We have come here this day for a number of reasons…
1. We are here today to pay our tribute and our respect to a man of God, our brother, _____________________________.
2. We are here today to show our love and support for _______________________’s very precious family. Not only have we sensed our own personal feelings of loss over __________________’s passing, but our hearts have been drawn toward them, and will continue to be with them.
3. Finally, we are here today to seek and to receive comfort. We would be less than honest if we said that our hearts have not ached over this situation. We are not too proud to acknowledge that we have come here today trusting that God would minister to our hearts, and give us strength as we continue in our walk with Him.
What have we experienced these past few days?
“Shock” almost seems not to be a strong enough word.
“Disbelief” probably describes what many of us have felt…
- That the news of __________________________’s passing just couldn’t be true…
- That the information must be a mistake…
- That this is somehow just a bad dream that we’ll wake up from, and then everything will be back to normal…
For others, a sense of “disorientation” or “confusion” has been experienced. You may have found yourself struggling to somehow make sense of all this, and to get your bearings.
I would venture to guess that all of the people in this auditorium today have faced questions these past few days:
1. How could this have happened?
2. Where is God in this?
4. Where do we go from here?
Questions are totally normal at a time like this, and I am not standing in judgment over anyone whose mind has been full of question marks these past few days.
However, by the Word of God and by the Spirit of God, allow me to take your hand today and take you to a place that is BEYOND THE QUESTION MARKS.
The reason we must move beyond the question marks, is simply because there are some things in life that will remain a mystery.
29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Even with the additional revelation provided by the New Testament, there are still things that are unclear to us.
1 Corinthians 13:9, 12
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
It is our human nature to want to understand everything now, but TRUST requires that we lean and rely heavily on God even when things seem unclear.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I am not here today to condemn anyone who has struggled with this very traumatic event.
I’m not here to fault anyone who has wrestled with this issue or who has found it troubling.
I’ve struggled with this.
I’ve wrestled with this.
I’ve found it troubling.
But I invite you to join me in choosing to trust God in spite of what you don’t understand.
I invite you to join me in continuing to believe God’s Word and find the peace that passes understanding.
Jesus doesn’t wait for you to become perfect before He will work with you. He meets you right where you are… no matter how confused or hurting you may be right now.
We hear Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount, where he said:
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Jesus Himself faced great heartache when His own cousin, John the Baptist, was taken from this earth in the prime of his life. When Jesus heard of John’s death, the Bible says:
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13, NIV)
I believe that Jesus was deeply saddened by this news, and he desired some solitude in which I’m sure he was drawing comfort from his Heavenly Father.
When Stephen, the first martyr of the church, departed this world in the prime of his life, the Bible says, “…and godly men buried Stephen, and mourned deeply for him.” (Acts 8:2 – NIV)
So we see that grieving and mourning is normal and natural in the face of loss. But I do want to point out something very important.
Jesus withdrew to a solitary place for a season, but He later moved BEYOND that place.
Godly men mourned deeply for Stephen, but later they moved BEYOND that.
The fact of the matter is that life is a constant progression.
- We once were lost, but Jesus came into our lives, and we moved BEYOND that.
- ________________________ once was single, but he met ________________________, and he moved BEYOND that.
- As a couple, they had no children, but they moved BEYOND that.
- There was a time when ________________________ had done nothing for God, but he moved BEYOND that.
- For ___________ years, ____________________________ lived, and loved, and labored upon this earth, but now, he’s moved BEYOND that.
This Memorial Service is not really for __________________________… He is in Heaven. This is a time for us who are yet on this earth.
He’s reached the ultimate destination of the universe.
We say that he has “departed,” but God says that he has “arrived.”
God sees things from such a different perspective than we do. God never sees His children die. He simply sees them coming home.
The real questions we face today don’t really pertain to ___________________________. He has arrived.
The real questions today have to do with us.
- What are we going to do?
- What are we going to focus on?
We have all been impacted differently by ___________________________’s life and by his death.
We have faced different emotions and encountered different questions.
What I want to do today is to take you BEYOND THE QUESTION MARKS.
_____________________________ was a leader. He has gone to his reward.
But if he were here today, I have absolutely no doubt that he would want us to move beyond the question marks.
How do I know this?
Because __________________________ did not live his life in the realm of question marks; he lived his life in the realm of EXCLAMATION POINTS!
Someone made the following statement:
“The measure of a life is not in its duration but in its donation.”
We may have questions about the duration of _________________________’s life. It seems to have been shorter than we think it should have been.
But we have no questions when it comes to the donation he made.
When we think of his donation… what he contributed… what he invested… there is nothing there except an exclamation point!!!
- Consider the investments of love and devotion that he made in his marriage.
- Consider the investments of godliness and nurturing that he made with into the lives of his children.
- Consider the investments of the Word of God that _____________________________ made into the lives of countless people.
I say with great exclamation to you that “The measure of a life is not in its duration but in its donation!”
People might have questions as to ____________________________’s death, but we have no questions as to his destiny.
When we speak of _________________________’s destiny, there are no question marks, only exclamation points!
What is it that we proclaim with great confidence today?
We proclaim with Job… Job 19:25!!!
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.
We proclaim with Jesus… John 14:2-3
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
We proclaim with Paul… 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
6 …We are always confident, knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Philippians 1:21, 23
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better…
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Dwight L. Moody, the great Evangelist, may have one day lived amidst question marks, but he discovered the glorious secret of complete trust in God. His last days were wonderfully spent amongst exclamation points!
Dwight L. Moody said, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all — out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
A few hours before entering the ‘Homeland,’ Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from sleep, he said “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.”
His son was standing by his bedside and said, “No, no, father, you are dreaming.”
“No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.”
A short time elapsed…and he spoke again, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discus certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him the songs she wanted sung at her funeral, the scriptures she wanted read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything seemed in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
“There’s one thing more,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.
The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and pot-luck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.”
The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She knew that something better was coming.
At the funeral, people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible, and the fork in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During the message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died, and explained the meaning of the fork. The pastor told the people he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to either. He was right. So the next time you find yourself reaching for the fork, remind yourself that the best is yet to come.
I’m not going to tell you today that you’ll never have “question marks” come to you. But I will tell you this: There is something wonderful that you can focus on. Choose to focus on the things you know… things the Word of God declares.
I’m not going to tell you not to cry or not to experience emotions. Emotions are God-given. They are a part of who we are. Tears are the safety-valve that God built into us to help us at times like these. It’s OK to cry.
But remember this. We are going to move beyond the tears. We are going to move beyond the question marks.
Much to our surprise, our friend has taken an earlier flight than we anticipated, but we still share a common destination.
His race ended earlier than we anticipated, but we still have our race to run, and ____________________ would not have it any other way than that we give our very best for the Kingdom of God.
I will deeply miss my friend, __________________________. But I rejoice this day that he is with my Savior, Jesus. And in honor of my friend, I say…
Ring out the welcome.
Swing wide the gates.
Choirs of angels stand and sing, “Amazing Grace.”
There’s one more soldier of the King.
Whose trials are past.
Ring out the welcome loud and clear –
He’s home at last.