My Bible reading this morning (April 28) was the account of the death and raising of Lazarus from John 11: 1-44. What has always struck me about this passage is that Jesus purposely delayed going to see His sick friend so that Lazarus would die. Jesus allowed His friend to die. The passage makes it clear that Jesus loved Lazarus and His sisters (John 11:5). Permitting Lazarus to die was not a failure of His love. And it obviously was not a failure of His power as Jesus would return Lazarus to earthly life after he had been dead for four days. Jesus deliberately allowed His friend to die but He had His reasons. He did it so that God may be glorified (v. 4) and so that His disciples would believe that He truly was the Son of God. (v. 14-15).
I needed this passage this morning (one of many divinely timed readings that I have experienced through life) because Jesus let my friend Alvin, die. Sharon, Alvin’s wife, messaged me on Friday 23 April to inform me that Alvin had suffered a major heart attack (on Wednesday, 21 April), to ask for prayer. Ronnie, an elder from Alvin’s church messaged me on 27 April morning to let me know that Alvin had passed on at 7.15 am that morning. I had already got the news from an entry on Facebook. I was struck by deep grief. Alvin was 41.
I remember Alvin for many things. But most of all I remember him for his kindness. He first entered my life at a very dark chapter of my life. I was recovering from depression, trying to raise two boys on my own, and launching a new ministry. Alvin was my web designer, hosted my web site, and set up the mailing list programme that I use to this day, the one used to send this e-commentary. He tolerated my many panic calls when there was something wrong with my web site or with the mailing list. He gave me free office space in his office. He and his church elders allowed me to minister in their church at a time when few churches accepted me. He was my friend.
We have kept in touch through the years. When the Lord led me to live in Singapore, we didn’t get to meet that often. But we would meet up at least once a year, when I saw him to drop off my payment for the previous year’s web service. We would have lunch, talk about stuff ranging from comic books, to the joys of motorcycle riding, to nice places to eat — the usual things that boys of all ages talk about. We also spent a lot of time talking about what it meant to follow Jesus, and about ministry.
Alvin talked a lot about ministry the last few times we met. He felt the Lord moving him out of the web business to the business of shepherding His flock. Alvin began to study part time at a seminary. Last year the church ordained him, recognising God’s call to him to be a pastor. It was one of the highlights of my life and ministry to be invited to be part of that ordination service.
Recently, he had merged his company with another. I was told that he did this to free himself to pastor full time. He had a sign from the Lord that it was time. Did I mention that He had this radical faith in God that led him to obey Him whatever the cost? I am not sure what was the sign that he received but apparently Alvin got one thing wrong. Yes, Alvin had been called to serve the Lord full time in church, but not on earth. He was called to serve God with perfect service in heaven.
I didn’t want Alvin to die. He and Sharon had five children. He and Sharon had a very special marriage. He was on the verge of an exciting new phase of his life. Besides, who will I go to with my web problems now? No, I didn’t want Alvin to die. So I prayed for His healing. And so did many people.
But as in the case of Lazarus, Jesus let Alvin die. I know it was not because Jesus didn’t love Alvin or that he didn’t have the power to heal him. I know Jesus has His reasons just as He did when He allowed Lazarus to die, although I am not sure what they are at this time. I have absolutely no doubts that Alvin is with Jesus now, and that he will be there in that final glorious resurrection. We will continue our conversations then. I just wish I didn’t miss him so much.