We called him Anthony. People who knew him called him Tony or Antony. But for some reason our family called him Anthony. He was one of my husband’s best friends. Antony Simon was the pastor of our sister church in Jerusalem. He was always busy in evangelism and deeds of charity. Always moving. He died Monday night running across a street.
But Anthony’s death is proof that God doesn’t need us.
Everyone wants to feel needed. That they are indispensable to the world. Or that, somehow, it pleases God to need us. But that’s not true at all. He does not need a single person.
It’s a bit discouraging to realize this, but at the end of the day, it’s an essential of Christianity. God is all-sufficient. He did not create man because he needed something from them. He doesn’t need praise. He doesn’t need works. He doesn’t need our love. He doesn’t need to watch us enjoying his creation. He is perfectly satisfied without us.
In the eternal-time before time, God was perfectly content without us. And if he had never created the universe he would have continued perfectly content.
But as we always tell our kids, there’s a difference between need and want.
An artist doesn’t need to paint a single painting, and a potter does not need to spin a single pot out of clay. (Even if you think they need it for money, they don’t. They could instead plant some wheat or hunt for food and clothing.) Art is not a need, but a want. And artists want to create.
God wanted to create a universe, and to put mankind into this universe. And as the newly discovered Anthropic principle of science shows, the whole universe is set up for life to be on Earth.
The Why of him wanting MAN points to relationship.
The Almighty did not need to have a relationship with mankind. He chose to have it.
This dovetails into Anthony.
Anthony was a man who could not sit still. He was always busy about the work of the Lord. If it was in Jerusalem, he was on the streets telling nominal Christians about Christ, telling Jews about Christ, telling Muslims about Christ.
He had a method of evangelism he called “drive-by Bible distribution.” He would be driving, see someone on the side of the road, pull over, and grabbing a copy of the Bible in their language, would hand it to them and drive off before any argument. Not that he was afraid of confrontation, either. He could hold his own against all arguments. Facing off with anyone over the truths of Scripture. All for one purpose: that they would enter into a relationship with Christ.
His latest projects included regular trips to help the homeless war-stricken Syrian refugees in Iraq. He took blankets, food, supplies, Bibles and audioBibles to these people. It was on one of these trips, late Monday night 5/29/17, that he was taken home to be with the Lord. A car slapped the life out of him.
As anyone who knew him will tell you, Anthony always wanted to walk. No taxis for him. He said you meet more people when you walk, and the more people you see the more chance you have to share Christ with them. His fearless conversation starters intimidated me. Anthony’s concern for the eternal state of each individual made him disregard the walls of propriety and dive into conversation about Christ. Who knows how many people were shaken from complacency by hearing him speak of Christ’s work on the cross? It was just after refusing to take a taxi that he ran across the street and was hit by a car.
I do not want to live in a world without Anthony. I hardly even knew him, but as his friend on Facebook I lived vicariously through his brave, single-minded devotion to obeying the Great Commission. I saw in Anthony the way we all should be, and used him as a personal model for what I wished I could be if I weren’t so timid.
In reading the responses of others likewise shocked by his death, I see I am not alone in feeling this way. He lived the way we all should live. What does it mean that God takes a man like Anthony?
And yet God took him, in the prime of his ministry. God took him. He didn’t need Anthony to keep doing that. Anthony was living how we all know we should be living, but God did not need that to keep going.
I find it hard to live in a world without Anthony because it means it’s not about me. God doesn’t need me to do anything. In God’s all-wise plan, good men die.
And Anthony, though he certainly had sharp edges still, was doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with his God. No one is good but God alone, yet in Christ all our deeds are now good. But Anthony’s good works were no longer wanted by God.
So then what does this mean for me? The early death of obedient Christians teaches us one significant lesson. God doesn’t need me to be a mother. If I am not here, he will be my children’s mother. He doesn’t need me to be a wife. If I am not here, he will be the help and comfort to my husband. He doesn’t need me to be a teacher. If I am not here he will teach my children and those under my care at church. He doesn’t need me to DO anything because he is fully capable of doing it all himself.
Christ will build his Church, and neither the failures of the church nor the gates of hell can stand against that. So our failure to live with Anthony’s boldness does not hinder God.
But what of our good deeds? If they are not needed by God, why do we do them?
God does not need us, but the world needs us. As we bear others’ burdens we fulfill the law of Christ. As we go into the harvest field, his Word is scattered and the harvest is reaped. We are the Body of Christ acting on his Word to bring about what he wants. We are the means God uses to build his Church, but it is not us building that Church.
This idea could send us into a spiral of self-doubt and depression: God doesn’t need me? What am I, a pawn?
Or it can relieve us: He will build his Church, and I won’t be able to fail him. Nothing I can do can fail God!
What about you? Do you find your meaning in “helping” God? Or do you find your meaning in relationship? in being his child? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” As you BE his child, in your acts of justice, kindness and mercy, in your compassion and peace, in your praises, you are glorifying God. As you BE learning who he is, through reading it in Scripture and declaring it through prayer, you are enjoying him forever.
He doesn’t need your works. He doesn’t need you.
But you get to pour out his compassion upon a hurting world.
You get to be his tool.
You get to speak forth truth.
You get to teach and train and comfort and hold those struggling to survive this broken world.
You get to rest in knowing your God and Savior.
My husband laughed as he considered Anthony in heaven, not sitting still, probably wanting to take audio Bibles to those in hell. What is this world without Anthony?
It’s a world where the Church is still “about its Father’s business.” It’s a world that is not diminished, but brighter. His death flared up that steadfast courage into the hearts of those left behind. We are different having known Anthony. We needed Anthony.
[Antony on his last day, waving from Erbil Iraq]
Yes, we are timid. Yes, we are not as bold as he was. But God is not disabled now. The same God will bring about his same purposes to its appointed end even through Anthony’s death. It should relieve us that God is all-sufficient to bring about his purpose.
It should enable us to open our eyes to our small corner of the world.
How can we bring honor to Christ’s name as we interact with those under our influence?
How can we make minor changes to our schedule to create more time to meet people?
How can we bravely disregard invisible walls that come between a person and their eternity?
We only have TODAY.
Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose….’
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
Update 6/1/17 << Read Anthony’s Testimony Here >>
Update 6/2/17 (TO GIVE DONATIONS FOR HIS WIDOW & FAMILY–CLICK HERE)