In my early days of coaching, David Copeland was one of our young basketball players. As he grew up and has become a husband and father, David has encouraged our son Taylor in many ways. They both love to fish, so most of the mentoring has taken place in a boat. This past week, David’s dad died of cancer after having been diagnosed this past summer.

Jim Copeland accomplished incredible things in his lifetime. He was a standout athlete in high school and college. He became an accountant and was eventually named CEO of Deloitte, one of the top accounting firms in the world. With an uncanny ability to analyze information and make wise decisions, he was asked to serve on many boards, including Coca-Cola, Equifax, United Way International, and the 9/11 Memorial Fund which raised over 400 million dollars for the families of those who died in the attack. A few years after retiring at the age of fifty-eight, Jim and two partners bought B.A.S.S., the world authority on bass fishing, from ESPN and turned the organization around. He rubbed shoulders with presidents of nations and secretaries of state and famous people around the globe, but the things highlighted at his funeral were what mattered most to him… faith, family, and friends.

David shared memories of his dad from his childhood and the special times they enjoyed in his fourteen years of retirement. Helping the poor was a priority for his father. Jim loved God’s Word and taught Sunday school and led Bible studies for over forty years. David spoke of his dad’s passion after cancer diagnosis to make sure all relationships with people were in good order, to love everyone, and to share Jesus with all.

Instead of promoting Jim’s many achievements, a writing by David’s thirteen-year-old daughter was printed on the inside cover of the funeral program. It was entitled Hero; here are a few lines:

  • “An example of a hero in my life is my grandfather; he is a true fighter and believer.”
  • “I have never met anyone so passionate and caring towards people.”
  • “Even with cancer his heart is ablaze for people and his heart for Jesus is a burning wild fire.”
  • “My grandfather is a true hero and I aspire to be just like him.”

When those that know you best see Jesus at work in your life, there is wonderful fruit. I told David how proud I was of the way he honored his father. He reminded me that his dad often prayed for me, then added, “Now he is in that ‘great cloud of witnesses.’” May we be encouraged by those who use their talents for God’s glory and may we all run our race well.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

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