The world lost a hero recently. Jim Downing passed away on February 13, 2018, in his Colorado home. At 104, Jim was the second oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a war hero who was equally comfortable in the presence of a US President or a young child. He was the godliest person I have known. Jim Downing was a great man and a friend.
I could never bring myself to call Jim an elderly man. Perhaps I did not want to remind myself of Jim’s mortality. I also saw Jim as a man full of vitality. He called me shortly after renewing his driver’s license when he reached 100 years old and told me he did not expect to have to do that again. I remember smiling at the thought of anybody still driving at 100! He continued traveling for speaking engagements until less than a year ago and published his last book at age 102.
Throughout the years, Jim maintained a simple and profound commitment for the Great Commission. His great passion was knowing Jesus and helping others to do the same. This was always our primary topic of conversation. He told me about college students he was mentoring, and I shared stories about the guys I was working with. I considered Jim an expert at making disciples, because he was actually doing it. Lots of Christians talk about it, but Jim actually helped people live more victorious lives for Jesus. The work of making disciples for Jesus Christ consumed Jim from the time he gave his life to Jesus in 1935. Jim believed we could reach the world for Jesus one person at a time, and he pursued that dream until the end.
Jim Downing inspired me to be a better man. He maintained a simple life of pursuing intimacy with Jesus and helping others to do likewise, and he did it with love and compassion. “Jim Downing, you have finished the race set before you, and you have finished it well. Well done my friend.”