Men at Best: Thoughts on the Death of Mildred Rosscup

At 4:04pm I received an email from The Master’s Seminary announcing that Mildred Rosscup went home to be with the Lord today (or whatever “today” means when you’re with the Lord).  Mildred was the precious wife of half-retired Bible Exposition Professor Jim Rosscup.  She suffered greatly throughout her latter years, and Dr. Rosscup cared for her faithfully.  We could always tell that she was precious to him by the way he talked about her.  These things leave a mark on a young man.

Dr. Rosscup is a very elderly man now, though he still teaches one or two of his specialty classes each semester.  He’s been advanced in years since I began studying at TMS (for TMC students, he was Daniel Wong’s main professor during his years at Talbot Seminary).  Dr. Rosscup is one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met, well-known for his prayer-saturated life and teaching, and relentlessly rigorous in his treatment of the Scriptures.

We tend to think that our leaders are invincible; that nothing can faze them; that they somehow have an untouchable reservoir of that intangible strength that makes a man stand and deliver for half a century without blinking an eye.  Certainly there is a kernel of truth to our assumptions.  God graces some men with extraordinary strength, fortitude, and perseverance.  They are gifts to the church, “being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of our faith” (Philippians 2:17).

But even “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17), Paul “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9), and Jesus himself wept and wrestled (John 11:35-36; Luke 22:44).  Our leaders may be strong in grace, but they are not machines.  They are men.  And “the best of men are men at best.”  Even Jesus, though far more than a man, was not superhuman.  The mystery of the incarnation is not meant to be solved by attributing superhero status to the God-man.  Yes, He did miracles, and yes, He is coming soon in power and great glory.  But he walked the earth with a cross, not a cape.  He was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3).

How much more, then, should we recognize that our own leaders need our support, encouragement, and prayer?  How many times did I walk into Dr. Rosscup’s class thinking that my minimal amount of sleep the night before qualified as a greater trial than his years of self-sacrificing care for his precious Mildred?  How often did he mention Mildred’s suffering as a prayer request, only to watch her needs be suffocated by the self-consumed anxieties of deadline-driven students?  How often did we simply fail to care, empathize, and pray?

This is not to say that we were always uncaring; only to say that the younger generation rarely appreciates the sacrifices and scars of those fighting on the frontlines as they labor through a weariness that our youthful self-pity cannot begin to comprehend.

Yet there stands Dr. Rosscup, still laboring in his study, still pouring out his heart in prayer, still making the long commute to the seminary, still teaching the Word of God, still grading papers with comprehensive detail, still working on his massive lifetime book projects, still offering that authentic, dignified smile to every student who passes by.  The only thing he won’t be doing anymore is caring for his Mildred, because there is another who will care for her now, the one who has always cared for her most.  The one who has always loved her most.  The one who gave her Jim.

And who will care for Dr. Rosscup?  Who will support him in prayer?  Who will give him the dignity of empathy, not as an act of condescension but as a blended act of compassion and honor?  It should be us.

It should be us praying for our leaders, supporting those who guide us, refreshing those who oversee us, and encouraging those who pour out their lives for our spiritual good.  This is not to minimize our own pain.  Certainly our own hardships are real.  The bright hope of youth is sometimes dimmed by the dark clouds of affliction.  But it is good to remember that those walking before us are facing darker clouds still, often alone, and they are always bearing the extra burden of leading their flocks through the storm.

So pray for these men.  Love them, encourage them, and support them.  Strengthen their hands in the battle.  Appreciate their labor and affirm their ministry.  You will never know the depth of their sacrifice because they will never make it known.  You will only get snapshots here and there through a brief prayer request, an irrepressible moment of psalm-like pain, or an email from your seminary saying that a precious saint named Mildred Rosscup has gone to be with the Lord.

Jim Rosscup is a man of God and a soldier of the King, and he was a tenaciously faithful husband.  Honor him.


5 thoughts on “Men at Best: Thoughts on the Death of Mildred Rosscup

  1. Dr. Rosscup affected me unlike any other professor I’ve ever had the privilege of learning under. He is one of those men that you wish you take a class under repeatedly throughout the years, to continue to learn, grow, be encouraged, challenged strengthened, and built up. I remember calling my then fiance after his ‘retirement’ message in chapel a few years ago. I tearfully told her I wanted to finish like that.

    He may not have been the best classroom teacher, but I cannot think of a better teacher for ministry and a life in service to Christ and His body.

  2. David,

    I am a current student at The Master’s Seminary (TMS) and you could not have said it better. Dr. Rosscup was a favorite of my Pastor (Tom Leake). He would speak in reverent tones about this humble servant of God whose prayer life was a rebuke to him. He would repeat phrases like “Men, prayer is not part of the ministry, prayer IS the ministry!” I applied to TMS, anxious to sign up for every class I could with Dr. Rosscup, only to find out he was retiring. It is God’s gift to me and many fellow students to have him teaching part-time. I have tried to take advantage of the opportunities to learn from him both inside and outside of class. My wife and I had the privilege of having dinner with Dr. and Mrs. Rosscup, just after thier 50th wedding anniversary. We wanted to glean all the wisdom could in our discussion but watching them interact was the greatest lesson we received. After our visit Mildred secretly helped me choose a gift for Dr. Rosscup, that we presented to him in our prayer class. Mildred was such a loving supporter of her husband and there is no way that we can fill that gap. Dr. Rosscup called her “next to Christ my most life shaping example.” However, we will take seriously your challenge to love, encourage, pray for and honor this sweet and precious gift that God has given to TMS. I’ve told many here that I believe we are the last generation to have personal access to men like this. Men like Dr. Rosscup or Dr. Thomas (who both taught John MacArthur in Seminary) or Dr. Craigen don’t just pop up overnight. These are men that God has refined through many years of rigorous study and the trials of life. It will take many years to replace any of them. We are greatly privileged men! Thank you for your insightful comments. I will share them with the men at our morning prayer. Press on Brother.

    Because He Lives,
    George Lawson

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