Few men have had a greater impact on my ministry than Dr. Calvin Miller. He was one of my professors while in seminary. He was one of those teachers that you built your schedule around. We all have professors and teachers. We even have our favorites. But every once in a while, we will allow a teacher to leave the realm of mere mortal professors and cross into a scarcely inhabited land, a land inhabited only by heroes. I have found that each one of us possess a land like this – a place where we allow only heroes to dwell, a place where we can go meet our mentors and solve not only the world’s problems, but our personal catastrophes as well. Dr. Miller roamed these hallowed halls with godly men whose influence in my life is invaluable.
It goes without saying that I was crushed when I learned last week that Dr. Miller passed away on Sunday, August 19. It wasn’t the fact that he died that was most devastating. It was the fact that I had not spoken with him in quite a while and I realized that it might be a little while before I get to speak to him again. Death is no respecter of person. It strikes both young and old. Sometimes it strikes with urgency. Sometimes it strikes with a painstakingly slow advance. No matter the approach death takes, for the Christian, death is simply the passageway from here to eternity. Waiting for us on the other side is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Though the uncertainty of death is intimidating for any of us, the Scriptures remind us that the sting of death is taken away. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?”
What I admire most about Dr. Miller was that he had a walk with Christ unlike anyone I had ever met. The expression of his relationship with Christ was so personal, so profound, that it almost seemed mystical – yet he wasn’t a liberal or a lunatic. He was firmly grounded in the Scriptures. At the same time, he enjoyed being a Christian. He was almost whimsical at times. I truly believe that he had the depth of a mature disciple – tempered by a lifetime of walking with Christ – while maintaining the “childlike faith” that Jesus challenged us to adopt.
One of his last books is entitled Letters to Heaven. In those pages, he wrote 26 brief “letters” to his heroes who had passed on. The first letter he wrote was to his mother. He ended this letter almost prophetically, saying
Well, you’ve been in heaven with Christ for thirty-three years now, and I can see that I am on my way there too. But I wanted to send this letter on ahead to set up our coming reunion. I want to begin heaven a little more realistically than I lived things out down here. I don’t see how Jesus will have the kind of time I want to spend with the both of you. Still, if you can arrange for the three of us to meet, it would make a great beginning of our time together.
I hope Dr. Miller got his meeting. And I hope that one day, I can have a similar meeting with Jesus and a few of my heroes who have been set free from the folly of flesh. Hebrews 12 speaks of the “Cloud of Witnesses” comprised of the faithful saints who have blazed the trail Home for us to follow. Dr. Miller, welcome to your place in the “Witness Cloud.” I can’t wait to join you!