Based in part on sermons by Rev. John Hamby and Rev. Robert Marsh
References: 2 Cor. 5:6-8
Psalm 23 (International Children’s Bible)
a. How many of you remember the old TV ads for the “Shell Answer Man?”
(1) As Christians we are a lot like the “Shell Answer Man.”
(2) Unlike him, where questions were focused on concepts that were designed and easily understood by man, we are frequently asked questions about things we take by faith. How do you answer those questions?
b. Yesterday, I conducted a funeral service for a little baby, a baby taken from us before we had the opportunity to get to know her.
c. It was a day of mixed emotions, a day when a family and friends asked some difficult questions that family members have probably been asking themselves over and over again throughout time. “How could God let this happen?” “Why did it happen to us?” Sadly, those are questions for which there are few, if any answers.
d. It was a day of mixed emotions. We grieved with parents who had lost a child before they were given the opportunity to know her, to watch her grow, to watch her fulfill their dreams and aspirations for her.
e. And, while we were there to mourn and to grieve, we were also there to celebrate what we, as Christians, know to be a wonderful ending to an unhappy beginning—the knowledge that that child was safely folded in the loving arms of God.
f. So while there are questions we cannot answer and won’t know the answers until we meet God face to face, there are some questions that, just like the “Shell Answer Man,” we can answer. They not only give us comfort and help prepare us for that inevitable day each of us will have to face with friends and family, but they can also help sustain family, friends, and strangers alike in their time of need.
g. None of this is new information, but we sometimes need refresher training. In the Navy, we had refresher training on a recurring basis; not because we had forgotten the information from the last time we received the training, but rather to help keep it fresh in our minds so we could use it in a moment’s notice.
h. So, I begin with this question, what are these simple questions we can answer certainty?
2. Assurance Revisited
Assurance is (according to Webster):
a. The act of assuring, or of making a declaration in terms that furnish ground of confidence; or the act of furnishing any ground of full confidence.
b. Firm persuasion; full confidence or trust; freedom from doubt; certain expectation; the utmost certainty.
c. Firmness of mind; undoubting steadiness; intrepidity.
3. Four Questions We Can Answer
Our greatest fear can usually be summed up as the fear of the unknown, but there are some things we do know.
a. One — Where are they today?
(1) We are assured by God’s word that the moment we draw our last breath; we awaken in the presence of God.
(2) Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:6-8:
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
b. Two — Will we be a stranger where we go?
(1) We have assurance we will not be a stranger or be unknown where we go.
(2) The scripture gives us proof positive of this. David tells us in Psalms 139:13-18
Or you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.
(3) How can we be a stranger in the presence of God when He knew us before we were?
(4) Verse 16 is especially important. It reads “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before I lived the first one.” We often see death as untimely, or early – but God is in control. We are surprised, He is not. We grieve the loss, but heaven welcomes us home.
(5) Illustration: In the last movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, there is a scene where a man is dying of his wounds, and his daughter runs to his side. As she places her face over his, he fixes his eyes on her, and in the midst of his shock and pain, his bearded face breaks into a smile, his eyes brighten, and he says, “I know that face!” He experiences great joy at the appearing of his child.
c. Three — Will we ever see our loved one again?
(1) The answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!”
(2) It may be surprising to you to know that King David, who wrote the scripture we just read, also lost a baby.
(3) In the moments after that loss, David found comfort in knowing, “I can not bring him back to me, but I will one day go to him.
(4) ” David rested in the knowledge that his little boy was with God, and he would be with him one day.
d. Four — Is our loved one being taken care of, do they want for anything?
(1) Again, we can take comfort in the words of David, knowing that even in this life as we are being taken care of, they are being taken care of in their new life.
(2) This Psalm, also written by David, is one of the most leaned upon scriptures found in the Bible. In Psalm 23 (ICB):
(International Children’s Bible) The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need. He gives me rest in green pastures. He leads me to calm water. He gives me new strength. For the good of his name, he leads me on paths that are right. Even if I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid because you are with me. Your rod and your walking stick comfort me. You prepare a meal for me in front of my enemies. You pour oil on my head. You give me more than I can hold. Surely your goodness and love will be with me all my life. And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
(3) This single chapter is a chapter of promises. The amazing thing is that they are promises for the “here and now,” as well as the future on which we all wait. As our shepherd, He offers the following:
(a) protection and rest in peaceful places
(b) strength — physical and mental
(c) guidance — advice and directions (through His word, in our hearts, via our conscience)
(d) lack of fear
(e) comfort from His protection (the shepherd’s staff)
(f) anointing (oil) and the promise of abundance
(g) Most important — His love and goodness is ours forever because we will forever be in His presence.
a. Again I say, yesterday was a day of mixed emotions. We grieved, not because of that baby’s loss, but because of ours. And we celebrated, not because the child was gone from us, but because of what she has gone to.
b. That little baby was not able to open her eyes in this world and gaze on the face of the parents, grandparents, and family who eagerly awaited her arrival and loved her without reservations and without ever seeing her and without ever knowing what great things she would accomplish in this world. But, I want you leave you with this image in your minds. When that baby’s eyes opened for the first time, they saw the glory of God. When those ears heard for the first time, they heard angels rejoicing, praising God, and welcoming her home. When those lips opened to speak for the first time, they too sang out in praise of God. And the first person to ever see that little face was Jesus, and seeing her, His face broke into a glorious smile; His eyes brightened; and He said as he stretched out His arms open wide, “I know that face! Brittany, come give your big brother a great big hug!”
c. We have the assurance that we will share that same experience. We will get to hear Him say to us, “I know that face.” But, we don’t have to wait until then, we can experience it now. And, we have it in such abundance, we don’t have to hoard it. We can share it. We should want to share it with everyone we encounter.