Waiting for the Fullness of Time
Editors’ Note: Gary penned this article a year ago, as his father was nearing the end of his life. Gary and his family were able to visit him multiple times over Christmas and in the New Year. He passed away in March. Many families will likely find themselves in a situation this Christmas similar to Gary’s last year, made all the more difficult because of the current coronavirus restrictions. We hope that Gary’s perspective will be encouraging to you as you seek how to be a faithful witness in what Gary calls “strained circumstances.”
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born
under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive
adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)
Jesus did come in the fullness of time... four millennia full. That’s a long time of waiting!
And today, we wait yet again for Him to come back just as the disciples saw Him ascend into heaven — in the clouds. And there, in the clouds, all flesh shall see Him return when He sets up His Kingdom. Ministry is born out of waiting for the promise!
As we wait, we tell of His promises, hoping to inspire the next generation until we depart ourselves. That’s the legacy of faith: using every last breath of this life to encourage those under our care. Peter did that. He said, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things,
though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long
as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Peter 1:12-15 ESV) That’s an apostolic legacy worthy of every aging saint.
The Apostle Paul had the very same passion. He said, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed
between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:22-26 ESV) How about you? Are you ready to expend your very last breath in visionary ministry for God? Such a visionary heart is the foundation to
effective ministry today.
And that ministry does not just extend to our children, it extends to our parents as well –
especially parents who may not yet know Jesus as their personal savior. (I say may not because you may never really know this side of heaven.)
My children and Sally and I are making a “pilgrimage” to visit my Dad over Christmas/New Year’s break.
My dad, Dick Cox, is in hospice care. He is 94 years old. He seems to be doing fairly well for someone who is confined to bed and requires 24/7 nursing care. He will soon be moving from his private villa at the retirement community where he has lived for the last 17 years to the facility’s nursing center. That is the longest he has lived in any dwelling his entire life. (He is the oldest surviving resident at the assisted living facility.)
My dad’s Catholic faith is deeply entrenched and he has never been able to acknowledge any other expression of the Christian faith as authentic. He sees other faiths as apostate, rebellious, in a word, non-Catholic. I attended a minor seminary (“entered the priesthood”) for three years, when I was 14–16 (it closed down before my senior year). Such religious devotion as a child set me apart with special favor and
expectations from my parents. Nothing would have pleased them more than to have a priest for a son.
So, understandably, my profession as a “Born- Again” believer as a college student caused disappointment and sorrow to my parents, to say nothing of their embarrassment that not only was I not a priest, I had abandoned their faith and become a “Baptist Preacher.”
How do you share your testimony and love for Jesus under these strained circumstances? Words aren’t welcome. Words are of no avail. I soon realized that I would need to live out my faith consistently before them… “No words added.”
My family has sought to do that for more than 47 years. The marvelous part of the testimony to my parents is the incredible amount of love that Sally and the children have showered on them. And during the last 19 years, especially to my dad. We have not always been well received. All of our children have reached out in multiple ways to their grandfather, sometimes only to be rebuffed in their efforts. Sometimes I get weary.
I am busy. It is easy for me to pass by crotchety old men whose facial expressions push me away without endearing them to me, and without me seeing the field, let alone a white harvest. I know I can’t save the world. I can’t save anybody! However, there are perches that beg me to sit quietly and muse thoughtfully and wonder and imagine: “Can God yet harvest my Dad?”
Forty-seven years of resisting love and faith in another because it is not like his; is there any
reasonableness to hope still, at this late hour? What can I do? Is it not only what we
have always done? Can I let the receiver’s faithless disposition spoil me of my own
faith? No, I cannot, I must not.
And so I ask, “What does being faithful to the end look like for me with my dad?” The same as we have always done: we can visit him as loving beacons of light because Christ is in us and shines His light through us; it is all we can do!
Let the light shine out in the darkness! Not because we can measure the worth of our efforts now, but because we can trust Him to use us in whatever way He will as He weaves his glorious tapestry of grace! (And we would appreciate your prayers for the Cox family as we go!)
Merry Christmas! Love, Gary