Featured Article from Living Water Magazine

JESUS CALLED AND HE WAS READY

“For I know whom I have believed” 2 Timothy 1:12
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and to the ages to come”. Hebrews 13:8

Last Friday the Queen visited Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to perform an opening ceremony and she was welcomed by many people who knew that she was coming. Earlier that day, indeed, very early, another royal visitor called at that hospital. There was no crowd there to welcome Him. He was there for one purpose: to call one of His subjects home to be with Himself. That Royal Visitor was the One whom the Bible describes as the King of kings and Lord of lords – the Lord Jesus Christ. And Willie was ready for the King’s call. Indeed, he was waiting for it. There was no struggle. Jesus called and he left this scene for ever and entered into the presence of his Saviour.

A little while before he passed away the words of one of his favourite verses were whispered into his ear:-

Face to face with Christ, my Saviour,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Some of us have often heard him quoting those lines enthusiastically as he preached the gospel message. It appeared that he distinctly heard the words that were whispered to him and within moments he was “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

When did Willie come to know this Person and how did he come to know Him?  It was when he was eleven years old, following the tragic death of one of his sisters, that along with his two older brothers, he came to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour. Through the years his love for the Lord Jesus grew and increased. The rock, the foundation in his life, was Christ.  It could be truly said of him, “I know whom I have believed”.

Many different circumstances crossed his pathway during his ninety-two years, but his faith in the Lord Jesus never diminished. How wonderful in the midst of these times, which are full of doubt and uncertainty, to know the unchanging Christ and to know and prove the abiding character of His love. That was the brother who has gone from us.

When loved ones are taken the sorrow of parting is most keenly felt by those who are closest to them. What words of comfort can we provide today?  Willie and Agnes had over twenty-five years of happy married life together. Now death has broken that bond and that is a sore break. What can we do to provide comfort? We can call on the divine promise, “I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). The One who said that never breaks His promise.

Willie loved his family. And that love was reciprocated. To them their father was the rock that they could go to at all times. He would be sure to welcome them and give them of his wise advice. He had only one desire for them: that in all things they would be prospering. And that was extended to his grandchildren as they came along and latterly to his great-grandchildren.  But the greatest desire that he had for his own family and for all who came in touch with him was that they would come to personal faith in Christ; that they would come to the personal experience of knowing the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. That was his prayer, that each of them would be able to stand on this rock and say, “I know whom I have believed”.

What is it that the Christian believes, anyway? I just set it out, very simply and briefly; and would add that this is what Willie thought as well, and also every true believer on Christ. The Christian believes:

•    that he is a sinner in God’s  sight but that God sent Jesus to be a Saviour, to meet the judgment of those sins. As he looks to the cross of Calvary he discovers that Jesus suffered and died at Calvary’s cross and bore the judgment that was due to our sins. 
•    That as trusting in Jesus in His work at Calvary and in His shed blood, the believer is set entirely free from his sins and counted absolutely righteous before God.
•    That the Lord Jesus in breaking the power of death, rising from the grave and living in heaven, gives the believer an outlook beyond this scene altogether. And lastly
•    That the Lord Jesus who lives in heaven is coming again to take all who have trusted Him to be with Him for ever.

But you say, ‘Willie is dead! What is the meaning of this?’ At the Saviour’s coming His voice will penetrate the grave and every person who has died trusting in the Saviour and His finished work will respond to the voice of Christ and will rise from the grave and together with those alive at that time who have faith in Him will be caught up, given glorious bodies, and be for ever with their Saviour and Lord.

These are the cardinal points of the Christian gospel and Willie’s faith was centred on them. He did not believe in a religious fantasy, he believed in a Person. “I know whom I have believed”. Not only did he believe in Him but he loved to speak of Him and to preach about his Saviour. And what he preached about his Saviour he preached with energy and he preached from the heart.

Those of us who meet in this hall will miss his gathering with us; his contributions were so valuable. Just five days before the Lord took him, though he was very weak, he was here in this hall remembering his Lord and Saviour. He did not like to miss the Lord’s Supper. What an example to us all.

Willie had quite an exceptional business career. Coming from Portknockie in his teenage years, serving initially as an apprentice in Henderson’s the engineers, and through diligence, hard work, study and no little skill he eventually reached the top position in that company, whilst maintaining the high standards that he cherished.

Along the way he had several family sorrows: I make no excuse for mentioning them today. In 1941 he lost his father and a brother at sea, right at the mouth of Portknockie Harbour. The following year he lost his brother in a road accident in the city here; some years later his sister, Rita, died suddenly in Burghead. In 1988 his first wife, Netta, John and Elizabeth’s mother, was taken from him after a brief illness. And only last year his last remaining sister, Vi, was taken as well.  You might think that such a catalogue of distress would begin to challenge one’s faith or even to cause someone to blame God, but it was not so. He accepted it all as in the ways of God. His faith remained firm in his Saviour God.

Many call this type of occasion a celebration of a life. Well, maybe it is, but it is much more than that. Today we are confronted with death. For Willie death had no sting because he knew the One who held the keys of death in His hand (see Revelation 1:18). And so for those of us gathered here today, death confronts us all. One day, in the normal course of things, that will be our portion. The Bible says, “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). That is what faces us; death is no respecter of persons. It comes knocking at the door of the young; it comes knocking at the door of the old. How wonderful that our brother was ready when it came knocking at his door.

How would it be with you if death came to your door? Do you have a hope beyond death? Do you know the One who has been into death and has come out of it? He is available as Saviour for everyone who puts their faith in Him. Do not let this occasion, reminding us of  the solemnity of death and, in one sense, the finality of what it means – do not let it pass without  your acknowledging the need of having  personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ - One who has been into death and has come out of it triumphantly. Scripture speaks of, “our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has annulled death, and brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings” (2 Timothy 1:10).

Our brother Willie knew that Saviour and he loved to speak of Him. Now he is at rest. In the last few weeks, as he entered the valley of the shadow of death, he did not enter it alone. I quote from Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd...Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me”, (vv 1 & 4).  Thou art with me! The Shepherd walked through that valley with him, and now he is in the presence of the One whom he loved. I quote these words again:-

Face to face with Christ, my Saviour,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

I commend these few simple words to those in sorrow today, as we all are, that from them they may have the comfort and sure knowledge that the one they loved is safely home in the presence of Christ.

May God add His blessing to the word. Amen.


Alex Mowat
Word given at the burial of Willie Slater, Aberdeen, 6th October 2017
Extracted from LW146