Summary: A Funeral Sermon for a member of the church who died of cancer. When a Christian dies, God would have us understand that there is a right kind of learning, a right kind of grieving, and an right kind of believing.
Let’s read Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Today, God would have us understand three things:
1. There is a right kind of learning
A. When we see our loved ones die, we must not be uninformed. The King James Version says we must not be ignorant. WE HAVE HOPE!
B. Because Don Hankins was a Christian, he is:
1. asleep with Christ
This was Paul’s favorite way to describe the death of Christians. The first time we see this phrase used was in conjunction with Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7. Acts 8 tells us that Paul was an eyewitness of this murder, and, before his conversion to Christianity, was in full agreement with it. Yet Stephen’s death must have been so peaceful that it left a profound mark in Paul’s life.
“Falling asleep” paints for us a picture of comfort and rest. As Stephen’s body could not withstand the blows of rocks being hurled at him, Don Hankins’ body could no longer sustain an earthly dwelling place for his soul.
2. first in line
The Thessalonians thought that Christians who died before Christ’s return missed the boat. Not so! Instead, they would be the first to enjoy the ride!
3. with the Lord.
Last Friday, Don closed his eyes in sleep and woke up in Glory! The interesting thing about time and space is that it is the only form of existence we know. We are here at this moment because this service was scheduled for 2:00 PM September 17, 2003 at the Liberty Christian Church. At this same moment however, Don is not bound by any of this! The end of our life is the beginning of our eternity!
C. At times like these, we hear so many rationalize death and the reasons for it. Let’s be careful that we not think we can pick and choose our theology from some imaginary spiritual smorgasbord. Rather, let’s be grounded and comforted by the reality and reliability of God’s Word!
2. There is a right kind of grieving
A. The Scriptures do not say, “Don’t grieve.” Rather, they encourage us to grieve right!
1. Matthew 5:4 … Blessed are those who mourn
2. Ecclesiastes 3:4 … There is a time to weep
3. Isaiah 53:3 … Jesus would be a man of sorrows acquainted with grief.
B. We cannot skip the grief process, nor can we opt out of it.
1. We must go through it as though we are peeling an onion, one layer at time, with lots of tears.
2. There is nothing unspiritual about grief. We are told of the occasions of Jesus’ tears.
C. The goal of mourning is not to forget!
1. Remember Don Hankins! Remember what he taught! Remember what was important to him! Remember who he loved, and how he loved!
Don not only loved his family, he loved God. He counted it a privilege to serve Christ as a member of the Liberty Christian Church. Don loved to sing, and as his health allowed, he stood beside me in the bass section of the adult choir.
Don volunteered to serve on the building committee responsible for the construction of the Fellowship and Education Center.
Don loved kids. He wanted to instill in them a sense of value and worth as he endeavored to point them in the right direction. Don had a chance to visit with his new great grandson Thatcher. With the baby lying on the floor, in spite of obvious physical difficulty, Don proceeded to go to his hands and knees. He told his family he wanted to be face to face with his great grandson. “I may not be able to get back up, but I’m sure going to get down to his level!”
The neighborhood children in Shireman Estates were important to Don and Deloris. Marshall, Audrey, & Patrica Bales were especially close to them. Patricia cried when she found out Don would not survive. “He’s my friend,” she told her parents. Last night she openly expressed her loss at the funeral home.
2. To all who would cry over seperation from Don, you need to know it is okay! God God understands tears…after all, he made them!
3. There is a right kind of believing
A. This belief is in Christ Jesus alone.
1. Over the last few months, I witnessed the real character of Don Hankins come into full bloom.
The news of his cancer was devastating, but he would not give up hope. Don had so much to live for; so many reasons to cling to life. Yet Don’s real hope was in Christ! As much as he loved living here, he placed the outcome of this brave journey in the nail-scarred hands of his Lord.
2. Just before the great prophet Elijah was taken to heaven, those who were godly wondered who could carry on his work. While ascending upward in a chariot of fire, Elijah’s mantle (shawl) fell to the ground. In spite of overwhelming feelings of sorrow and loss, Elisha picked up the garment and wore it as the next prophet of God. As Elisha vowed not to forget the work of Elijah, we must remember what was important to Don.