January 21, 1972-September 29, 2015
My friend and brother in Christ, Jimmy Jackson, ended a heroic struggle yesterday. I originally wrote that Jimmy “lost a heroic struggle,” but that isn’t right. No Christian loses a battle at the end of this earthly sojourn — he enters the Paradise of God to await the resurrection of his body at that Great Day. We grieve, but God views Jimmy’s death as a blessing: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15). A funeral home came to take Jimmy’s body, but angels came to take his spirit to Abraham’s bosom (Lk 16:22). Jimmy had struggle after struggle in this world, but not in the next; John “heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Rev 14:13).
Jimmy spent time behind bars, and during his incarceration in the Lauderdale County Jail in Florence, Alabama, David Underwood taught Jimmy the Gospel of Christ. On April 10, 1996, Jimmy was immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38). After he was raised from that watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:1-4), Jimmy put away the deeds of the flesh and walked in the Spirit (Gal 5:16). After Jimmy was baptized, he was placed back in shackles and handcuffs and his got in the back of a van and returned to jail. Jimmy may not have been physically free, but he was free — free of sin, free of guilt, and free in the Spirit.
Jimmy signed papers to attend International Bible College (now Heritage Christian University) while he was still incarcerated. Jimmy graduated while I was teaching there, and Jimmy’s kind, sweet spirit; his desire to follow God; and his tenacity impressed me more than I can express. The only two bad things I can really say about Jimmy is that he pulled for the Auburn Tigers (anyone knows you yell, “Roll Tide!”) and he gave me grief should my Kentucky Wildcats lose a game (not that he had that much of an opportunity to do so).
Jimmy did not have a choice but to acquire that tenacious spirit I so admired, for his life changed forever on Wednesday December 22, 2004. Jimmy had just left Bible study at the Chisholm Hills church of Christ as a brother in Christ left another area congregation. The other driver hit a patch of black ice and hit Jimmy’s vehicle. Jimmy’s face and forehead required nearly 100 stitches, and his nose had to be sewn back together and reattached to his face. Physicians placed screws in Jimmy spine, and he was paralyzed from the chest down.
Jimmy continued to serve God, and his motto was “Abled, not Disabled!” He still preached in congregations of God’s people. Jimmy founded lepers4christ to serve the “outcast” in society; a non-profit organization, lepers4christ had recently raised over $2000 to help feed, clothe, and serve the needy, those whom society all too often casts aside (Matt 25:31-46).
Jimmy really wanted to do a video interview via FaceTime, and I had promised to call him last week. I got busy and didn’t make that call. There’s a lesson there: Don’t forget to make that call, don’t forget to give that hug, don’t forget to pray that prayer, and don’t forget to say, “I love you.” “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Js 4:14).
I’ll never have the chance to talk with Jimmy again on this earth, but I look forward to seeing him again as we gather around the throne of God. I look forward to using our voices, not to record an interview, but to sing praises to the eternal God. I look forward to seeing Jimmy whole, not bound in a wheelchair, not in horrible pain. I look forward to spending all of eternity with Jimmy in “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10).
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54-57).