As the family and friends of xxx xxxx we are gathered today in the presence of God both to remember him and to find comfort from the word of God during this time of mourning.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” And we can tell by reading this verse that Paul saw God as the ultimate source of comfort, as the only one who could see our problems through our eyes and the one who was willing and able to give us the strength to go on. For those of us who wrestle with so many questions as we face the loss of a loved one, Paul said, “For now we see through a glass darkly, someday we shall understand even as we are understood.” This tells us that someday, all of our questions will be answered and everything will be clear.
Shall we pray: Our Father in heaven, how grateful we are that we have someone as loving and compassionate as you are, One who we can turn to in our hour of need. You alone know the thoughts of every heart that’s bowed in your presence and the needs of each. And so I would ask that you comfort all who mourn as only you can. We thank you today for xxxxx and the influence he had on his family and friends. We pray that his memory might be an inspiration to each of us and that his death will stand to remind us that none of us knows the day or the hour when our time will come to leave this world. Grant that in our time here today that each of us would hear the message of God with an open heart and that we would respond in a way that’s pleasing to you. For we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
We will have the ministry of music at this time.
The book of Ecclesiastes says something usual when it says, “Funerals are better than parties.” And this is true because when we’re at a party we tend to forget about any problems we might have and we concentrate on enjoying ourselves but at a funeral we have to face what life is all about because not only have we lost a loved one but we also realize that we ourselves won’t be here forever either. And so a service such as this is a good time for each of us to face the fact that one day we’ll all have to stand before God and give account of our lives.
In Isaiah 38:1 it says, “In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz went to him and said to him, thus saith the Lord: set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.” This was a warning from God, death was approaching and He was telling the king that he had better get ready. And really, this is a warning to each and every one of us, death is approaching and we had better all be ready.
I remember when my children were very young and I took them for a walk one morning and we happen to pass through an old graveyard. It wasn’t used anymore but they had grave markers there that were dated way back to the 1850’s. My son was only about four at the time and he asked me what they said. I read the person’s name, when she was born, when she died and the fact that she was 95 years old. And he said to me, “What else does it say?” And I said, “That’s it. It doesn’t tell us, if she was happy or liked ice cream or even if she ever owned a dog. It just says she lived, she died and she was 95 years old.
As I thought about that headstone later on it reminded me of a few things that weren’t written there. And the first thing is, that death is inevitable. And what I mean by this is that everybody dies.
Just think, Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived but in spite of his wisdom, he died. Alexander the Great was the greatest military leader the world has ever known but he couldn’t conquer death and he died too. Albert Einstein was a genius but he died. And Howard Hughes was the richest man of his time. As a matter of fact he had an estate worth around 4-5 billion dollars but when his time came he couldn’t buy himself five more minutes. He died.
There are no exceptions but sooner or later every one of us will die. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto man once to die.” Each of us in God’s own time will pass through what scripture calls, the valley of the shadow of death.
We are told in the Bible that the reason we all die is that we are sinners. We have inherited a sin nature and we practice sin. And the Bible says, “The soul that sins, it shall die.” The scriptures go on to tell us that none of us is perfect but it says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In other words, none of us is all that God has created or meant us to be.
Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” So, because we’re all sinners, there is no way we can escape the reality of death. Death is inevitable.
And second, life is uncertain. Those few headstones I read that day recorded the names and dates of each one that was buried there and they had all died at different ages. As I said, one was 95, another was 40, one was only eight years old and so on. This tells me that none of us can predict with accuracy the day of our death. We just don’t know how long we’ll be in this world.
The Bible uses several word pictures to describe our lives. I Chronicles 29:15 says, “Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” We know that a shadow only lasts while the sun is shining and as the sun moves across the sky the shadow fades away. So, the time of our lives is very short. Some of you might think, well, I’m going to live as long as my dad. But, none of us knows how long we’re going to be here.
I had a friend who went to see his grandfather in the hospital one day and he asked him, “Well, how has your life gone grandpa?” And the old guy snapped his fingers and said, “Just like that.” And when you think of it, look back on your own life and ask yourself how long it seems like. The fact is, the past doesn’t amount to an awful lot.
James 4:14 says, “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” A vapor is like a wisp of steam out of a kettle. And so this tells us that we are here, then we’re gone and others take our place. And that’s life from a human perspective. Death is inevitable and life is uncertain.
And the third thought I had was how sorrow is universal. The fact that there were headstones in the cemetery at all tells us that someone cared enough to mark the place and record the names of those who were buried there. And because people care the result is the sorrow they feel. That’s just part of who we are.
We sing a hymn at church that reminds us that we don’t have to go it alone when we face sorrow. It says:
Does Jesus care when I’ve said good-bye
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks
Is it ought to Him, does He see?
O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched by my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
Listen, Peter gives us the good news in his book when he says, “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Death is inevitable, life is uncertain, sorrow is universal and yet standing in the center of a graveyard we can find hope.
Did you know that the Bible teaches us that man is the crown of God’s creation and yet the average lifespan is only between 70 and 80 years? And yet, in most graveyards there are trees that are older than that and the fact that they’re there tell us that if we are more important than trees then this world is not the end. So, even nature teaches us that life in this world is just the open door for eternity. And this is the place where each and every one of us will determine our eternal destiny.
As you walk around a cemetery and read the captions on the headstones you get a sense of the hope of those who sorrowed. Some of the stones read, Till We Meet, Only Asleep, Gone to be with Jesus, Resting in the everlasting arms and in Belfast there was one that said, “Here lies James. He entered into rest aged 79. He was an honest, upright, God fearing and deeply conscientious man, but his assurance of eternal salvation rested not on the beauty of his character but on the atoning work of his savior.”
Listen, if there is any hope in the face of death it comes from knowing that we’ve been forgiven because our sins have been paid for when the blood of Jesus was shed upon the cross. And it’s not enough to just know this in our heads, we need to receive Him into our hearts.
So, death is inevitable and we are reminded of this constantly. The doorways of houses were built wide enough to accommodate a casket though very few ever use them anymore. Churches are laid out so that the entry way and aisles can also accommodate the dead. Insurance companies make millions every year based on the reality of death. And obituary columns remind us daily of those who have died in our world. Weakness, sickness and old age also remind us that we all live in the valley of the shadow of death.
In the brief time that we have been here today hundreds of people have slipped into eternity. Some were saved and went on their way to their rewards in heaven and others were eternally lost. And yet, each of them like you and I were all faced with the choice of either accepting or rejecting God’s provision of salvation from our sins.
I heard a story about how the devil was trying to figure out the best way to get men to ignore this matter of salvation. One of his demons said, “Why don’t you just tell them that there is no God.” And Satan said, “That’s stupid, only a fool could look at creation and come to the conclusion that there is no God.” A second one said, “Why don’t you just tell them there is no such thing as a judgment?” The devil said, “That’s absurd, if there is a God then surely He will hold men accountable for how they live.” And then a third one spoke up and said, “Why don’t you just say, there is no hurry?” And Satan said, “That’s it!” And he’s been selling that bill of goods for thousands of years.
Listen, the devil might tell you there’s no hurry but God says, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die and not live.” Death is approaching and each and every one of us had better be ready.
Ministry of music
Announcements: The committal service will follow at the xxx Cemetery followed by a time of fellowship back here.