Tom Martin was a man who made it easy to preach at his funeral. Sometimes a minister wrestles trying to find the appropriate verse—not so for this funeral. There was only one verse, and it was on the side of Tom's toolbox for all to see.
And not only was it on the side of his toolbox, it was lived and confirmed by every aspect of his life.
Tom passed away on Saturday 5th March at the age of 95. It was in many ways a miracle that he made it that far—a miracle of God's protecting mercy! One Lord's Day on the way out of church, he tilted his head towards me indicating a small cut on his head.
“Tom, what did you do?”
“Well, I had a chainsaw attached to the end of a brush shaft….”!!
No more needed to be said. Nothing stopped him. It wasn't unusual to find him in recent years on the roof of a house or shed repairing it. At the age of 92 he was wielding a sledge hammer and iron wedge, splitting logs into kindling for 'old people'—neighbours usually about 15 years his junior!
He was one of life’s great encouragers—he always had something to encourage you with when he saw you. The world needs more of that.
He was a devoted husband. His love for his wife was a beautiful thing to see—a steadfast cherishing commitment over 70 years through his wife’s many health trials. He adored his wife Connie. My favourite photo is of him sharply dressed in his suit, wearing a flower in his buttonhole, and holding a bouquet—with all the joy of a young man on his first date—going to see his wife in a nursing home on their 70th wedding anniversary.
He was also a real soul-winner. He was a master at winsomely and gently sharing the gospel. He really cared for people, and he never lost his amazement at the greatness of God’s salvation. So, whether it was slipping a tract into a bag of sticks, or talking to you with a twinkle in his eye about his Saviour, or sending a book he thought would help you, or the verse painted on his toolbox, or gently pointing to a carefully selected text hung on the wall of his workshop—Tom loved to share something of the great news of salvation. It was too good not to share! And the prospect of people missing out troubled him deeply.
He was also an incredible engineer. Tom had spent his life as a car mechanic and then an appliance repairman—there was nothing he could not fix. He had a passion for old engines, and many an engine that had been seized and rusted beyond any semblance of usage found itself restored to life under Tom’s hands. Clocks, machines, fridges, books with broken binding, even paintbrushes!—anything and everything found a new lease of life with him.
His shed and his hands were a living illustration of the gospel. In Tom’s shed and in Tom’s hands, nothing was beyond repair. So with his Saviour—no one is beyond repair. And so it was appropriate that on his toolbox he had a verse he wanted everyone to consider. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
It summed up his heart for his saviour and his heart for people. Tom was a man who believed fully in the greatness of salvation. His eyes would light up when he talked about it. Some Christians seem to have sucked on a lemon before they tell you about the gospel. Tom Martin always looked like he had tasted the sweetest honey—and he wanted you to taste it too.
Isn’t there something deeply appropriate that this verse is on a toolbox—and not only as a conversation starter? For as Tom brought ‘salvation’ to many bits of machinery, so his Saviour has a toolbox, and it doesn’t matter how far gone you are, how far you feel beyond repair, how much of a sinner you feel—there is hope.
Come to the Saviour’s toolbox—inside there is great salvation. No one is beyond repair. No heart so seized up that it can’t be unseized. No life so stained by layers of dirt but it can't be rubbed clean, and polished by the great salvation Jesus Christ brings. No one so broken, no one so abandoned, so misused or even abused. Anyone can come to Jesus, no matter how hurt, how broken, how ‘beyond repair’ they feel, and they will find themselves lovingly restored under the master’s hand.
Tom has gone to be with the Saviour he loved. His funeral sermon kind of preached itself. And his toolbox sits now as he left it, with its hand-painted verse still preaching, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)