To Live Hard and To Die Well.

Posted: May 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

I confess that I love to read Puritan writers.  I guess I’m just a rockin’, fun party kind of guy!

Normally when I read the Puritans it is purely for devotional purposes.  I rarely inflict my geekdom on my congregation or others.  However, there is a paragraph by one of my favorite Puritan writers, Richard Sibbes, that hung with me well after I closed the book.  He wrote,

If we desire to end our days in joy and comfort, let us lay the foundation of a comfortable death now betimes. To die well is not a thing of that light moment as some imagine: it is no easy matter. But to die well is a matter of every day. Let us daily do some good that may help us at the time of our death. Every day by repentance pull out the sting of some sin, that so when death comes, we may have nothing to do but to die. To die well is the action of the whole life.

Sibbes was not just waxing poetically.  Christians were once known as people who died well.  I remember reading that and wondering why that is no longer the case. 

n728310692_6165519_1131743Yet, last week, Kenny Hempill,  a 25-year old Portsmouth, Ohio native went to be with Jesus and, by all, accounts, Kenny died well.

For those of you who didn’t know him, Kenny was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001.  He fought hard into remission.  He went on to graduate from Ohio State with honors in the pre-med program.  He was engaged to be married and planned to return to Portsmouth and serve as an instrument of redemption in its troubled, drug addled streets.

But sometime last year Kenny fell out of remission and his struggle began again.

During his illness, Kenny constantly reached to others in the name of Jesus. His father told me that even discipled an employee at the hospital while fighting for his life. 

I have known Kenny and his family for more than 15 years and reached out to him one night while he was in the hospital via Facebook.  I wanted to know how he was doing but he had no interest in talking about himself, he only wanted to talk about one of his friends who had attended the church I helped plant in downtown Portsmouth.

Kenny is obviously a man that, during his life here, “labored to be brought closer to God”, so that when he faced the final enemy he did so with courage and confidence.  He followed after Jesus hard in order that he could die well.

Leith Anderson tells the story of a pastor who announced to his congregation that he had recently been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. He told the Church, “I thought that I had been brought here to teach you how to love but, in fact, God sent me here to teach you how to die.”  For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Kenny Hempill has taught us in a few short years how to live and how to die.

Thanks for the invaluable lesson, Kenny. I’ll see ya’ when I get there, pal.


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