soon? Doubts assailed him. Perhaps God was not pleased with his work? Hadn't God seen his commitment, his dedication? Would God not accept his efforts, his sacrifices? Did he labour in vain?
I had no answer for him; I would probably have asked the same questions had I been in his position. I could only assure him that God loved him and asked for God's grace to see him through. I could only continue to pray.
On 18 February 2000, Kwok Heng's pastor came to visit and he prayed with us. By then, Kwok Heng was constantly drifting in and out of consciousness. However, to our surprise, after the pastor left, Kwok Heng suddenly became wide awake; he asked for a microphone. In his failing voice, he started singing "Jesus Loves Me This I Know". We sang with him and as we sang, tears of joy began to flow freely, we knew Kwok Heng had won his final battle.
Kwok Heng was certain of God's love for him. He had fought the good fight and kept the faith. He was ready to be with his Father in Heaven. He was called home on 20 February 2000. His whole family was by his side. I read Psalm 23 and we released him to the Lord.
At the wake, the Lord gave a word. God knew our pain and grief. The comforting and assuring word came from Revelation 13:14: "... Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on ... they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them."
Kwok Heng and my mother, though dead, are resting from their labour. Their suffering had been permitted by God in His Sovereign will, to bring about His redemptive grace to work in my family. The Lord will reveal in His time the deeds of Kwok Heng, perhaps his work in China. Kwok Heng and we are convinced of God's invincible love no matter what we are going through in times of trial and tribulation. He will be merciful and give us grace to go through these times.
Why did God not heal Kwok Heng physically? I do not know. However, I have learned that it is more important to trust than to understand. God has also shown me that there are things that He chooses not to reveal to us. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). We must not pry into the "secrets" of God and we must not let our concern over the "secret things" prevent us from believing and obeying the things which are revealed.
God always hears us when we pray and He always answers us according to His will. We may not always understand or like His answers but we can always find rest in the knowledge that God's will is forever good and perfect. [77-81]
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrew 4:16 NIV)
Kwok On is a lecturer and serves as a Lay Leader of BRMC. He and his wife Chin Fong worship at the 10.30am service. They have three children.
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