Locked Down No Longer

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It’s Tuesday as I write—the 33rd day of lockdown. There are two more days until we can enjoy a bit more freedom, hoping for increasing freedom in the weeks ahead. But one of our church members is more free than we can imagine. Our brother—my friend—Jason van den Heuvel—died this morning (yesterday morning, as you read this). He is now forever free from sin, free from sickness, and free from sorrow. Jason is in the presence of our Saviour.

I was 29 years old when I met Jason. A few weeks ago Jason, with a wry smile, reminded me of that occasion.

On a Wednesday evening in May 1990, Jill and I along with our two young daughters visited BBC for their weekly Bible study. At the end of the evening the pastor said, “Doug, will you please close in prayer?”

“Strange,” I thought. After all we had just met that night. Nevertheless I began to rise to pray when I noticed a man in his mid-forties also rise. His name was also Doug—Doug Steytler. I quickly sat down, as my wife muffled a laugh. That night I met Jason and Marlene, Doug and Lorraine Steytler, Les and Coleen Dickerson, Peter and Glynnis Cable, and several others. How strange that, in a couple of years, I would begin my ministry at BBC, also on a Wednesday night, with these same saints. How sobering to think that many of those saints have died. And how grateful to know that they are with the Lord!

I don’t know the specifics of a believer’s existence after they die. But I do know the most important thing: They are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Jason, Doug, Lorraine, Les, Glynnis, and so many more. I’ve lost count of the funerals I’ve preached/and or attended, and ours is not a large church. But death is a reality upon which each of us needs to reckon. And there is no time like the present.

Some 150,000 people around the globe die each day. That’s apart from COVID-19. Are you ready to die? Are you ready to meet the Lord? Jason was.

On 12 March, a mere seven weeks ago, I visited Jason and he told me that he didn’t think he had long to live. As we talked about his imminent death, he said that, since he knew Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, he was prepared to die. We talked about his beloved Marlene and how he would be reunited, and then he said, “I have a hope that is shared, that is solid.” I said, “Amen.”

When I got back to my study, I recorded his words and saved them in a file; I didn’t want to forget them. I began to sketch some thoughts about his eventual funeral service. I wanted to be able to give hope to those who would attend, and to challenge those who need the gospel hope to prepare them for when theydie. Due to the lockdown, a funeral won’t take place. The man who planted our church won’t be buried from it. But I seriously doubt he cares. You see, having been locked down in a frail and failing body, he is today more free than he has ever been. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Jason had this solid hope. He shared it with so many of us. Will you share it with him as well? There is no time like today, like Jason, to trust in Jesus. As the songwriter invites, “Only trust him, only trust him, only trust him, now. He will save you, he will save you, he will save you now.”

Doug