I did not have the privilege, as did many of you, to have known Rick Howard for very long. I met him just a few short years ago.
But, if ever there was a divine appointment, that was it. I attended a small church on Lookout Mountain in the hills of North Georgia. One of our elders had recently presented a message talking about spiritualism’s inroads into our denomination, and had quoted extensively from a new book entitled “The Omega Rebellion.” It was just a few weeks later that I was handed a copy of this book by a relative, and encouraged to read it. After having the book only a very short time, I was in church one Sabbath morning when some visitors walked in. After the service, I discovered that it was none other than Rick Howard and his dear wife, Rosalie.
From the very first conversation with them, our hearts were woven together. Although his continued health battle, his extensive traveling schedule and my workload prevented us from spending a lot of time together, our friendship deepened with every opportunity we had to visit. I think what drew me to him the most was his deep love for God, and his earnest desire to bring others safely into God’s kingdom.
I had spoken with Rick on Monday. He was at Vanderbilt having another procedure, and we were attempting once again to orchestrate our schedules to get together. It was that very next Friday afternoon when I got the call. Rick had been rushed to the hospital late Wednesday night, he had gone through emergency surgery, and was in critical condition. Upon receiving the call, I headed straight to the hospital where I was able to see my dear friend one last time. Just a few days later, he was gone! It was at that moment that I realized, of all the blessings God has given, time is the one which is most taken for granted.
I sat down recently to look for a presentation on YouTube that I had been encouraged to watch when I came across, I believe Providentially, one of Rick’s last messages. I only watched the first few minutes before, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I turned it off. Rick was making the audience aware of the health issues he had been facing, and describing several of the procedures he had been through in order to explain why he was having difficulty speaking. He went on to say that these had all started after he accepted God’s call to write the book, Omega Rebellion. But what struck me most was his next statement, “it was all worth it.” That reminds me of another man who suffered and ultimately gave His life in order to demonstrate to an unappreciative people what God was really like, and to warn them of impending danger.
As I thought about what I could say that would in some small way honor my friend and his family, the thought came to me that I should simply say what I believe Rick would say if he was granted the opportunity to address this gathering. His message would not be about him, but about you! I believe he would say that Time is short! Take time with the Lord every day, for He loves you with an everlasting love. Allow Him to be Lord of your life, for He knows the future and has only your best interest at heart. Be faithful to watch over the flock that God has given you. Love your spouse sacrificially, and make quality time for your children. Live the Word! Do not be satisfied with only theoretical knowledge, but pursue experiential religion and practical godliness. Take every opportunity to share what God has done and is doing in your life with others. Let your faith be known, and help others find the way of salvation. Speak the Truth boldly and without fear, leaving the consequences and results with God. Why? Jesus is about to return! Are you ready?
If I were seeking to find words to best describe my friend, I could come up with none better than the following:
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men,--men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”
To me, the power of Rick’s influence in this world was not so much because of what he said, but because of who he was. Who was Rick Howard? He was the greatest want of the world, and he will be sorely missed! My prayer is that you will join me in honoring him, not merely by verbal accolades, but by carrying on the work that God used him to begin, and by living a life that will be representative of everything for which he stood.
Darren Kennedy practices law in Chattanooga and Jamestown, Tennessee. Darren lives in Tennessee with his beautiful wife of 20 years, Andrea, and two children, Lauren and Grayson.