As many of you know, REUP lost a dear and important member of our leadership team last week when Sean Heltsley passed away after a valiant and sudden battle with cancer. I was humbled to be asked to speak at his funeral. Following are my notes from that day:
I was a man who loved Sean dearly and who had the honor of having him as a giant of a friend in my life.
About seven years ago, Sean and Leslie showed up in a Sunday School class I was teaching and shortly after that, Sean reached out to me for lunch. He shared with me that he felt his walk with the Lord had always been on a parallel highway. He could see another road running right next to the road he was on, but he just couldn’t figure out how to get over to the other side. He desperately wanted to be over there!
So we started hanging out, meeting together, talking and his passion for the Lord just overtook him! For the past 7 years, I watched Sean drift back into the shadows as he allowed Jesus to love HIS life through Sean.
As I started praying about the best way to honor Sean today and what to say – the Lord in His grace gave me a thought; just share what Sean would say if he were standing here before all of you today. So for the next few minutes, I want to share with you what I think Sean would say if he were now:
First – Sean would say…. cancer did not win! I am standing face-to-face with God almighty and praising Him! I’ve seen Jesus, my dad…oh what a glorious past few days!
Secondly – I think Sean would say don’t be sad for me. I got to be loved like you cannot imagine – family, friends, coworkers, church family…. my sweet Leslie, Austin, and Griffin. They loved me ferociously, I was the most blessed husband and father in the world.
Next – I think Sean would turn his attention to men, he had such a passion and burden for men to be who God created them to be!
- And he would first say, guys it’s okay to turn in your ‘man card’ and go to a Barry Manilow concert… because that made Leslie happy … and as a husband we should strive to do the best we can to make our wives happy!
- Then he would say, quit trying to live by your life – let Christ that is in you – live His life through you! (I saw that happen in this man!) As much as I am a gas pedal, Sean was a good break for me. During leadership meetings when I would be charging ahead filling the room with big ideas Sean would stop me and remind all of us that we couldn’t do any of this planning but only God could … Him living through us would make the difference.
- He would say, ask God to burden your heart for the next generations, they need us!Sean loved to pour his life into young men! He coached, he led small groups, he was a dedicated worker and leader for the boys football and baseball teams, and I don’t know how many countless young men he met at Facemask events that he would take under his wing and help start Fire Teams. In Paris, TN earlier this year a group of high school football players wanted to start a Fire Team and Sean paid for all of their materials (he did that for several groups of young guys), called them, and encouraged them. He knew these next generations were important, were our future and he wanted them to know Jesus!
- Fathers, be your kid’s hero! Sean loved Austin and Griffin so much. He talked about them all the time. He showed them the way. And he will live on for many years through these young men.
- Men, quit making excuses and be men of your word! (This really bothered Sean.) I can remember numerous calls and texts from him when he would be so mad because a guy hadn’t followed through on what he had said he would do. Just think about Sean‘s life; he had a 2 hour commute every day, he spent time daily with Leslie, did things with the boys, coached ball, served in church and REUP, was in a Fire Team every single Fridaymorning at 6:30 am. This guy was busy! But he NEVER went back on his word.
Next, he would say Go Cats! Because this guy loved the Big Blue. And he would tell you that if you are ever in Gadsden, AL – be sure and have a fried bologna/egg/cheese biscuit from Jack’s!
A few weeks ago in one of the last things Sean wrote for REUP, he talked about losing his voice. I want to read a portion of that for you now:
“Right now I don’t know when, or if, I will speak normally again. My voice, which is one of those things I took completely for granted 15-16 weeks ago has been taken from me. I use that voice daily in my vocation and I am limited right now in what I can do there. I help to lead a small group of teenage boys at church and I’ve been unable to do that. I can’t even conduct a normal conversation with someone sitting right in front of me. For the past 5-6 years of my life, I have tried to take my role as a disciple-maker seriously. I have tried to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that would put me in the right places to make disciples. Have I done enough? Absolutely not! Can I ever do enough? Absolutely not! Even so, God had given me a voice for a reason. Now I regret not doing more when I had a voice. Not for one moment did I ever imagine that one day that voice might no longer be there. Maybe with more time and treatment my voice will return. Maybe it won’t. I guess what’s in my thoughts today is to encourage every one of you that has a voice to use that voice for His glory. Use it for the most important reason it’s been given to you, tell people about Jesus. They need to know, and you have the ability to tell them.”
Finally, I think he would say that if somebody here today isn’t sure about this God thing, I want you to know that God is who He says He is and the most significant thing you can ever do is give your life to Him. Make Him your life so you are no longer having to live your own life! Accept Jesus as your Savior so you can truly understand Philippians 1:21“to live is Christ and to die is gain”.
For those of us know Jesus as our Savior, I think Sean would challenge us with these words from Luke 10:27-28:
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’
And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”