Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dr. Marshall Coats

Below is what I said today about Marshall Coats at his funeral.
Marshall Coats, DVM
It has become common conversation in our area in the last couple of years to hear and say something like, “Dr. Marshall Coats is a wonderful man.” It is usually followed by something like, “Through all he has endured, he has always given glory to his Lord.” What a joy and an honor that something like that can be said about a husband and father and son and brother.

I have had the privilege of knowing Dr. Marshall Coats for about three years, and it has been my honor to be his pastor during that time. I distinctly remember the dessert reception after the children’s Christmas program the second Sunday night in December of 2009. Dr. Coats and his family made a point to sit with our family, and I was thrilled he chose to do that. Soon he told me what was on his mind. After some pleasantries and small talk, he became very serious as he told me that for some time he had sensed the Lord leading him to surrender to full-time vocational ministry. In the coming year, he told me he would do whatever it took for him to move forward into that area in whatever form it might take (he was not yet sure), and he asked for my support. I told him it would be my joy to serve him as the Lord led him.

In February 2010, Marshall’s doctor discovered his liver cancer. And thus began a journey with ups and downs, highs and lows which has found a stop along the way here in this chapel. During that time, I have had the joy of not just pastoring the Coats family, but in becoming friends.

I cannot deny that there was a tension inside me as I watched Marshall and Beth endure the treatments, the surgeries, the infections, the inconveniences of being sick. Why would this happen now? Why when Marshall is ready to surrender to the call of God on his life has this cancer appeared? Why when he already has a testimony from his lymphoma? Why when he has an incredible heritage and legacy laid down by his father? Why when he has the life experience and financial stability to do the Lord’s work has this happened?

Then in prayer one day at REX about a year ago, it dawned on me. The Lord has set aside Marshall for full-time ministry to Him in the midst of this illness. The Lord has chosen to use Marshall and his family to be a witness for Him, to hold the banner of faithfulness to the Lord through desperate trial. Like Job, the Lord knew He could call Marshall and his family to the hardness of such a fight and trust Him to honor His Name in the midst of it, to be a witness to the soon coming Glory. The Lord entrusted Marshall and Beth with this trial because He knew He could trust them to bless Him and not curse Him in the storm. Marshall (and Beth) have been serving in full-time vocational ministry. God had called him to it, and they have faithfully served every step of the way.

A few weeks ago I sat next to Marshall’s side at REX, and I shared with him what I had come to understand – that Marshall had been serving in a special place of ministry as a beacon pointing to the faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of trial – that he had been a faithful witness, that the Lord could trust him with this trial, and that the ministry he had done in the last two years among the people in our community observing him and walking with him through this. He and Beth have been an example to all of us. They have shared with us their lives, and they have been faithful to the Lord through it all.

Funerals never become easy. There is an undeniable heaviness, a burden, which cannot be lifted it seems. Death is a mean enemy. But today there is also a joy and a contentment and a peace that passes understanding. Marshall has done something few men do. He has finished well. And in the midst of the celebration of around the Throne, Marshall has heard the “Well done.” What an example for us who know and love him. What a gratitude for his spouse. What a legacy for his children. What praise for His Lord.