Voices from the Grave

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“Though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). This is how God described the ongoing effects of Abel’s life of faith. Abel offered a sacrifice to God that testified of his faith. His offering, recorded in Genesis 4:4, was “of the firstlings of his flock,” and “the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering.”

God affirmed that Abel was a righteous man because he believed and showed evidence of his faith. God also testified that the results of his faith was speaking still.

This shows that a life of faith makes an impact far beyond its earthly years. Our lives, as well, should speak about our personal faith in the Lord Jesus, reflecting the glory of God, far beyond our physical lives.

We recently passed the fifteenth anniversary of the Columbia disaster, February 1, 2003. On that day seven astronauts perished as their space shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. Over a 30 year period, from 1981 through 2011, the five reusable space shuttles carried 355 astronauts on 135 missions into space. During those years, fourteen astronauts were killed in accidents aboard two shuttles, the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

The Columbia was the first of the space shuttles, built by the National Aviation and Space Administration, to go into space. It was first launched on April 2, 1981, then on February 1, 2003, it was launched on its final 28th mission. Columbia was named after the sloop, Columbia Rediviva, the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe in 1793.

The Columbia disintigreated while re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, after a 16-day scientific mission. Later, the NASA Accident Investigation Board determined that the shuttle fragmented due to a hole that was punctured in the leading edge on one of its wings. When the Columbia came back into the atmosphere, the intense heat penetrated the wing, compromising the hydraulic system, causing a loss of control, which resulted in its destruction. The shuttle’s devastation was so great that 84,000 pieces of debris were collected over several hundred miles of Northeast Texas and West Louisiana.

An unexpected aftermath of that tragedy is that two of those seven astronauts, Flight Commander, Col. Rick Husband and Payload Commander, Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, still speak to us of the glory of God, though they are now in His very presence.

Before the 28th launch of Columbia, and the disaster that followed, a Washington Post reporter had asked Col. Rick Husband about the excitement of his upcoming space travel. To the reporter’s surprise, the shuttle commander answered, “As exciting as a ride on the space shuttle may seem, I have to say that’s not as important as my relationship with Jesus. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d give up the shuttle ride in a minute.”

Prior to his flight on the Columbia, Col. Husband videotaped thirty-four devotionals, seventeen devotionals for each of his two children (ages 5 and 10); one for every day he was scheduled to be gone. Even today you can imagine how powerful his testimony is, that speaks of his love for God and for his family.

Amazingly, God answered the prayer request of Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, who had said, in an interview: “We’d just like to ask for your prayers… and not only prayers for a safe flight but also that, in some small way, we can use this platform as a way to really let people know what we believe and to really let God’s message get out there.” Lt. Col. Anderson had no idea how God would use his life testimony as a powerful, visible, effectual platform to proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ!

Just before the mission, Michael had told his pastor, “If this thing doesn’t come out right, don’t worry about me—I’m just going on higher.” On that unforgettable day in 2003, he went on up higher, and, just as Abel, “though he is dead, he still speaks.”

What can we learn from this?

For one thing, while you have opportunity, you need to prepare for your final flight, by repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Second, make Christian living a “24/7” commitment. When Mission Control routinely radioed the crew before liftoff about the weather, Col. Husband often replied, “Yes, the Lord has given us a beautiful day.” He gave God credit for even routine events in life. We need to publicly honor the Lord every day. Paul wrote, “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

Third, Husband and Anderson allowed God to put them into a position He wanted them so that His name could be glorified. We should willingly allow God to lead us into places He can use for His purposes, even if the places are uncomfortable or undesirable.

Fourth, when the end of your life arrives, like Husband and Anderson, you can say with Paul, “The time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

After you are gone, may they say of you, “He being dead yet speaketh.”

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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