Lessons for the Christian from the life of Prince Philip

Prince Philip as he was so often in life, standing behind the Queen.Reuters

It really does seem like the end of an era. In fact, I've never known a time when there was no 'Duke of Edinburgh'! But death comes to us all, whatever our status, whatever our achievements.

The Jewish prophet Isaiah understood this which is why he encouraged his people to view their fleeting mortality in the light of God's infinite glory.

"God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!" he wrote. "He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff. 'To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?' asks the Holy One".

I feel deeply sorry for the Queen and the royal family. It's clearly going to be a tough time for them all given the crucial role the Duke seems to have played in their lives. I'm praying that his passing might at the very least precipitate some sort of reconciliation with Harry and Meghan.

I must admit I have been deeply impressed by the things I have learned about the Duke over the past few days. I know he had his flaws - we all do. But he was clearly a very rounded figure who has left a legacy to be proud of.

As former chaplain to the Queen, Gavin Ashenden, has said, "He exemplified patience, long-suffering, humility and kindness, when the cost of all of these virtues was demandingly high. His was a generous, tough, reliable, protective and imaginative masculinity, complementing the role and character of his wife both in private as well as public. We should never take such virtue for granted, but instead be deeply grateful for it and recognise it for containing the depths of human integrity that gave such stability to both family and society."

As I read those words, I couldn't help thinking how sad it is that so often we don't say good things about someone until they have died. Why don't we grasp the opportunity to encourage them while they are alive? His example could and should challenge Christians such as myself too!

His willingness to 'play second fiddle', for example, is a reminder that I should never seek the limelight. Anything I do should reflect on my heavenly sovereign's glory not my own. In the same way, his determination to encourage youngsters to fulfil their potential is a reminder that the Church is not supposed to be a 'one-man band' but a cohesive body within which everyone should be given the opportunity to utilise their God given abilities.

Prince Philip was clearly a man of faith, even though that fact didn't seem to figure very highly in the press coverage he received over the years. It was especially good to learn that it was a 'questioning faith' too, because God is not looking for automatons but thoughtful disciples who are willing to use their 'little grey cells' as they live out their lives in an ever-changing world.

Best of all though, it is so good to know that his grieving family can look to the day when he will be raised to life again. May that glorious truth sustain them as they seek to move on without him.

Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.