There’s a disruptive tear in the fabric of life when someone dies. Tens of thousands of people die each day, but we live unaware of this fact until death comes close enough for us to touch. Death becomes real during those moments as the fabric is torn, shaking us to our bones, opening up the depths of our souls to a reality we all must one day face for ourselves.
Death brings a perspective we need but would rather not have. James tells us our lives are like a vapor, and death rips open the belief we have that our lives are as solid as earth. We don’t want to be told that we are to appear for a while and then vanish; this does violence to the sense we have of our own permanence and our own importance.
But death is a vital part of life. It remains the ultimate unknown for the human, which is why fear is its closest companion. But God does not mean for it to be this way. He has a perspective on death that is healthy and right; in fact, God felt death was so necessary that He clothed His Son in flesh so He could taste it Himself. Jesus prophesied of His own death: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
This was Jesus’ mission: to be the grain of wheat, so that by His death much fruit would be borne. And in a similar way, all those who have been made alive by His fruit share in this mission. Our physical death does not produce the kind of harvest that Jesus’ did, but He doesn’t mean for it to. He means for us to die to self while we live, to remain in Him as a branch in the vine, so that He might continue to produce a harvest within us.
This brings us to our story of a man who lived this kind of life and produced this kind of harvest. Bob Hawkins, Sr. was a man of great consequence: an entrepreneur, businessman, publisher, evangelist, soldier, husband, father, and grandfather. Perhaps his most notable achievement was founding Harvest House Publishers, now one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses whose books have impacted the lives of tens of millions.
But his core identity, the one which made all the others most fruitful, was as a disciple, servant, and friend to King Jesus. It was this relationship above all others that gave Bob Sr. the wisdom to know the world as it is: in great need. And it was this relationship which gave him the eyes to see the answer the world needs: Jesus.
Today, the publishing house Bob Sr. left years ago to the care and leadership of his son, Bob Jr., is committed to “providing high-quality books and products that affirm biblical values, help people grow spiritually strong, and proclaim Jesus as the answer to every human need.” But the legacy of Harvest House is not simply a legacy of a company; it is also a legacy which envelopes both you and me.
I am part of Bob Sr.’s legacy, and so are you. The publishing house he started in his garage in 1974 has now taken me in as part of its family, and I have taken up this same banner of proclaiming Jesus as the answer to our soul’s deepest needs. And as you read these words, the calling to you is the same: to die to self so you can proclaim Jesus as the answer to the world’s greatest need.
Bob Sr.’s death ultimately reminds us of the harvest of Jesus. Because Christ deigned to become the seed that fell, Bob Sr. was able to die to self so that he might truly live. And we bear the same glorious mission as Bob Sr., to die to self so that we might truly live. We are Jesus’ harvest, the fruit of His death, to be gathered into His Father’s house where we will taste and see His infinite and all-satisfying goodness.
May we be inspired by this life so well lived, and may it cause us to reflect on the lives we lead today. But may his death also give pause to the living, to remind us that life is but a vapor, that dying to self is the means to true living, the kind of living that joins us once more to the Seed who has risen and lives forevermore.
More information on the life of Bob Hawkins, Sr. can be found at the Harvest House Memorial Page.