Summary: A message emphasizing the importnace of the Gospel to people’s lives.
When you go shopping you have a choice – you could go to Sainsburys, or perhaps you prefer the Coop, you might like the trip to Asda or like us you may be spend you’re your hard earned cash at Tesco. Consumerism is alive and well – relax I’m not going to give one of those messages bemoaning globalisation etc.; I’m not that kind of preacher! What we tend to do is to choose the one that suits us best, perhaps it is cheaper or offers more choice, or it is perhaps more convenient. That consumerist approach is increasingly applied to the area of religion. Many people think (perhaps you do too) that whether you are a Buddhist or Hindu, Muslim or Christian is purely a matter of choice a bit like which supermarket you shop at, it doesn’t matter so long as you’re happy with your choice. I happen to think that idea is one of the most dangerous ideas that many people buy into. It reduces fundamental issues of life and death, existence and eternity to the level of whether you prefer Sainsbury Economy Beans or Tesco Value Beans! That’s why my sermon is entitled “It’s more important than Baked Beans!” The faith I have in Jesus Christ, the faith that Rebecca held to should not be trivilaised in that way. The issues involved are truly massive, as in the passage we just read - where we put our faith makes a massive difference, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ…
1. It gives you a purpose in life
Life without purpose isn’t a life worth living. It is no coincidence that the suicide rate is so high government are focussing on bringing it down as according to the Samaritans a conservative estimate is that there are 24,000 cases of attempted suicide by adolescents (of 10-19 years) each year in England and Wales, which is one attempt every 20 minutes. If you take God out of the equation, you don’t really have very many alternatives. The survivalist says, “The purpose of life is just to stay alive.” The Naturalist says, “The purpose of life is just to perpetuate itself.” The Hedonist writes, “The purpose of life is pleasure – eat, drink and be merry.” The Materialist says, “Life is all about the acquisition of things.” All of them will leave you with an empty feeling that there must be more to life and so, these are not really satisfying answers.
Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “Unless you assume the existence of God, the question of life’s meaning and purpose is irrelevant.” If there is no God, if we’re just a freak chance of nature, our life doesn’t matter & if somebody wants to take it so what! But there is a God who made us for a reason & a purpose. The only way we’re going to know that purpose is by looking to Him. If you want to know your purpose in life, start getting to know God. The more you get to know God, the more you’re going to understand the meaning and purpose of life. You’re not going to learn it on some talk show or in a magazine or in a seminar or in the tealeaves – but by getting to know your Maker. Rebecca discovered that, we have too; we know that God has a purpose for our lives and that he has a purpose for Elizabeth too. Only faith in God can do that.
2. It gives you a presence to be with you
When Jesus rose from the dead, before he ascended into heaven he promised his followers “I will be with you always…”. To know that other people are supporting you and helping you is wonderful (that has been a real blessing to me and my family), to be able to rely on your own resources and abilities is a source of confidence (I think my wife and I are by nature copers, we are not looking for some emotional crutch in life) – but over and above all those, to know that God is with you every step of the way, through good times and bad, to know that the Lord really is our shepherd, that he is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death – is a source of incredible security, comfort and help. Because sometimes in life you face extreme circumstances, it’s not a question of being able to cope, but it is a question of finding another source of help like no other can provide. That is what faith provides, a presence to always be with you.
3. It gives you purpose in death
Without being morbid, one thing is absolutely guaranteed about life – it’s going to end at some point. But a verse I quoted at Rebecca’s funeral – John 3:16 – represents the faith that she and many here have. It is based upon the words of Jesus, who himself conquered death and proved that there is life after death. Heaven is more than wishful thinking. It is available to those who believe in Jesus. How can we know? Jesus said it; it is all based on him. He is the one with the authority; he is the one who rose from the dead. A fact that has a tremendous amount of evidence to support it e.g. how else do you account for the empty tomb, the eyewitness accounts, the subsequent faith of the disciples, the existence and continued growth of the church etc. We are thankful that Rebecca’s life was a long one, but not everyone enjoys a long life – many people just try & block the thought out and think that living for the moment is the answer – when really it is burying your head in the sand. I want to know that whether I live or die there is hope. Faith in Jesus gives us that, it gave Rebecca that, it gives comfort to those who are left that the loved one who has gone is in heaven. At the heart of the message of Jesus is this assurance of eternal life that gives purpose to even our deaths.