Background: Betty was a believer who attended our church. She suffered over a prolonged period with cancer and eventually died. Betty was in her mid-forties, married to an unbeliever, and had two teenage children.
Thank you for coming to this committal service for Betty. The passing of our loved ones and friends is always a great loss and a sad occasion. But for those who know the Lord, as does Betty, it is a joyous occasion for them because they are now in His glorious presence. Our loss, therefore, which is their gain, can also be for us a cause of rejoicing and thankfulness in the midst of our sorrow because God has conquered death through His Son, Jesus Christ, and because of what death means to those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ.
As we face this loss and the fact of death, I would hope that we would recognize that if we are to find encouragement and comfort amidst the losses and tragedies of life, we must turn to the Bible as God’s precious Word to us. This Book, God has graciously authenticated with tremendous evidence as not merely the Word of men, but as it truly is, God’s Word to man, God-breathed and accurate, and thus our means of hope. With this in mind, let me read from a couple of beautiful passages of Scripture written for just such an occasion as this.
In John 11:25 “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’” Then He asked, “Do you believe this?” It is the Christian’s belief in Christ as the resurrection and the life and its validation or proof by Christ’s own resurrection from the grave that is the basis of our encouragement and so comforts our hearts as we face the loss of our loved ones and friends.
Romans 8:31-39, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the light of these promises God has given us in His Word and in as much as it has pleased the Lord in His sovereign wisdom and purpose to take from our midst one whom we have loved, we now commit her body to its final resting place to await the fulfillment of another promise of Scripture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, writing to the Thessalonians church, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
These words by the Apostle were written for our encouragement in times like these. Furthermore, they are particularly significant because, when Paul penned these words, there was an inscription in the city of Thessalonica which typically illustrates the absence of hope in the world or in those who are without Jesus Christ. The inscription read: “After death no reviving; After the grave, no meeting again.”
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the glorious hope and for the great consolation concerning those who sleep in Jesus as believers in Christ. that our Lord Jesus Christ has prepared a place for those who have placed their faith in Him, and that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And now for the family, for the loved ones and friends we ask that:
These things we ask in the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, even in Christ our Savior.