Doctrine and Death: Believing the Truth when it Counts Most
In Memory of Monty McGill
May 8, 1940 – Aug 11, 2010
Doctrine and Death: Believing the Truth when it Counts Most
Monty served as a deacon in our church for many years. When I first met Monty and his wonderful wife Vicki, they greatly enjoyed the fellowship of our church, the God-centered worship and the preaching, but they didn’t realize we were reformed. When it became clear to them what we believed they thought they might need to leave the church. They agonized over what to do. They had been given Norman Geisler’s Chosen but Free, the supposed biblically balanced answer to “extreme Calvinism.” Monty made an appointment with me and my fellow pastor, John. The night before the appointment he scoured his Bible, he prayed, he read, he agonized, he took up the mantle of the Bereans. During the night, the wrestling was so intense, he experienced chest pains. The next morning we arrived, with James White’s book, The Potter’s Freedom, in hand. We were prayed up, having asked for a spirit of gentleness and grace as we discussed the issues that were troubling this wonderful couple. Before we could start the conversation, Monty told us about his night and said, “I have come to a conclusion which has made this conversation unnecessary.” Immediately I thought to myself, “Hey, wait a minute, at least give us a chance!” Then Monty said, “Here is my conclusion after reading my Bible and praying: God is God, I am not, He does what He pleases.”
Monty and Vicki jumped into church life with both feet. They were such excellent students of the Word. Learning God’s Word was part of their love affair with their Savior. Their learning, their maturity and wisdom was constantly marbled with a rare humility. They were humbled by the awesome truths of God’s Word and most especially by His grace. They both served the church with incredible zeal, integrity and organization. Vicki’s health declined and she has endured numerous surgeries. As they both faced more and more physical trials, the confidence in a sovereign and loving God, who plans all things, not only sustained their faith, but also gave them emotional equilibrium during the dark nights. They loved the doctrine, but they loved it not because it made them theologically astute, but rather because it put emotional ballast into their souls. Then Monty was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, which is a wicked disease. Although the cause is unknown, Monty was a highly valued fire investigator, and it is likely that years of examining fire scenes had caught up with his lungs. He never questioned God’s sovereignty over his disease. He constantly had confidence that God had the power to heal his lungs, but in the final analysis God was doing more than Monty could imagine. Monty always understood that. The marching orders for this Navy veteran of the Vietnam War were, “Trust the God who is your father, who loves you and is in absolute control.”
Monty declined quickly. Those who know this disease know that it can wreak havoc in the lungs in no time. Monty couldn’t get approval for special experimental drugs, but still, not one word of complaint. That too was the will of his Father. He went on oxygen. In short order, he was in a wheelchair. Any physical exertion would cause his oxygen levels to plummet. The doctors told him if he lived at a lower elevation (we are at 5,000 feet), he would fare better. He declined; he couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from his church family. On August 11th 2010, Monty’s rugged, large frame succumbed to the disease. Amazingly, he was thankful for the painful process. He said he would rather die like that and experience God stripping away from him all that is unnecessary than go out quickly. He focused on his Savior’s sufferings, in light of Heb.12:1-3. He read Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, and meditated frequently on the realities he was soon to enjoy. His heart was filled with praise and thanksgiving to the God who sits on the throne. Near the end, nothing mattered except reading his Bible. My last few visits with him in his last days will always be precious memories to me which built up my faith.
Monty exemplified the value of knowing doctrine and the importance of knowing God, who He is and what He is like. Monty coped with this ravaging disease with the fundamental conviction that God is God and he was not, and God does what He pleases. When you can’t breathe, these are not mere words. You cannot get any more real than when you know you are dying and you know it won’t be an easy death. Monty evangelized everyone he could. He left me six pages of instruction for his funeral. He was a man of detail. He was, in fact, many things. He was a successful investigator, a decorated law enforcement office, a teacher of all things fiery and explosive. He was a loving and kind husband, who lived out a Christ-like love for his bride, Vicki. He was an outstanding deacon at
Q. 1 what is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him
Is what you believe important? Are doctrines like sovereignty, providence, election and perseverance mere doctrines? Monty would say, “Those truths are my life. They sustained me and my faith all the way to the end. They instilled a confidence in my soul that I am His and He is mine and that will never change.” Right now Monty is breathing perfectly, worshiping His Savior. His expectation to see Christ was enhanced by the very truths that fed his soul. For Monty, doctrine prepared him for death.
A Word to Pastors: Are we preparing our people to live by faith and die in faith? Are we feeding them the truths that will sustain their faith? Dear people of God, will you receive truth that will equip you to live by faith and die in faith? When the time comes for the family to gather around, it won’t be the helpful hints on getting along in the workplace that will buoy up your faith, it will be the biblical doctrines which extol a sovereign, faithful, loving God. Doctrine is not only necessary for life, it is necessary for death.