Reflections on the death of a friend, Brian Hamrick

Pastor Brian Hamrick entered the land of the living last night, April 24, 2009, while recuperating from surgery in Gulf Coast Hospital in Ft. Myers, Florida. Brian served as Pastor of First Baptist Church, Clewiston, FL. He was admitted to Gulf Coast via medi-flight on April 11 after serious complications from surgery set in. Brian was 33 years old and leaves behind his wife, Katherine, and two sons, Nathan (4) and Luke (1).

I visited with Brian last Sunday night during one of his more difficult times. I read Augustine’s favorite Psalm to him (Psalm 32) and before we prayed, he said, “Tom, I want you to know that I am ready for whatever the Lord has for me. If He heals me, I am ready. If not, I am ready for that, too. It’s OK.” His grip was as strong as his faith and I left encouraged by the obvious display of God’s grace in his life. I grieve over our loss.

I hate death. It is, after all, our “last enemy.” We were not built to die. Sin ushered in death to the human experience. For the Christian, death is gain because it means entrance into the immediate presence of our Lord. But it is still a sorrowful experience because not only does it separate a husband from his wife, a father from his children and a pastor from his flock, but it also separates the spirit from the body. We were not designed to experience any of these losses.

Although death is an enemy, for the follower of Jesus Christ, it is a defeated enemy. Christ has conquered death through His powerful resurrection. As such, He is the “firstfruits,” the trail blazer for all who are trusting Him. As He has gone, so those who are His shall also go. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has removed the sting of death for every believer. Though we will not escape it, we no longer have to be terrorized by it.

That is why Christian grief is different from the grief of unbelievers. Yes, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with HIm those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

Brian was a faithful husband, father and pastor. He loved God’s Word and was willing to teach and preach with gentleness and patience, trusting the Lord to do His work in His time through His appointed means. I am grateful to have known him.

Please pray for his family. Katherine knew far more clearly than did Brian the seriousness of his situation. The one request that she made of me last week was to pray that her faith would be strengthened. May the Lord grant her this. Pray for Nathan and Luke who are too young fully to comprehend what their dad’s death means. Pray for Associate Pastor Joshua Vincent, Worship Pastor Todd Buck and the church as they grieve the loss of their friend and shepherd. And pray that, as in his life, so in his death, Brian’s Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will receive glory and honor.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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