Let us pray. Father, we come today with heavy hearts and in need of your grace. Yet we also come with the assurance from Your word that our friend is at home with you. We thank you for his life and for what he meant to this family and friends. Thank you, too, that you know our hearts, too. You truly are the Good Shepherd and Your grace is sufficient for all of our needs. You are the comforter of all who sorrow and I pray you would comfort these loved ones and that they would sense your presence and peace as they trust in You. May they find hope and strength in Jesus’ words where He said, “Because I live, you shall live also.”
You know, at a time like this when you lose someone you love, you are often left with many questions about life and death; why some people die young and others live so long. The Bible says that when we know Christ, we grieve, yet not as those who have no hope. But let’s never forget that we DO grieve. Death hurts. Death is real and we need to acknowledge that.
Yet, the world around us often refuses to take death seriously. Some refuse to face the reality of death and avoid talking about it or even thinking about it. Others make light of it say it is just a natural part of life; nothing to get emotional about. But death is not natural or normal. The Bible calls death the great enemy – an intruder.
For you see, God never planned for man to die. His plan was for man to live forever, with His blessing. So of course, we feel the emotion and pain of death when it happens. Yet, when understand what the Bible is saying we can mourn over the loss of a loved one yet without the denial and despair of the world about us. If we trust in Christ we don’t have to make light of death or ignore its reality or pain. Tonight this family is grateful that their loved one is home with his Lord and at peace and rest where the Bible says that is no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.
Friends at a time like this, we also often reflect upon the meaning of our own lives: why we are here, where we are going. As we reflect upon questions like this, I think it is important that we first listen to God has said about this subject in His Word.
Listen carefully as I read from John 14
In John 14, Jesus was facing the greatest trial of His life: His own betrayal and death, and being separated from His Father. And now, His disciples were beginning to sense what was happening and they were frightened. They had many questions about death and what happens after death, as perhaps some of you did when you heard Doug had died. Yet, even as they wrestled with those fears and questions, Jesus sought to comfort them. Remember what He told them? ‘Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.’ So how does a passage like this comfort us today? What hope does this give any of us here for the future?
First of all it reminds us that Jesus knows when our hearts are troubled. No matter how deep the hurt or how sharp the pain of separation, He knows and understands. He knows us better than our friends and relatives, even better than we know ourselves.
Secondly, Jesus tells us to trust Him for our future destiny. If there is one thing that becomes clearer every day is that there is no guarantee for tomorrow. You might be famous like a Princess Diana, a rich guy like Steve Jobs but there is no guarantee for tomorrow.
What we can be assured of, however, is our eternal destiny. Remember what Jesus said, ‘In my Father’s mansion there are many rooms and I go there to prepare a place for you.’ Isn’t that a wonderful thought? From the very beginning, God never planned for man to spend eternity any other place than with Him. And Jesus has gone to prepare those places. Imagine the creator of the universe preparing our homes.
And yet, death is a reality for all of us. The Bible says death is an intruder. When God created man, He planned for him to live forever. Can you imagine anything more wonderful than to live in a world with no cancer or heart disease, no wars or divorce, no broken relationships? Well, that is what God intended life to like for us, until sin entered in.
The Bible tells us that man chose to disobey God, to rebel against God and tell Him that he didn’t need God, that he would run his own life independently. It was through this sin that death entered our world, and with it disease, hatred, hunger, and war. As we all know, death is total in every generation, whether we are rich or poor, black or white, American or Cambodian, we all die.
Jesus, however, came into the world to conquer death. He did this because the greatest of all tragedies is when we reject God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ. For some of us we accepted that offer early in life. For others, it came later in life as a result of a search for peace and a need for hope. Others are still waiting to make that decision.
When Jesus died on that cross 2,000 years ago and rose from the dead, the fear and power of death was broken for all those who trust in Him. That doesn’t mean there isn’t the sorrow of separation for Shirley and her and Doug’s families. But because Jesus paid the penalty we deserved, we can now put our trust in Him and receive the gift of eternal life. We can look forward to an eternity with Him and what a wonderful day that could be.
I say could, because God never forces Himself upon us nor will He force us to spend eternity with Him. Because God loves us so much He created us with free will so that we could choose to accept or reject His love.
By the way, did you notice who Jesus was talking to in this passage? His disciples: Those who had put their faith and trust in Him just as our friend did. He is not in heaven because he led a good life but because he trusted in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. We all know that God loves the world, but His promises are for His children. As we consider our own future, our own mortality, we must ask ourselves whether we have become members of God’s family by putting our trust in Christ.
Friends, it is possible today for us to have true hope amidst sorrow. It’s not that we make light of death or refuse to take it seriously. But neither do we misunderstand its eternal consequences and deny it as the world does. No, when a person has received Christ as their Savior, they can mourn over the pain and separation of death and yet rejoice over the certainty of spending eternity together in heaven. You know, when Jesus died, his disciples wept and were afraid. Jesus’ mother and his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus wept. Many of those who saw Him die didn’t truly understand that even with it’s pain, this one event was what Jesus came to do…. to die that we might live forever.
You know, memories are wonderful things. They help us relive times of happiness and joy in the past. Let me encourage you and your family to take out those pictures from time to time and reflect on the good times the Lord gave you with your loved one. Relive those times of laughter and fun together as a family.
But friends, memories cannot take the place of a sure and certain future. If you have never put your trust in Christ and received Him as your Savior, let me encourage you to do that even today. As we mourn the loss of our loved one, let us take heart that Jesus has conquered death and that He has gone to prepare a place for us.
Father, we thank you for the life of our friend and what he meant to each person here today. Thank you for his love of his wife and for the many years you gave them together. Thank you for his faith in Christ and the assurance we have that he is now with you in heaven. I pray even now that you would wrap your arms around each member of this family and reassure them of your love and your presence. May your all-sufficient grace sustain them during this difficult time and may they remember your promise that you will never leave them or forsake them. May they also experience the peace that passes all understanding and by your grace, be able to trust you not only as their Savior but also as the Good Shepherd.