“How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?”
– Psalm 116:12
My father, Edward T. Britton, who was also my best friend, passed away at 7:52 a.m. on May 2, 2008. Eight days later, more than 1,100 people attended his celebration service to honor a life well lived. It was an incredible evening of laughing and crying as we both memorialized a man who impacted thousands during his lifetime and also celebrated the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout his journey with leukemia, he always talked about God’s goodness, God’s greatness and God’s graciousness. One of my dad’s favorite verses that he often quoted was Psalm 116:12: “How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?” He was so thankful for his life and God’s rich blessings.
My dad was also involved in FCA. In fact, because of his impact, he was inducted into FCA’s Hall of Champions. Dad had a solid faith, and he refused to allow his circumstances to define him. His faith never wavered throughout his sickness, which lasted almost two years. He never asked why God let cancer happen to him. Not once. He said he did not have the right to ask. Instead, he asked, “What?” He asked what the Lord wanted him to learn through the trial. He stayed the course and maintained his mission.
Dad was totally focused on finishing well. Every time I called him during his final two months of life to ask how he was doing, he would say, “Contending.” It was his way of saying he was fighting the good fight; running the right race. His focus can be best described by a journal entry he wrote several months before passing away:
“I continue serving and marching with the King daily. I’m absolutely convinced that I’m able to convey this positive update due to the serious and ongoing prayers of all of you! I am enjoying daily the final laps of my ‘retirement.’ May HE be ever present in your daily lives, starting with a serious quiet time in the mornings. God is good, great and truly gracious.”
My dad lived every second as if it was his last—and not just when he became sick, but throughout his lifetime. His favorite saying was, “Life is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift back to Him.” His life ambition was to repay the Lord with a life surrendered to Him.
Passionate is how to best describe my dad. People often said that no one simply “met” him; they “encountered” him. Even if it was a one-time connection, you would never forget him. His passion embodied the characteristics of enthusiasm, energy, intensity, motivation, inspiration, contagiousness, tenacity and encouragement. His goal was to encourage others every day, in every way. He especially loved to encourage people in their spiritual walks. One of the many lines he often repeated was, “Few of us are called to do great things, but many of us can do small things in a great way.” He was a living example of that.
Dad was a truly powerful exhorter who made the most of every opportunity. He would constantly say, “Make it count! Don’t miss an opportunity to be a blessing and share the Word. Don’t go out unprepared to do the Lord’s work along the way!” He often talked about living between the bookends of life and making the most of every situation.
He served the Lord with boldness and did not look back. He said, “It’s all perspective. You can whine about your circumstances, or you can make the most of an opportunity. Jesus can be present, prominent or preeminent. He can just be present in life, a prominent part of life, or be the preeminent Lord of all.”
He lived by John Calvin’s statement: “My Christianity can make a difference in others’ lives if I allow Him to be the ruling force in my life.” His relationship with Christ made a huge difference. His passion for Christ and for people made a great combination for eternal impact.
During his 18-month battle with leukemia, he was hospitalized six times. During these times, he set up a ministry resource table in his hospital room with Bibles, devotionals, magazines and tracts. He shared the Gospel with every visitor, doctor and nurse who came into his room. He told me that two people made decisions for Christ and five made recommitments to the Lord. He prayed with dozens of people at his bedside about their issues. During one of my visits with him, he asked a nurse who was drawing blood if he could pray for her, and she asked for prayer for family issues at home. I was blown away as he prayed over her, seeing her weep while sitting on the edge of his bed. I’ll never forget that moment. After his last hospital stay, he said, “Dan, I am going to miss this place!” He might be the only person who has ever uttered those words in a cancer ward.
What a great challenge for us who still have life: To live it with the same passion as my dad. We take life for granted, and we often do not realize how special it is until one of our loved ones gets sick and/or passes away. However, the key is not only to understand that God has given us this gift called life, but to understand that how we live it is our gift back to Him. If you are like me, you can be way too consumed with wanting God to bless you and not with blessing Him. Let’s use today as an opportunity reevaluate.
What are you doing with your life? Is it a blessing to God? Are you investing your life in things that please God? What does it mean for us to lay our lives at the feet of Jesus? The life He gives us because He loves us should be returned back to Him. Not just, “Lord, here is my life, and You can have it back,” but, “Lord, I give to You my entire being–every action and decision, all my hopes and dreams, my thoughts and talk. I surrender it all back to You. May my life be a gift that brings You pleasure.”
“Life is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to Him!”
– Edward Britton
Your life is indeed God’s gift to you. But what you do with it is your gift back to Him. What would you like that gift to be?
Father, I want my life to bring You pleasure. You know the deep yearnings in my heart to please You. So often my sin prevents me from loving You and others the way I should. At times I feel like my life is not a good gift for You. Please forgive me for the times that my life does not bring You honor and glory. I give You my life, as a gift, as is. Help me to live for You. Thank You, Lord. I love You. Amen.