I have just received word from England that John Stott died this afternoon. An old friend, George Cassidy, retired bishop of Southwell, emailed that John’s secretary, Frances Whithead, his niece, Caroline Stott, his former study assistant, Matthew Smith and Philip Herbert were with him. They read a few Psalms and his breathing became very shallow and he slipped away. George commented: “End of an era; and gratitude to God for his wonderful life!”
Antoinette and I were hoping to visit him later this year in his nursing home. He celebrated his 90th birthday in April, and was very frail. He was ready and eager to go on to be with the Lord he so loved and served.
In his commentary on 2 Timothy: Guard the Gospel, John wrote these words on chapter 4, verses 6-8:
“The apostle uses two vivid figures of speech to portray his coming death, one taken from the language of sacrifice and the other (probably) of boats. First, ‘I am already on the point of being sacrificed.’ Or ‘Already my life is being poured out on the altar.’ He likens his life to a libation or drink offering. So imminent does he believe his martyrdom to be that he speaks of the sacrifice as having already begun. He goes on: ‘the time of my departure has come’. ‘Departure’ (analysis) seems to have become a regular word for death, but we need not necessarily conclude from this that its metaphorical origin had been entirely forgotten. It means ‘loosing’ and could be used either of striking a tent or of ‘release from shackles’, or of untying a boat from its moorings. The last is certainly the most picturesque of the three possibilities. The two images then to some extent correspond for the end of this life (outpoured as a libation) is the beginning of another (putting out to sea). As the anchor is weighed, the ropes are slipped, and the boat is about to set sail for another shore.” (p.113)
After further exposition of having fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith, John concludes.
“This then is ‘Paul the aged’…His little boat is about to set sail. He is eagerly awaiting his crown….Our God is the God of history….He buries his workmen, but carries on his work. The torch of the gospel is handed down by each generation to the next. As the leaders of the former generation die, it is all the more urgent for those of the next generation to step forward bravely to take their place….We cannot rest forever on the leadership of the preceding generation. The day comes when we must step into their shoes and ourselves take the lead. That day had come for Timothy. It comes to us all in time.” (p.116)
I owe more than I can tell to John Stott. He took a callow youth as his assistant and mentored him, then launched me into ministry. Over the years he kept in touch by letters and visits. His books have been a constant inspiration. My testimony can be echoed by hundreds or thousands of others all over the world.
Thank you Lord, for the privilege of knowing him personally and for being recipient of his brotherly affection and fatherly care. May his legacy continue to bear fruit. May his influence grow. May he ever be remembered as the Prince of Preachers of his day, and the friend of believers of all races throughout the world.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Cor.2:5)