"I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men."
This was originally spoken by the English preacher Richard Baxter, who lived from 1615 to 1691. The thought came out of Baxter's perpetual struggle with internal bleeding, which informed his ministry to such an extent that he is remembered as one of the greatest preachers and pastors of the era.
Recently, I had an opportunity to present the Gospel to a group of about forty fellow midshipmen as I gave the talk at my school's Christian Fellowship Club. There were at least five people in the audience who were not regulars, and probably another ten or so regulars who were not believers. I spoke as God allowed, and with some emotion. I talked about the goodness and justice of a Holy God. I talked about repentance, redemption and forgiveness. I talked about having God as a father. I believe that most heard a bit of what I said, but I am not sure if any of the unsaved heard the heart of it.
Now, with my graduation approaching, I have just days left. My witness to my classmates will effectively die on June 21, 2010. Even now, I can think of one person in particular who I care about, who is abjectly miserable, and who has never heard the full Gospel from me. I wonder if I will have a chance to speak with him again.
God is sovereign, and His plans are beyond our understanding. But from our viewpoint, the lines of battle have been drawn. We are surrounded by miserable, hopeless, evil people who are doing everything they can to convince themselves that they are happy, content, and deserving. They hurt others, they hurt themselves, and they despise the idea of surrender to Christ. We cannot present a timid Gospel to them, because a timid Gospel has no power to challenge that kind of miserable self-reliance.
We will often not know which conversation or which opportunity to speak will be our last. Thus, I resolve this: to write as a dying man to dying men, to speak as a dying man to dying men, and to pray as a dying man for dying men. And I will be adding Baxter's The Saint's Everlasting Rest to my reading list.