A Tribute to Billy Cloninger

When I received Lesli’s message last Saturday night that Billy had been
admitted to the hospital, I drove down to see Billy. I had just missed the family. I went in to talk with Billy. We had had eaten several lunches together over the years. We were friends. In fact, I believe, if we had grown up in the same town we would have been childhood friends. One advantage of being a long-tenured pastor is that when you make hospital visits, you don’t just visit church members, you visit friends. I visited with my friend. We talked for a while. I could tell he was struggling. I knew he needed his rest, so I prayed for Billy. And, as I left, I said, “So long, Billy. I will see you soon.” I had a funny feeling when I said those words. While I hoped to see him the next day, I sensed something else going on.

I learned Sunday morning that Billy had died in the night. Billy’s cause of death was heart failure. Interestingly, one of his favorite Bible verses was Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” On Sunday morning, Jesus shouted, “Billy, come out!” And, the man who had died came out. Billy came out of the tomb that had imprisoned him, the shackles that had bound him were loosed, the demons that had terrorized him were gone, the heart that stopped beating was made clean and renewed to new life in heaven.

Billy often said, “I know I will be in heaven because I fought my demons
on earth.” He wrote in his journal, “Life seems very hard at times. This is not how I had mine planned at all. . . . I have . . . to trust God and let him be in charge and to try to live instead of making a life. I will relax and give my all to God, trusting in God with all my being.” Later, he wrote, “God made us to honor him and to prepare for eternity. This will bring us great peace and joy.” And, “Faith is taking hold of Christ—keeping hold—and not letting go.”

About Rick Ezell

I am a husband, father, pastor, and writer. This blog is about shaping character, transforming church, and impacting culture. I believe that if one defines their moments then their moments will determine their character and their character will influence their world. I write on personal development, church leadership, and our changing culture. I also write about the resources I am developing and the books I am writing. My goal is to create challenging, relevant, and inspiring content that will help you be a better person, the church be a better parish, and the world a better place. If you are interested in those things, this blog is for you. I have served the church my entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. I studied at Samford University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (eventually I will get it). I have written eight books. My most recent ones are Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love and Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23. Both are available as eBooks. I have written over 1000 articles for various local, regional, and national publications. I have been married to Cindy for thirty-three years. We have one wonderful daughter. We live in Greenville, SC. In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, running, tennis, and golf. You can contact me via email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my employer. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.
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