October 5,1926-November 3, 2009
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
I was in Rajahmundry, India on a Wednesday morning, November 4th, when I received the news via e-mail that Susan’s dad, Jesse W. Benton had died the night before. I was shocked and saddened at the news of course, but my mind immediately flashed a scene from the past before me that I would like to relate to you. This is rather personal to me, but I feel compelled to share it. Mr. Benton was 83 years young.
This past July, Susan and I and our kids were coming home from a week of much needed vacation and decided to stop by Mr. Benton’s home to see how he was doing since his health had been declining for some time.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and had rested a bit. I was in their kitchen going into their den when Mr. Benton rolled up to me in his motorized wheelchair. He told me that he would like for me to pray with him, and he had a look of great concern on his face.
I knelt down so we could speak face to face. He said to me, “Mitch, I want you to pray with me so that I will know that God has forgiven all my sins.” He had tears in his eyes. He said, “I know I haven’t always done everything that I should have, and that I’ve failed the Lord at times.” I said, “Mr. Benton, I’ll be glad to pray with you. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When God forgives, He forgets everything we have ever done wrong, and treats us as though we had never sinned. Isaiah 43:25 says, I even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember your sins.”
I asked him if we could pray and he said “yes, please do.” I grabbed his aged hand in mine and asked him to repeat a prayer of confession and repentance of any and every sin of omission and commission that he had ever committed in his entire life. He prayed with me as tears streamed down his face. And suddenly he began to smile and then he began to laugh uncontrollably!
Mr. Benton had been raised in Pentecostal churches, and when he felt the Holy Spirit, he would sometimes begin to laugh. He would call it holy laughter. He laughed and cried tears of joy there for I guess five minutes or so, and I laughed and cried with him.
Fellowship between he and his Heavenly Father had been restored. That night, he had the first night of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep that he had in a long time. His guilty conscience had kept him in a state of unrest and fitfulness. That Sunday night, the peace of God entered his life once again as he received the mercy and grace of God in a fresh way. At times, we all need God’s mercy in this way.
I was visiting with Mr. Benton again this past September. Susan’s mother had left to go to the grocery store to get a few items she needed. Susan was in another room. I was sitting in Mr. Benton’s living room where he was in his bed that been placed there since he was ill. He looked over at me and said something, and I couldn’t understand him.
I went up to his bed and saw a hymn book lying on a nearby table. I asked him, “Mr. Benton, would you like for me to sing some of these hymns to you?” “Yes,” he replied with a smile. I began to sing, How Great Thou Art, and At the Cross. He began to hum the tunes with me as tears rolled down his cheeks. The presence of God filled his living room that day.
I picked up an old Bible that belonged to his family and read to him Psalm 100 and Psalm 23. Again, tears rolled down Mr. Benton’s face as the Holy Spirit witnessed to his heart from the Word. He and I had Pentecost all over again in his living room that Wednesday in September.
When I heard that Mr. Benton’s spirit had been released from his tired, worn body last Tuesday night, I knew that he had experience the fullness of joy, and the pleasures forevermore promised us in Psalm 16:11 when we enter the presence of God. We are not as others which have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
I look forward to seeing Mr. Jesse Benton again one day. Until then, you and I have a race to run. Let’s give God our best.