With what seems to be a daily/weekly news report of a tragic death in our world, for my Direct this week, I thought I would convey a portion of the funeral message I shared at the Bob Haas funeral last week. Many have asked for a copy of these 4 things and I thought it might help you process an untimely death (like Bob’s or those in Oklahoma) when it occurs now, as well as the future.
‘Perhaps you have asked the inevitable question that I have this week – “Why.” Why him, why now, why at 45 years old? This doesn’t feel right – He had so much life left. I want to assure you that those feelings and questions are absolutely normal. In fact, you would be a little abnormal if you didn’t feel that way… But why does death come early?
Let me give you four answers today based on what I understand God and the Bible to say. Because in moments like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word. There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel. And God truly is with us.
1) Because we live in a fallen world. I know from reading the first few chapters of Genesis that we were created to be immortal creatures. God didn’t create us to have an ending. He made us to live forever, but when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, evil entered with it. Sickness and disease stepped into our world as uninvited guests and this cycle of death began. And that’s why we hurt so much at times like these – because death is very unnatural. But death is the byproduct of sin and a fallen, sinful world. I think that God gets blamed for a lot of things that are the Devil’s fault! But someday, God will restore the perfect in heaven. And I’m looking forward to that day when God will ‘Restore all things.’ 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 explains that we live in a fallen world. (Read this great text.)
2) Because there are things we don’t totally understand/know right now. Things that God only knows. Like a small child crying when they have to get a shot at the doctor. You know as a parent this is the best thing for them. You, as a parent, know more than they do as a child but can’t explain it to their little minds. But you understand (and they will too someday.) I Corinthians 13:11, 12 talks about how when we are children, we talk, think, and reason like a child, but as we mature (physically and spiritually), we put childish things away. God is big enough for your questions, so ask him. The Lord doesn’t count time the way we do. What is early and on time really?! Depends on who you ask! God gives us a purpose on earth and when it is completed, he taps us on the shoulder and says – ‘It’s time to come home.’ Someday we will understand.
3) Because we can help/assist others with what we learned in our hurt and pain. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 does a fantastic job explaining this. Grief makes you deeper, stronger, and softer! Who understands death like someone who has been there? God doesn’t cause tragic things, but he does leverage them to shape us and send us to others.
4) Because we can get to heaven faster. It’s peculiar that we often focus so much attention on this life on earth that we totally miss the more eternal life in heaven. Death for the Christian is not a bad thing – it’s a glad thing. We’re not moving from the land of the living to the land of the dying; we’re moving from the land of the dying to the land of the living! A Christian who dies doesn’t get a raw deal – they get the real deal! Because Jesus Christ lives, we will too. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 powerfully declares this. We get to take a great trip. All paid for by Jesus.
Ecclesiastes 3:2 says “There is a time to be born and a time to die.” We will all die someday. Death is inevitable for all of us and is no respecter of persons or age. Many people have beaten cancer and heart disease. Many people have beaten enemies that threaten their life, but no one has beaten death… except for one man. And this is the man that we put our hope in. And this one man has a name – Jesus Christ. He was a man familiar with suffering, death, and grief – but also familiar with resurrections! And he’s the one you should put YOUR hope in too. He’s so much more than a religion to check off – He’s a relationship to enjoy.
Don’t live your life as if this was all there was. Live it in preparation for eternal life. Anyone who dies with a relationship with Jesus is more alive today than they ever have been. Their final breath on earth is their first breath in heaven. Their final sight here is their first glimpse of glory there.
And that’s why we can smile even in the midst of tears. That’s why we can sing, even in the midst of sadness. That’s why we can celebrate even in the midst of grief. Because we know death will not get the last laugh – we will. He will!
Then will come the saying (from 1 Cor. 15:54-58) – “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
So evaluate your life today. Live today as though it’s your last because it very well could be! If it was today for you, will you see Jesus and the ones you love in heaven? Make peace with yourself, your family and friends, but more importantly, make peace with God through Jesus Christ. We’d be honored to help you – just show up any weekend here for a worship gathering and take it from there.’
The poet said it well:
Not when did he die, but how did he live?
Not what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the merits to measure the worth
Of a man or a woman, regardless of birth.
Not what was his station, but had he a heart?
And how did he play his God-given part?
Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer
To bring a smile or to banish a tear?
Not what was his church, or what was his creed,
But had he befriended those really in need?
Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,
But how many were touched when he passed away?
May these words this week assist you in grappling with this age old question of ‘Why.’ When you need to know answers, keep looking in the only book that’s got them – The Bible. We’ll be back in it this coming weekend with more of The Story. (Read Chapter 17 and bring a friend!) No matter how bad it seems, there is always hope and God!