Two brothers, Jerry Bridges and Gary Smalley, went to Jesus last Sunday, March 6. I knew and loved them both. Their personalities were—and I assume still are—radically different. But both loved and served their King, and now do so more than ever.
Jerry and Gary, in unique but complementary ways, left a heritage of faith many of us have benefited from.
Jerry taught so many of us how to keep on trusting God in the pursuit of holiness through decades of faithful ministry amid cancer and loss. His most well-known book may be The Pursuit of Holiness, but one of my favorites of his, which I recently endorsed in its re-release, is The Joy of Fearing God. Timeless books of biblical theology made practical. They will never get old.
Two of Gary’s more popular books are The Blessing and If Only He Knew. Gary, with his effusive personality, was a far more public figure, appearing on Oprah and countless other programs, including an infomercial with Dick Clark, while Jerry, serious and soft-spoken, made his appearances in more theologically-based conferences, such as Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. Talks with Gary often got me laughing; talks with Jerry always got me thinking. And don’t we all need to both laugh and think more?
Nanci and I loved getting to know Jerry and his wife Jane at the 2007 Desiring God Conference, where we both spoke. I had met and talked with Jerry years before, but that was the first time I’d had extended conversations with him over meals, and experienced the quality of his life up close.
If God is truly sovereign, if He truly loves you, and the teaching of Scripture is correct, then God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His ultimate purpose to work for your good. If the evil done against you is fresh and haunting, then I know my words may seem terribly calloused. But I say them because I believe they are true. Scripture teaches them, and one day we will all believe them, when we are with Him.
Both Jerry and Gary served Jesus in their own inimitable ways. While I’m saddened at their parting, I rejoice that they are with Him now, thinking and laughing better than ever. I believe among the words spoken by our Savior to these brothers a few days ago were, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:23).
I look forward to thinking and laughing with these brothers again, in the presence of our Savior and King.
You might also like to read:
A warm tribute to Gary Smalley by Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.
A wonderful tribute to Jerry Bridges by Tim Challies.
A great Tony Reinke interview with Jerry Bridges.