Thank you for your prayers for today’s funeral and for the family who lost their husband and father so suddenly and needlessly this week. I’ve appreciated the comments and personal notes of encouragement, as well as the prayer support. It’s been a week we’ll never forget. A few friends have requested an update, so here goes…
By God’s grace, the service went well. One of the highlights was having pastor-friend Dan Greenfield in attendance. About the only person he knew was me, but he came just to be supportive. Pastor Tim Potter of Grace Church of Mentor started a tradition of sorts in which at least one of the pastors of our “sister” ministries attends each funeral service held by another of the churches. It’s a great blessing to see a friend whom you know is praying for you as you preach, especially when many in attendance resent the fact that the gospel is being presented. Thanks, Dan.
Similarly, the new widow received a number of cards and gifts from members of area fundamental churches–people whom she has never met, but to whom she is a “second cousin” in Christ. Believers have responded in an exemplary way, both from within TCBC and without. Our church family has especially risen to the occasion through supporting the family at the visitation, ministering through a luncheon after the service, babysitting, helping with groceries, giving financial gifts, preparing the house for the family to move back in, etc., etc., etc. A series of trials has a way of deepening a church’s commitment to the Lord and each other. It’s been humbling to see, and it’s a tremendous testimony. James 1:27 has at least begun, though there is much left to do. Mom and boys did remarkably well, BTW. It’s my prayer that they will continue to be trophies of God’s grace.
Quick summary of the service: I did my best to balance addressing the manner of death while also encouraging friends and family not to think of this as the defining moment of the man’s life. He lived more than 15,600 days. The last day was tragic, but not the entire story. Though we live in a “sound-byte” society that makes snap judgments based on one sentence from an hour-long speech or one picture taken during a decade-long war, life’s not so simple. The final action was a tragic photo, but it wasn’t the entire photo album. There was much in the life to commend. As I mentioned, our Wednesday night study of 2 Samuel 1 was particularly helpful in that regard, and the “photo vs. album” illustration seemed to be helpful.
Now, to be honest, not everyone was pleased that I spoke frankly about the suicide issue. Not at all. It obviously wasn’t my goal to be offensive. However, we dare not present suicide as a noble act or legitimate option. It is, rather, an extremely selfish thing, and we need to tell it like it is. Unpardonable? No. Selfish and sinful? Absolutely.
Frankly, I’ve come to expect resentment after a funeral. Sad, but true. Knowing it’s coming doesn’t mean I’m used to it, though. (sigh)
Following the eulogy, I made a bee-line for the gospel. I specifically addressed the concept of grace in a brief and simple message, using the following definition:
“The grace of God is His love, strength and favor freely extended to guilty and undeserving sinners.”
Growing out of that definition, I emphasized three points, hoping to communicate information germane to all present. However, the first received the lion’s share of the time:
1. Grace is the only way to gain ETERNAL life (Eph. 2:8-9).
2. Grace is the only way to live a GODLY life (Titus 2:11-12).
3. Grace is the only way to overcome the TRIALS of life (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
Perhaps one more thought will be helpful: my prayer in preparing for every funeral is that the Lord will use me to accomplish several things:
- Glorify the Lord
- Honor the deceased
- Encourage friends and family
- Point people unmistakably to Christ
By God’s grace, I trust that those goals were accomplished today. God has promised to bless His Word, and I rest in that. Thanks again for your interest and prayers. “The Lord be magnified.” (Psalm 40:16)