Greater Love (Remembering Derek)
Today marks 15 years since I lost one of my best friends. Derek Simmons died of an accidental overdose around people that cared very little about him. I tell the detailed version of his death in the "Power of Agreement". Not a week goes by that I don't think about him. I celebrated 15 years of marriage this past year and all Kelly and I could think about was how he would have enjoyed the celebration. The country artist, Cole Swindell has a song on the charts now titled, "You should be here". It is a pretty fitting song for anyone that has lost someone they love. Derek's death on 5/5/2001 altered they way I viewed life, faith, and many other aspects of how this fallen world operates. Derek has lived on through his parents, friends, and his brother Colt who was married this past year. Ironically, Colt's wife's name is Derika (you can't make this stuff up).
Derek and I had our teenage struggles, but he believed in me and told me I would preach and serve God one day. To date, I have seen over 5,000 people make decisions for Christ when I tell his story. Last night, I prayed for one of our members who had a brother in jail. The brother's name was Derek.
The events surrounding Derek's death are still very fishy, but his friends and family are at peace with his transition and know God used it for good (Romans 8:28). Today, I honor the legacy of my friend and will continue to live with the pain of regret that fuels me to spread the gospel and help people in the struggle. Somehow by helping them I am helping him.
I am thankful that Grace is never about how good we are, but always about how good God is. Derek was saved, baptized, and was touched by the Holy Spirit as a teenager. He died in a season where he drifted away, but I believe I will see my brother again in Glory. Jesus Christ laid down his life for his friends. Derek's death changed the lives of many for the good and was and still is a reminder of what Jesus did for all of us. He had to die so that we might live.
There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13
I am praying for every person that has lost someone they truly loved. Hold on to the hope we have in Christ Jesus and his word.
Here is a message I preached at Abba's House (Collide 2015) in memory of Derek. I have told his story in 8 different states and 3 countries. I have shared it in high schools, middle schools, churches, and universities. God continues to use this story to touch this generation, but at the end of the day I still miss my friend.