Yesterday, we lost a dear friend in Thomas “Tom” Keese. Tom came to Athens, Alabama, in the mid-1980’s. He attended Calhoun Community College on the “Lynn Headrick Scholarship” and worshiped with us at Jackson Drive. Along with other college-aged men like Tim Sutton, Phillip Owens, Brent Siota, Lane Alexander, Eugene Rigsby, & many others, Tom Keese was part of the extended Headrick family. Although he was several years older, Tom took time with my brother and I. As a seven year old, the best I could do to show Tom how much he meant to me was to name my cat after him. About the time he was in Athens, Tom was having some physical difficulty. It wasn’t much longer before he would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). As a tribute to him, I want to share his own words with you today. In his message, you’ll see what brought him comfort as he faced the challenges of MS. Tom is no longer suffering and that is a comfort. One of the last things Tom said to me when we visited with him back in December was “Fight for me!” Tom’s Christian legacy lives on. My deepest condolences to his family.
Although it was more than 30 years ago, I still remember distinctly our Driver’s Ed teacher’s instructions about how to conquer our fear (among inexperienced drivers) of a bridge near Comfort, TX. Although there are few of them around anymore, this bridge was half a mile long and had two very narrow lanes framed by steel girders. His advice to us was to focus on the caution light on the other side of the bridge. It made no sense to us at the time, but when I actually took his advice, it worked. The principle, looking past our current circumstances to what the future holds also works.
Now I want to deal with my present circumstances. I have been dealing with excruciating pain a result of having MS for the last 28 years and the resulting immobility. In the midst of that pain there have been very few things that will bring me comfort for my mind to dwell on. When you find yourself in the midst of this type of adversity, my advice to you is to focus on the other side of the bridge, look through the fire. One of the things I consider is to look forward to the period of time after the pain medication has taken effect. I will recite to myself Paul’s words from Romans 8:18, “the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Another passage which brings me comfort is 1 Peter 1:6, 7:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
The trial of our faith, i.e. adversity, is many times painful. We should view it as burning away those impurities in our lives that will only hinder us from reaching our goal. Those impurities in the gold must be burned away. One way to look at this, when I endure this pain, is that it helps me like no other experience to see more clearly the things in my life that do not matter.
Preparing for Trial
I have encountered and continue to encounter brothers and sisters in Christ who deal with adversities far greater than mine. I recently heard it said that physical pain is easier to endure than emotional pain. I firmly believe that’s true. You may be dealing with the death of a loved one or the unfaithfulness of children who have turned their back on the Lord. The best time to prepare for adversity is before it occurs. If you have not dealt with severe trials like this it’s only a matter of time.
The best way to receive comfort from God’s word is to have it stored up in your heart. Just listening to the Scriptures being read or to sermons has brought me great comfort during my darkest hours.
Develop a Habitual Life of Prayer
It should be of great comfort to us that God has encouraged us to bring our problems before his throne. Philippians 4:6, 7 with many other passages urge us to pray about those things that are causing us worry. To me it is so humbling to realize our God who has created universes and solved problems so much more complex than what we are dealing with wants us to bring our problems to Him.
In Daniel chapter 3, Daniel’s three friends had every confidence that God, if he so chose, could deliver them from their fiery trial (Daniel 3:6-30). Yet, they also realized that He might not choose to deliver them. Facing the prospect of a very painful death, they saw through the fire. Likewise, we also must look past our trials of this earth which are so minuscule in comparison to our reward in heaven