Arthur Roderick Swaney IV (10-10-2014)
The world was a different place in 1993 when Arthur Roderick Swaney IV was sent into the world by the hand of God to make a difference in the lives of people. Whether we know it are not, the Scriptures tell us that all of us are put together in our mother’s womb by the knitting hands of God.
Arthure came into a world in which Bill Clinton was president of the United States. Terrorist bombed the world Trade Center. Israel and the PLO were signing a Peace Treaty. The officers who had beat Rodney King were found guilty. Microsoft was releasing Windows 3.1 NT. Beanie babies appeared on the scene for the first time. People were going to the movies to see Jurfasic Park and Schindler’s List. Whitney Houston was lighting up the world, with her hit song “I’ll always love you.”
If you remember all of those things I mentioned, then there’s a good chance that you’re getting pretty old and you probably have more days behind you than you have ahead of you as far as this life is concerned. There is a verse in the bible in the book of Psalms 90:12 that says, “teach us oh lord to number our days so that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” There is wisdom in thinking about what happens when you run out of days.
Have you ever realized that you have a set number of days. If you think of your life as a jar with marbles in it, representing each day of your life. As each day passes a marble is tossed out. Some of us know that over ½ our marbles are gone and some of us have only a few marbles left, but we think there are a lot more in their because of our youth or our good health.
But death is not a respecter of age, of health, of education, or of wealth. King David was a man who loved God and was known as a man after God’s own heart but he had one son die in the first few weeks of his life and had two of his sons murdered in their thirties. He grieved greatly over all three of them, but he remained steadfast for he found hope and strength in his God. That’s how he was able to write, “The Lord Is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want.”
We sometimes forget that there is a rythym to life. There are some things we can control and there are others that we cannot. But there are choices we can make that will make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of those who love us.
Arthur Roderick Swaney IV was a son, a brother, an uncle, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin and a friend. He was born, he lived, he died, he went home to a place prepared for him. We all go through that cycle of birth, life, and death because its automatic. Yet it takes a willful decision on our parts to go home to place prepared for us.
For those who remain on this side of death, the Bible tells us, there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. A time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to hope and a time to give up, a time for joy and a time for pain, a time to be born and a time to die. The one experience that is common to us all is death. It is as common and as natural as all the other things done under the sun.
The Scriptures tell us that there is a way that seems right to a person, but at the end of it is death. If we are all living in order that we might some day die, it should be of utmost importance that we live in such way that in the end our lives would not have been lived in vain. Whether or not we have lived in vain will not be determined by how the car we drive, the clothes we wear, or the neighborhood we lived in. We can dedicate our lives to becoming popular, rich, famous, powerful or beautiful, but for us all it ends at the grave. There is no carry over into the world that is waiting for us. Job put it this way, “Naked we come into this world, naked we go out.”
Let me tell you something about Jesus for a moment. A lot of people think that Jesus began on Christmas with Mary and Joseph. The reality is that Jesus existed before the world was created. He came into this world through Mary and Joseph to help us understand who God truly is. People didn’t like him because he taught we needed to have a change in our lives to be made right with God, and that only he could make that change. Jesus was killed, but as proof that his message was right, He rose again from the dead 3 days later to offer new life to anyone who wanted it. Now here is someone who created heaven, came down from heaven, went back to heaven who offers a deal about heaven. He says that He will go and prepare a place for us after we die if we put our faith and trust in Him.
Jesus not only offers heaven to us, Jesus also offers us a better way to live while we are on this earth. We may not know it, but we are all caught up in the middle of a spiritual battle that is taking place between God and Satan. Satan knows that he’s lost the war, but he’s trying to take as many prisoners with him to hell. That’s why Jesus says the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that you might have life. God is at work in your life trying to help you see you have a need for Him. He’s calling you, he has a plan for you, and he can change you, but you have to give him permission to enter your life.
God was at work in Arthur’s life. How do I know? I see the gifts that he placed within him. Arthur had tremendous potential. But if we are not careful, even though God gifts us with skills and abilities, poor choices can keep us from obtaining what God has for us.
Arthur was a gift from God for some of you. You loved him and he loved you. It’s obvious from his pictures that God blessed him with good looks. This was a handsome young black man. Now his father might try to take the credit for that, but God put the genes in the father to pass them on to the son. His mom would also say she had something to do with it as well. Who knows how many young girls had secret crushes on him.
Arthur was intelligent and very analytical. He could seem so confident of himself that at times it may have come off as arrogance. His cousin described him as outspoken and bright. If he had made a few different choices toward his education, he may well have become a great lawyer.
Even as a youth he was gifted as an athlete. Hundreds of thousands of kids play little league baseball. Only a very small percentage are good enough to be on teams that are good enough to make it to the Little League World Series Game in Williamsport. Arthur’s dad was so proud to be able to turn on ESPN and see his son playing baseball on TV. Who knows what his potential would have led to if he had sought to further his skills in baseball. We may have been watching him play with the Tampa Bay Rays a few weeks ago when they played the Indians. The choices we make today, have profound influences on our lives tomorrow.
It was obvious that Art was making some poor choices for his life. His father wanted to make a difference for his son to get him back on track. When he came to live with his father earlier this year, one of the good things that happened was Art chose to read his father’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.” God uses all kinds of circumstances to try to get our attention. That book tells us about the reality that God loves us all and has a plan for our lives that will give us meaning. It tells that all of us have done wrong and need God in our lives. It tells us that Jesus Christ has already paid for our sin, and that if we put our faith and our trust in him, we can have eternal life. It also lets us know that hell is a real place for those who choose to reject God’s plan of salvation for their lives.
I don’t know how much of that book Art took in. I don’t know if he rejected it all together, or if he was intrigued by the call of God on his life. It at least offers a glimmer of hope because he had the truth presented to him. The circumstances surrounding his death with him being killed in the midst of a robbery would cause many to assume he left this world without knowing God.
But the reality is we don’t know to whom he may have cried out to in his final moments of life. Jesus saved a thief who was dying on a cross who simply said, “remember me Lord when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus told him, “today you will be with me in paradise.” There was another thief on the other side of Jesus, who was dying who refused to accept Jesus as Lord, and Jesus did not try to convince him otherwise.
My friend we can be sure of whether we spend eternity in heaven or in hell. Don’t try to wait to the last minute, because you may not get a last minute. Be prepared to die so that your family and your friends know exactly where you are going to be spending eternity. If you are living for Christ now, not only are you going to be making wise choices for your life, you are going to reach more the of the potential God placed within you and you will have eternal life once you die.
Death is closer to all of us than we think it is. There are a lot fewer marbles left in our jar, than we might think. If you had to meet Death tonight and your life would be over before tomorrow morning, would you be happy with the life you have lived. Would you be ready to go with no regrets? Have you said your were sorry to those you hurt and granted forgiveness to those who hurt you? Would you be as certain as being in heaven tomorrow as you are of sitting in this room today. The good news is that it is still possible for you to be certain.
How many of us live as though death is a million years away from us? How many of us pay more attention to what our hair looks like than we do the condition of our souls which is what ultimately counts. Death is significant only because it marks the end of our opportunity to have an affect upon others for the sake of Jesus Christ. For as I said before, the Scriptures tell us that there is a time for everything under the the sun. A time to be born and a time to die. The mere fact of being born is a guarantee that we shall one day die. A lifetime in eternity hangs upon the balance of the choices we make during the brief interval that we call life.
Have you ever wondered how good do you have to be to go to heaven and meet God. The truth is, none of us could ever be good enough to go to heaven. It’s worthless to even try it. But going to heaven isn’t about how good or how bad we have been. It’s a matter of do we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Jesus has gone forth to prepare a place for each of us. But, we must make a choice. None of us know the day nor the hour when we shall leave this world. Christ has died on our behalf that we might have life. It’s as simple as confessing our sins, our yielding our lives to him. For in the end, the only decision that will matter is what did we do with Christ. For only what’s done for Christ is going to matter a thousand years from today.
The joy of dying in Christ is that goodbye is never goodbye. For the word of God clearly states, " Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men and women who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own words, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left at the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. Our God is faithful.