We are Going Down the Valley One by One

We are Going Down the Valley One by One

We are Going Down the Valley One by One

Have you ever sung the song from our hymn books titled “We are Going Down the Valley One by One”? As you must know, the lyrics remind us that each of us is on a journey through life and one by one we come to the conclusion of this earthly pilgrimage. It may be known beforehand or it may take us by surprise, but still we must face our end sooner or later.

This past year (of 2016), a dear friend of mine died somewhat unexpectedly. He had planned to undergo a rather common surgery and I spoke to him two days before this was to occur. He said that his trusted doctor had assured him that in 99% of cases, there are no complications, thus he should not fear going under the knife. Alas, things did not go well and within a week, he was dead.

I’ve often thought of this since he was taken from the land of the living. In his case, death came somewhat unpredictably. He had even written a book on health and nutrition in the past, along with a book detailing reasons why one should give up on the filthy habit of tobacco use. He was convinced that his years of smoking had taken years from his life, yet he expected that the surgery would be a success. Death faces each of us (Hebrews 9:27) and we must be prepared for whatever may come (cf. Luke 12:19-21).

Recently I’ve been thinking of the fairly well-known preachers, teachers, and authors that I’ve known over the years—and maybe you know some of them yourself. At one time, each of them was active in his (or her) teaching and writing. But today they are all gone—every last one of them! Think of a few of them who have gone over the last few years. (By the way, the inclusion of any of these people in my list in no way endorses their theology or lifestyle.)

  1. James Kennedy (1930). You may recognize him through his famous “Evangelism Explosion” program of reaching out one-to-one. Further, his weekly television program, coming from the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, was seen by thousands. Yet, his heart condition finally took him on September 5, 2007, at the age of 76. He is now gone.
  1. William MacDonald (1917). This prolific writer was also a preacher and teacher, known for decades. One of his booklets, True Discipleship, continues in print and had influenced many over the years. He was of the Plymouth Brethren, a sect that is not well known but it originated through the teaching of John Darby in England who formulated the Dispensational approach to prophecy. MacDonald died at age 90 on December 25, 2007.
  1. David Wilkerson (1931). This “Assembly of God” preacher, especially known for his book, The Cross and the Switchblade, wrote much and taught much, especially from his Times Square Church in New York City but also from a small town southeast of Dallas. Strangely and mysteriously, Wilkerson died when he drove into a truck head-on, thereby losing his life on April 27, 2011.
  1. Ron Carlson. This man was a traveling preacher and teacher, known for his lectures on the cults, world religions, apologetics, and the creation/evolution debate. He spoke with interest, with knowledge, and with persuasion. Yet he was taken on June 16, 2011.
  1. Dave Hunt (1926). Known for his many books, especially dealing with dispensational prophecy, Hunt also had a daily radio program. He was an apologist, speaker, and author, known for his strong and unpopular stands. He died on April 5, 2013.
  1. Chuck Smith (1927). Great numbers remember Smith and his connection with the “Jesus People” movement at the very beginning in the 1960s. He is also known as the founder of the Calvary Chapel group of congregations across the country. Smith died of lung cancer and a heart attack on October 3, 2013, at the age of 86.
  1. Elisabeth Elliot (1926). Known for her early missionary endeavors with her husband Jim (who was killed by Indians in Ecuador along with his companions). She became an accomplished writer, educator, and for a while had a daily radio program. Elliot died on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88. Sadly, she battled dementia for the final ten years of her life.
  1. Gary Smalley (1940). Smalley was known as a public speaker, counselor, and author of numerous books dealing with marriage, children, and human relations. We heard him at a local church before he died. Smalley died on Mary 6, 2016, at the age of 75.
  1. Tim LaHaye (1926). This speaker and teacher was the author of numerous books, especially dealing with dispensational prophecy. He died of a stroke on July 25, 2016, at the age of 90.

All of these speakers, writers, preachers, and teachers are now gone—having faced the Lord to give an account of their life (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). With this departure, we know that there are no more opportunities to change anything about their beliefs or life. It is a matter of record but cannot be altered in any way. They had their opportunity when blood coursed through their bodies and they could listen, think, and respond.

We know that many people in that future state would like to change things in some way—but this will be impossible (Luke 16:24-31). Once the last mile has been traveled, that is the end. All change will not be feasible. When we breathe our last, all opportunity will be gone. This is why it is so important—even vital—that we make any needed change right now.

I know that you could have made your own list of people you’ve known who are now gone. Maybe you can think of certain authors, educators, preachers, and public personalities who have died just like anyone else. God didn’t spare them and we must remember that He won’t spare you and me!

My encouragement to you is that we would “prepare to meet our God” while we have the opportunity. Now is “the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). I challenge you with the same exhortation that I must remember: This is the only time we have to believe rightly, do rightly, live rightly, and maintain a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-13; Romans 6:22-23).

Richard Hollerman

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