Last Friday the news broke about the sudden death by heart attack of journalist Tim Russert, the host of the long running political program Meet the Press. Russert’s sudden death at age 58 was a chilling reminder to all of us that, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "For man also knoweth not his time (Ecc 9:12)."
Many pointed out the irony of Russert’s death this weekend in particular because he had written and spoken so frequently about the pivotal influence of his working class father and WW2 veteran, "Big Russ" on his life. He wrote two books about his relationship with his father, one titled Big Russ & Me and a follow-up book, Wisdom of Our Fathers.
In one of those books Russert wrote the following:
All through my childhood, and well beyond it, my father held down two demanding jobs. But as hard as he labored and as long as he toiled, we never heard a single complaint about his heavy workload or the sacrifice he was making. He didn’t talk about it, he just got it done. And if he had to take a third job to support his wife and four kids, he would have done that, too… like so many of the strong, silent generation who grew up during the Great Depression and went off to war, he had learned long ago that life was hard and nothing was handed to you. In fact, Dad considered it a sign of success, and even a blessing, that he was able to hold down two jobs. He could remember a time when a man considered himself fortunate to have even one.
Russert also recalled how his father had never taken a single sick day from his main job a foreman in the sanitation department in Buffalo, New York. He told how on September 7, 1995 he had taken his own then ten year old son, Luke, to Camden Yards to the Orioles baseball game in which Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s "Iron Man" record by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game. He wrote of how he explained to his son how Ripken’s record was different from all the others in that "this one was about loyalty, dedication, discipline, diligence, and persistence." He then added, "I told Luke that night, and I meant it with all my heart, that Cal Ripken had done for baseball what my Dad had done for our family."
I don’t know where Russert or his father stood with the Lord, but this is—at the least—a testimony to what the Lord can do with men by his common grace.
Men, could it be said of you that you were an "iron man" for your family and for all those who depend on you? That you were a model of faithfulness and good stewardship in your work, in your relationship with your wife, with your children? Beyond the things that might be said of good men who by God’s common grace do the things that a man can and should do for his family, can it also be said of you that you are a good steward of the gospel?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle