An Eternal Perspective
By Vu Nguyen
We all sat silently in the hospital room, listening to each breath that he took while assisted by a ventilator. The beeping of the machines were the only other sounds that accompanied those breaths. Here was Chris, my 35-year-old brother-in-law, taking his last breaths after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer less than one year prior. My older sister, Thanhthuy, and Chris were high school sweethearts who had dated since my sister was a sophomore. My sister married her dream husband.
Seeing my sister care for her husband over those several months as he declined was almost unbearable. It definitely made me think more about the temporal nature of this life.
As far as I knew, Chris was not a believer at the time, and the Lord compelled me on the night before his passing three years ago, to share the gospel with him, as he lay in his hospital bed mostly motionless. With other family members in the room, I shared with Chris that we are all sinners before God and in desperate need of a Savior. Our sin has separated us from God because He is a perfect and Holy God. I shared that we need to believe that Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life and paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. He defeated sin and rose victorious. We are called to repent of our sins and turn to God. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ as our Savior. A simple message that he had likely heard before or at least in parts. His mother thanked me afterward and told me that Chris and the family used to attend a Christian church when they were younger, but she was unsure where his faith was.
I don’t know how much my brother-in-law understood or believed at that moment, but I still have hope to this day that if it was in God’s plan, He could have saved Chris then. I know that only God saves, but I didn’t want to live the rest of my life, knowing that I could have done more to share this saving message to him. Sadly, because of my own selfishness, it was mostly “awkward” and “inconvenient” for me to share the gospel with him during our family gatherings. My brother, Tri, and I are the only believers that we know of in our entire extended family. God used Tri to share the gospel with me as a young third or fourth grader and later as a high schooler, and through Tri and a couple of close Christian friends, God saved me, and I gave my life to Christ right before starting my freshman year of college. God has led us to share the gospel with a number of our family members multiple times. We have prayed countless times for their salvation, and God continues to call us to pray for them.
Sharing the gospel does not come without a cost. The cost is great for many around the world in areas where governments are hostile towards Christians. Sometimes the cost is torture and death. Here in the U.S. and Corona, the cost may be our pride, reputation, ability to get promoted at work, friendships, and relationships. It’s so easy for me, driven by my emotions, to wait for “the right feeling” to motivate me to share this message.
We are called by God to proclaim His name to the ends of the earth. What about to the most remote tribes in the Amazon or those in the war-torn Middle East? I think about the “man on the island” scenario. How does a man on a remote island ever get a chance to hear the gospel? Is it fair if no one ever visits that island to share that message with him? We know that God has the ability to bring the gospel to that man if it is in His plan. Do we believe in our minds and hearts that this man would be saved by any other way than by the only way we are saved, as stated by God in Scripture? I am reminded of what I heard a pastor once say about this. If we believe that those who never hear the gospel are saved by default because it would make it “unfair” for them to be punished for not hearing, then hearing the gospel would be the worst thing for someone. If we believe this scenario, we believe the false notion that people are saved before they hear the gospel. However, a person is accountable to God whether he or she hears the gospel or not. The gospel does not condemn us at the moment that we hear the message. We are dead in our trespasses and are sinners from birth. None of us deserve salvation. Thankfully, God saves sinners.
How many of us know family members, neighbors, friends, or coworkers who aren’t believers? I’m not so much trying to lay a guilt trip on you; it’s more of an encouragement to remember that God has placed us in our situations at home, work, school, in our neighborhoods to be used by Him to proclaim this message. He has chosen to use this method of spreading His gospel by using us. I need to not think for a second that God needs me to do His work. Instead, He blesses us with the opportunity to be used by Him to carry out His work and to share the saving message of the gospel … and in return, we are infinitely blessed.
The Northpoint family has experienced unimaginable loss this year and has also seen amazing ways that God has used tragedy for His good and His eternal purposes by convicting and pointing many hearts toward Him. God desires that we redirect our affections toward Him and realize that our days in this life are numbered, but our days with our loving Savior and our Church Family will be infinite.
I have struggled in my spiritual walk during this period of COVID-19, and I know that I am not alone in this. Many have been staying home through much of this and are struggling with loneliness, depression, and confusion. This is a reminder to call them up or to pay them a visit and to pray for them.
God’s Word provides us with the anchor that we need to hold onto when everything around us appears to be sinking.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8
I am reminded that I am not alone in my struggles. We have a Savior who understands every struggle that we could ever go through.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
I need to remember that the world is offended by the message of the cross, and I should not be surprised by others’ antagonistic responses to it.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
The message that saves believers also condemns those who do not believe and who do not follow the One that the message points to. I cannot pretend that I am the best model for living this out as I know that a vast majority of my day-to-day life falls far short of the calling to live my life for Christ to the fullest. Just ask my wife. Too often, I am not living my “highest and best” life for God … but God calls me to do so each day and to have an eternal perspective no matter how I feel.
When I think of standing before God after I die and seeing my Savior face to face, everything else falls into its place.