Each year Time Magazine honors its Man or Woman of the Year. The magazine states that the criteria for selection are “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse.” This year’s selections were Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft fame and wealth along with rock star Bono. They were honored for their financial and political contributions to world poverty. I don’t have an issue with Time’s selections. I admire Bill and Melinda for giving significantly and Bono for his passionate campaign.
But if Time magazine came to me and asked for my Man and Woman of the year it would be much different. I would nominate four people that you likely have never heard about. These are the people that affected my life for better because of their unquenchable faith. I would first nominate Bob and Susan. Susan was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. The chemotherapy caused a reaction that damaged Susan’s neurological responses. Her balance, coordination, and speech were all profoundly affected. Yet everytime we visit she ends up encouraging me with her smile, spirit, and strength. Bob has cared for Susan with a dedication and love that embarrasses me. Bob went for months sleeping only minutes at a time and yet he served and loved his wife without complaint. He had pledged to love her through better or worse and, unlike so many of us, he stuck to the pledge. I had always wondered exactly what Paul meant in Ephesians when he wrote that husbands are to love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I left Bob and Susan’s house after one memorable visit with that Scripture verse reverberating through my thick noggin. I had just seen the working model of how a husband can love his wife like Christ loved the church. Recently Susan personally dictated a Christmas letter that put the whole thing in perspective for me. For this family who has been through so much to be grateful for God’s blessings is an amazing demonstration of faith that is real. Faith that works even when the sky is dark.
My other nomination for Man and Woman of the Year would be Mike and Trisha. I am writing this one day after Trisha lost the battle with her earthly body. I would nominate Mike and Trisha because they demonstrated in the laboratory of life what it looks like to stare adversity in the face and not blink. When Trisha received the diagnosis of cancer just a few weeks ago she went through the normal reactions. But it did not take long for her special relationship with the Lord to surface. I have watched Mike and Trisha face the unthinkable and trust God in their darkest hour. NBA star Alonzo Mourning once noted that “adversity introduces a man to himself.” Adversity introduced Mike and Trisha not only to themselves but to a test of the very faith that they held dear. They never wavered.
I can talk about apologetics. I can argue the validity of the ancient records. I can present the evidence for Jesus in historical documents. But nothing demonstrates the amazing grace and presence of a living God more than watching how men and women who love the Lord deal with such adversity. On New Year’s Day I looked into the eyes of a husband who knew his wife might be dying and I saw the supernatural presence of Christ. In just a few short weeks he had been transformed from distress to a complete and inexplicable peace. I still love the King James rendering of that phenomenon in the fourth chapter of Philippians.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I saw in Mike a peace that I don’t believe is possible apart from the presence of God. And this clearly was not denial because both Mike and Trish knew exactly what the path before them held. For my friend Trisha yesterday was the day that she got to quote the words from 2 Timothy as her body failed…
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me…
There are many stories of people who live a life that truly reflects the power of God living within them. You just don’t hear about them often enough. Pray for Bob and Susan as they trust God in every moment. And pray for Mike as he begins to deal with life without the daily presence of his beloved bride. And don’t forget to rejoice for Trisha because yesterday she got to hear these words from the Lord Jesus…
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
In my mind the real men and women of the year are people like Bob and Susan and Mike and Trisha. They don’t make the news and they won’t be on the cover of Time. But in the midst of disappointing actions by too many Christians they are a beacon that shows that my faith is not only real…it works at the most difficult times. How can you endure such a trial? Paul begged for a trial to be taken away and received this response.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It cannot be explained how the Holy Spirit comforts and sustains you in those trials. Joni and I have experienced it through the death of our daughter. I have recently seen it in the lives of my friends. I am grateful that I have had the privilege of sharing my life with these special followers of Christ. I hope that I will pass the future tests and trials of life like the example they have set for me.
And the amazing thing about a risen Christ is that I can say the following statement with confidence….
“I will see you later, my dear friend Trisha.”