WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
READY TO RECEIVE THE CROWN OF LIFE
Vahram's longing for his beloved Istanbul and for the believers and close relatives there found expression in his letters. It was becoming apparent that he wouldn't be returning to Istanbul. He was slowly reconciled to the fact that his life and ministry would be concluded in South America
Long years of ceaseless toil, constant travel, sleepless nights and general exhaustion had taken their toll. From the time he had landed in South America not once had he been to see a doctor. He was convinced that the Savior of his soul was also the healer of his body. So in every emergency he would turn to Him with absolute confidence.
At the beginning of 1965 he began to feel unwell, but said nothing to anybody. He did not want his physical condition to interfere with his ongoing ministry. He continued to walk the pathway of faith by prayer alone. As well as going to Chile, God had helped him to take a trip to Brazil and have a rewarding ministry there. But when he returned to Argentina he was extremely exhausted and was suffering some pain. His sister and other relatives insisted that he check in at the hospital. His faith and confidence in God's care increased in proportion to the weakness he was enduring. His strong Christian character shone through his suffering. He faced the physical debility joyfully, but he was steadily losing weight. The red blood cells in his body were gradually dying. On the first of August he was taken to the Sanatorio Evangelico in Buenos Aires where it was recognised that his condition was critical. Before the doctors performed any treatment he would say, "Let us pray,” and he would proceed to do so himself.
His kidneys were no longer functioning, and many times he was given blood. News of his condition spread to every country and city where he had worked, and believers were praying. His illness came quite unexpectedly. He had been ministering right to the end, so the news of his fast deteriorating health saddened all who loved him. When visitors came in asking how he was, he would respond with 'Hallelujah!' and confidently declare that if the Lord wished to prolong his life it would be an easy matter for Him to do it. Whenever he was able to speak with other patients or hospital staff, he would always give a lively testimony, reminding them that he was on his way to meet his Lord in heaven. This was the picture of God's man wrestling with death.
He was concerned that his written messages be translated into Spanish and that especially the young be benefited from them. His mind was sound to the end. Each day he received a fresh promise from God's word. One of the last assurances was this: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
At nine o'clock on Sunday morning, the twentieth of August 1965, Vahram Tatikian, God's invincible and tireless ambassador was received, at the age of fifty-six, into the presence of his beloved Christ.
"We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8).
"I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (Philippians 1:23).
This was the end of the earthly pilgrimage of God's faithful servant and heralder of Christ's Good News. He had assisted to propel multitudes of darkened hearts into Christ's infinite grace. His labors touched four continents, some for extensive periods. The number of those converted to Jesus Christ through his ministry could only be estimated in the tens of thousands. At least twenty young men were guided into the Lord's service through his ministry. His fully productive life here below now ended and the brilliance of eternity began. The comforting words of Daniel the prophet were fulfilled:
"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).
Vahram was more than a believer in God. He was a soldier who gave himself wholeheartedly to carry out his Master's instructions. He was deeply convinced that he must fulfil God’s purpose on earth. Paul's encouraging words to Timothy found their realisation in his life:
"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled
in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him.
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have first share of the crops” (II Timothy 2:3-6).
Soldier, sportsman, farmer — all three work with a purpose. Here the Apostle Paul resembles the life and labor of God's servant to the discipline of each one of them. He emphasizes that the servant of the Lord must be equally diligent. A soldier's life is one separated from worldly work and distraction in order that he may fulfil the purpose for which he has been recruited. He recognises only his commander's instructions. So it was with Vahram. In his labors for Christ he was mindful not to step outside of His command. His whole life was a venture marked by obedience. He pleased his supreme commander and fulfilled His purposes on earth. Furthermore, he trained himself and contested as an athlete with determined perseverance. He completed the race of life with remarkable attainment. In former times a laurel wreath was placed on the winner's head. Vahram’s heavenly Master placed a resplendent crown on his head, saying,
"Well done, good servant!" (Luke 19:17).
How singularly did this servant of God resemble a farmer in his labors! Snow, rain, cold and heat — he disregarded them all. Whether the soil was soft or hard, cultivated or uncultivated, he toiled on. The jealousy of other farmers did not hinder him from persevering. He spared no effort as he gathered in fruit for the Lord. Finally he returned to the Lord of the Harvest, his arms laden with abundant sheaves, to receive the reward of the hard-working farmer.
What kind of a person was this worker? The Apostle Paul described him long ago:
"For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith" (Romans 3:27).
His brothers and sisters in Christ reminiscing on these noble qualities were grieved that this self-giving servant of God was no longer with them. On the other hand, they praised God for the joy that was his at being home with his heavenly Father. In Buenos Aires, everyone who knew him wanted to attend his funeral, but that was not possible. His body was brought from the hospital to the Armenian Brotherhood Church. The doctors who had treated him attended the funeral. The young pallbearers pledged that from then on they would faithfully pursue his unfinished ministry. Several young people were among those who took part in the service. One of them said, "Not only did he win us to the Savior, he also trained us to be disciples and workers like himself." While many expressed deep gratitude to him, this was especially true of the young. The service was a commemoration of thanksgiving for his life-long service for Christ. Every speaker stressed the unequivocal reminder: "Life is short and death is certain. Therefore, repent and believe in Christ." This was particularly directed to the unsaved who were present. Vahram would have wanted it this way. The Scripture that most aptly relates to his life, work and home-going is this:
"And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this:
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.'
‘Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!' "
Vahram, during his rather brief pilgrimage on earth, made heaven real to multitudes because he faithfully proclaimed God's grace by which he himself had discovered the road to heaven. He joined the ranks of many giants who had preceded him, but above all he was satisfied with beholding his Savior (Psalm 17:15).
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