Yesterday I learned that my friend Ray Franz went to be with Jesus. One of the reasons I refer to Ray as my friend is because that is the way he referred to me. In fact, the last time I visited Ray in the hospital, at a time when he was extremely weak, in a great deal of pain, and drawing closer and closer to the end of his time on earth, I let him know it was me and he responded by saying, “Ah, my friend. You are my friend.”
Tears came down my cheeks when Ray referred to me as his friend because to be a friend of Ray was a true blessing in life. I do not have time to share all of the reasons why that is true but I want to share one of example. That day, as Ray was laying there close to death, and as I sought to encourage him, even then, Ray’s focus was not on himself. Instead, through his pain and his suffering he began to ask me about how I was doing and about how my wife Carol was doing and then one by one about our boys. And it wasn’t just a show. It was genuine concern. It was heartfelt. It was real.
Folks, those are the kinds of friends, when you have them, who are an unspeakable blessing in life and here’s why. It’s because those are the kinds of friends that help you see Jesus. They help you see Jesus because through a close relationship with Him, they have become like Jesus.
In Luke 23:34 it tells us that as Jesus was suffering and drawing near to the end of his life here on earth, He called out to the Father on behalf of the very people who had crucified Him and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
What an amazing act of love. Jesus was showing concern for the very people who nailed Him to a cross. He was thinking of others during his own suffering. And you see, that is how my friend Ray helped me see Jesus. It was because in the same way Jesus was thinking of others at the time of his death, Ray was thinking of me and my family as his time drew near as well.
The greatest possible friend we can have in life is Jesus. He was perfect and without sin and yet he loves each person so much that he willingly died on a cross to pay the penalty of our sin. When He was on that cross we were on his mind. We are what kept put him there and we are what kept him there. His love for us. And while his death purchased salvation for us it is also an example for us to follow.
I am so thankful to God for blessing me with a friend like Ray who not only turned to Jesus for salvation but who followed His example to the very end of his life. He was enduring his greatest cross and was still thinking of others, still thinking of his friends. I am praying for each member of the family asking God to fill the hole that his departing leaves and to be able to be full of thankfulness for the blessing that Ray was in their lives. The “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 just received another inductee and he is one of my friends.