Summary: A funeral message delivered on the death of a close friend. Though a good woman, she never professed Christ, nor did her family confess the Saviour. Nevertheless, they were good to me over a long period of time, showing respect for the Faith of Christ.
“Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” [HEBREWS 9:27, 28].
Among the most difficult services over which a preacher will preside is the funeral for a friend. Multiplied emotions bubble to the surface; a thousand memories will flood the mind. As the preacher looks out on those assembled in the service, his heart breaks as he looks in the faces of friends who grieve at the parting of a loved one. He will struggle to speak, willing himself not to weep in that critical hour. And that is my situation in this hour.
Kathie—beloved wife and mother, wonderful friend, gracious lady—is absent today; nothing we can do will bring Kathie back. Our purpose is to honour her memory by recalling the brightness when she was with us. I remember Kathie as a generous lady who touched many lives. Did anyone ever visit her home without being invited to join the family for a meal? I’ve eaten many meals with Lance and Kathie; I was treated as though I was family—never made to feel as though I was a stranger or an outsider. For many of us, Christmas was anticipated as a time when we receive see some of the most delicious relish and canned goods anyone could imagine, all generously packed in a box wrapped with bright Christmas paper. For me, there were a few special times when working at my computer I would hear the doorbell ring and there would be Kathie and Lance dropping by for a cup of coffee and a visit. These were always special times.
All that can be done for a mortal being has now been done for Kathie. Now, we gather to honour her memory; but in a greater sense we gather to seek answers to one of life’s greatest questions—What happens when our loved ones are no longer with us? And in seeking the answer to this question, we can anticipate that we will find comfort.
It is natural that we will seek comfort when death has invaded our life. At such times, our hearts ache; and if we will find comfort when the last enemy has invaded our family, such comfort can only come through someone who has conquered death. Only one Person has died and rose from the dead, Jesus Christ the Righteous. If we will discover anything more than a transient, ephemeral wish, we must look to Him who gives life.
In one letter found in the Word of God a revealing statement is recorded that gives great comfort to weary hearts. The text reads, “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” [HEBREWS 9:27, 28]. Focus on the statement just read, for in those words is great comfort for those who grieve.
A philosophy that asserts, “Be happy! Don’t worry!” guides a surprising number of people. Popular though that philosophy may be in modern life, it fails miserably when we face death. And each of us must face death, both in seeing those whom we love depart this life and in facing our own mortality. Experience, to say nothing of the Word of God, declares, “It is appointed for man to die once.” Death is a certainty for each of us.
As I read this divine statement, I note the phraseology David employed: “It is appointed.” For each person listening today, we have an appointment with death. I have often rested in the knowledge espoused by the Psalmist.
“I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand!”
[PSALM 31:14, 15a]
For the individual resting secure in the hands of a God too wise to make a mistake and too good to needlessly hurt His beloved child, this is a great comfort.
Again, the statement is “It is appointed for man to die once.” We were created to know God and to enjoy Him forever. However, the Paradise into which our first parents were placed was ruined when they rebelled against the goodness of the Lord God. The creation was plunged into ruin through their sin; and since that time, death entered the world. Thus, we read the dark word, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” [ROMANS 5:12-14].