Come Before Winter by Pastor James Collins

Pastor James Collins

Come Before Winter

Do thy diligence to come before winter.2 Timothy 4:21a

The voice on the other end of the line said, “You need to come quickly. Fred is dying.” Suddenly, I felt weak. I needed to sit down.

I never knew my father. Fred Hambrick was like a father to me. He was my “father” in the faith. He was my “Paul” and I was his “Timothy.” For many years, Fred was my pastor. When I gave my life to Christ, Fred baptized me. When I surrendered to the ministry, Fred mentored me. When I went to seminary, Fred tutored me. He has been a big part of my life. The thought of his dying before I could say “goodbye” was heartbreaking. I had to hurry.

The five-hour drive to Norman, Oklahoma only took four. When I arrived at the hospital, I was greeted in the hallway by Fred’s wife, Lola. My mind could not fully comprehend what she was saying – something about a severe stroke and it being only a matter of time.

I hurried into his room. He looked frail and weak on the hospital bed. “Fred,” I spoke loudly, “It’s me James.” He opened his eyes. His arms tried to lift as if he wanted to embrace me. I grabbed his hands and leaned in so he could hear me, “I love you.” The stroke had robbed him of his voice, but he mouthed, “I love you too.” I said, “I’ve told all your jokes and preached all your sermons. I need you to write me some more.” He seemed to want to laugh at my attempt at humor. I swear there was a smile on his face, but that was impossible. The stroke had taken his smile.

I talked to Fred for a bit. Eventually, I settled into waiting with his family. That night, Dr. A. Fred Hambrick was escorted by angels into the presence of Jesus Christ. Until the Lord comes back or calls me home, I will miss him.

Just before he died, the Apostle Paul wrote from a Roman prison to his “son” in the faith, Timothy. Toward the end of the letter we know as 2 Timothy, Paul tells the young preacher to hurry to see him. He says, “Come before winter.” If Timothy doesn’t get there by winter, it will be too late – Paul will be executed.

Have you ever had a friend, or a loved one die and you think, “It can’t be possible? I just saw him.” But you will never see him on this earth again. You think, “I was going to go see him this week. Or I was going to have supper with him next week. Or I was going to call him tomorrow.” Or that you were going to do this – or say that. But now it is too late.

Time is passing. The calendar is turning. There are only so many days in our lives. There are things in this life that will never be done unless they are done “before winter.” The winter will come, and the spring will pass. Flowers will bloom and then they will die. There are opportunities that we have on this summer day, but by November those opportunities will be gone forever.

The point is: Don’t wait too late. Reach out to that loved one. As you are reading this, there is someone on your mind. I didn’t put them there. God did. Call that person. If possible, go see that person. Tell them you love them. Don’t put it off. Tomorrow may be too late.

Come before winter.

James Collins is senior pastor at Fort Scott’s First Southern Baptist Church. He can be reached at (620) 223-2986, or through the website

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