This is my friend Stephen. He is in costume as Super Guy, a character he became for the kids ministry at our church. Six years ago today Stephen died in a horrible car accident. He was 23. More than anyone I have ever known Stephen lived a life full of Jesus. He was always encouraging, always spurring us on to go harder after God.
I always think it interesting that Stephen died on November 1st. All Saint's Day. A day that historically has been set aside to remember the followers of Christ who have gone ahead of us. Those who have triumphed over this life and are enjoying being with Jesus in the next.
I often say these verses from Hebrews chapter 12 to myself. They come right at the beginning, after chapter 11 where we have been told again the stories of so many who followed after God, many of them despite never seeing a fulfillment of what he promised:
"Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"
I guess what I want to say, to myself more than anyone, is, "COME ON!" "Don't quit, don't grow weary while doing good. Go hard after God. Don't stop, keep pushing, it's going to be worth it." And if I listen hard enough I can hear Stephen saying the same thing.