By the time the clock strikes midnight on Sunday, the year 2023 will have claimed over sixty million lives worldwide and over three million people here in the United States. There’s a very good chance you knew some of them, and you’re acutely feeling their absence. In fact, there’s no guarantee you or I won’t be included in the final tally.
After all, scripture is clear that death “is the fate of all mankind” (Numbers 16:29).
It’s common to look back across the past year, and it’s healthy to remember the people who have passed on and whose lives have touched ours. This is partly what Moses was getting at when he instructed, “Take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life” (Deut. 4:9).
Many giants of the Christian faith passed from this world to the next in 2023. Their deaths may have garnered a few headlines at the time, but the days, weeks, and months march on. The world may even forget some of them, but here are a few people and words they spoke and wrote that we’d be wise to remember:
1. Pastor Jack Hayford: January 8, age 88
“The Bible is as necessary to spiritual life as breath is to natural life. There is nothing more essential to our lives than the Word of God.”
2. Historian Paul Johnson: January 12, age 94
“The experience of having children–however irksome, expensive, wearying and career-hampering it may be–is also thrilling and delightful and full of continually changing fascinations. A child lifts the heart and gives meaning to life. Not to have a family is to deprive yourself of half the joys and interest of existence. These undoubted facts, true throughout the ages, will eventually reassert themselves, and the thrust of nature will return.”
3. Dr. John D. Morris, president, Institute for Creation Research: January 29, age 76
“Christ has made each of us His ambassadors here on earth. He is no longer here in the flesh, and so now He expects us to faithfully and effectively represent Him. He has given us two basic tasks to perform. we are to saturate ourselves totally with the knowledge of His will and His word so that we will be enabled to encourage other Christians, strengthening them for their duties as ambassadors as well. ‘Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’” (II Timothy 2:15).
4. George Verwer, missionary and founder of Operation Mobilization: April 14, age 84
“I believe the reason many Christians are so dull and lifeless in their faith is because they are not in the battle, not using their weapons, not advancing against the enemy.”
5. Dr. Charles Stanley: April 18, age 90
“From the world’s perspective, there are many places you can go to find comfort. But there is only one place you will find a hand to catch your tears and a heart to listen to your every longing. True peace comes only from God.”
6. Dr. Michael Brescia, who invented modern dialysis: April 19, age 90
“The art of medicine comes from loving your patients and caring for them. We’ve lost our patients to the managed-care companies and the insurance companies. The doctor-patient relationship is gone. Doctors today are just technicians. We took a road. To the left, it looked shiny and gold. But to the right, it looked happier to us.”
7. Ron Hamilton, creator of Patch the Pirate : April 19, age 72
“God never moves without purpose or plan. When trying His servant and molding a man. Give thanks to the Lord though your testing seems long; In darkness He giveth a song. O Rejoice in the Lord. He makes no mistake. He knoweth the end of each path that I take. For when I am tried and purified, I shall come forth as gold.”
8. Dr. Tim Keller: May 19, age 72
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that He said. If He didn’t, then why worry about any of what He said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether you like his teaching, but whether he rose from the dead.”
9. Elizabeth Sherrill, Christian author / May 20, age 95
“There is nothing that happens to us, not a thing we see or hear or touch that God cannot use to show us more of Himself. Our lives are a daily journey in his company.”
10. Rev. Pat Robertson: June 8, age 93
“Never place a comma where God has placed a period. God has spoken!”
11. Dr. Michael Catt, Christian filmmaker and former pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church: June 12, age 70
“You don’t have to chase key people, if you know who holds the keys. You just get with God, and God will open the doors that He wants to open for you.”
12. Stuart Epperson, Sr. co-founder Salem Media: July 17, age 86
“You can always do a lot more than you think is possible if you’re willing to dream God sized dreams.”
13: Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling: August 31, age 77
“Marvel at the wonder of communing with the Creator of the universe while sitting in the comfort of your home.”
14. Don Wildmon, founder American Family Association: December 28, age 85
“God does not require that we be successful. He only requires that we be faithful. Whether or not we are successful isn’t always within our determination. Being faithful is.”
We give thanks for these believers who have now earned their ultimate reward, beautifully and poignantly summed up in this classic benediction:
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Image credit: Jack Hayford Ministries, Michael Catt Website, Sarah Young Website