As you may have heard by now, Dr. Death, a/k/a Dr. Jack Kevorkian, died last Friday from kidney failure and other medical complications. He died quietly and peacefully. His attorney offered a comment that if Kevorkian had been able to end his own life a little earlier, he would have done it. But, according to the media, Kevorkian was not strong enough at the end to alter the natural end-of-life events.
For those of you who don’t know about his work, Dr. Kevorkian assisted people who had life threatening illnesses by helping them commit suicide. He created a machine that used three successive chemicals that were injected into a person to end life. The first drug caused loss of consciousness, followed by a drug that caused muscle paralysis, and ended with a drug that stopped the heart. He assisted upwards of 100 people and became a lightning rod of discussion about whether it was ethical or legal to help people end their lives. He finally videotaped an event when he actually injected a lethal dose of the drugs into a man suffering with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and served 8-1/2 years in prison in Michigan, having been convicted of murder. The “victim” was too weak to start the process himself, so Jack ended the man’s life.
Now that you have heard the end of the story, it is important for me to share that it is because of Dr. Death that I decided to consider seminary and entered ministry. Back in April, 1997, one of my good clients was Cellular One; the phone people. We had at least 50 employees in their office almost all the time, and each Thursday, I would walk across the parking lot from our building to theirs; with cookies for all our employees and their various department managers.
On this particular morning, Heidi, a young manager who worked there was not at her desk. I left a cookie for her, but before I headed to the next stop, I was told that Heidi no longer worked for the company. I was shocked – she seemed to really like her job. After probing, I was directed to read the daily newspaper and found out that Heidi had met with Dr. Kevorkian the evening before, in southern Michigan, and had ended her life. It came out that Heidi was HIV positive, and she thought that nobody would love her, or marry her; and that her best option was death. She had dinner with her folks, and then drove over the border from Indiana to Michigan to end her life. She was the 52nd assisted suicide attributed to Dr. Kevorkian.
I was stunned. I knew several people who had committed suicide, but this was too close to home. This was someone I really knew rather well, and I had no idea about her medical condition or her desire to die. So I went home that evening trying to make sense of my own life and what things were important. Janet and I talked in detail – we had more than 1000 employees work in our company that year. Many of them could not afford food for their families and we were very driven to assist people with interest free loans, bonuses, assistance with health care, etc. but I could not shake the feeling that we were not doing enough.
After much discussion and prayer, Janet and I decided that the only way we could step up and do even more was if I left the corporate world and went to seminary. That way, perhaps we could avoid this type of tragedy in the future; and perhaps even lead people to Christ. I didn’t know the first thing about approaching people with the Gospel and to be sure, I needed to work on my own relationship with Christ. But almost 15 years later, here I am; and Janet and I would have missed the blessings of God if I had continued with the course I was on.
The point here is that accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior will get you into heaven, but Christ demands more from His followers. He commands us to follow Him. In John 12:26, we are told, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Get it? Service to Christ, and to others, is the loving response to accepting Christ as your Savior. Not out of guilt, or necessity, but out of love for Christ. And so there you have it; Janet and I decided to live by faith and be obedient to what we both felt called to do. Make no mistake – it was a difficult journey, and very uncomfortable at times. But we both knew what God expected of us; and we have tried to be faithful.
My encouragement tonight is to try to do more than just accept Christ – try to follow Him. And that means giving up what you want to do in order to do what He has called you to do. He sees the world, and a future, that we can’t imagine. But one thing is for sure. His plans for you are bigger, and better, than your plans for you. My prayer is that you will allow God to work in your heart; setting aside your own earthly desires in favor of what can be accomplished when you fully subordinate yourself to the will of God.
Of course, I still struggle with this, and sometimes wonder what might have been my destiny in the corporate world, but where I am is where I am supposed to be; and God used Dr. Death to change my life…..