Summary: This message was given at the funeral of a Christian woman who, prior to her death, had asked me to preach about God’s plan of salvation, a “born again message” as she put it, at her funeral for the benefit of some of her family who had not yet accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Joan often spoke to me of her desire that I speak truthfully and forthrightly on this day about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today I will do my best to find words to honor that request. In honoring her request, perhaps the words I speak are something of a last testament of her faith. Her desire is that each of you be offered the Gospel again and that those who have not understood it will come to understand it, and those who have not accepted it will accept it. For that to happen, someone must witness to the truth of the Gospel, and I guess I’m elected to do that on this day. She is no longer able to do that, but, I will try to do that on her behalf today, as she requested.
It is difficult to give testimony of another person’s faith, even though knowing that person quite well. This is because one’s faith is always based upon a combination of having heard the Word of God rightly explained, and, having experienced things in life which point to the truth of that Word, these two things are fitted together in our understanding by the influence of the Holy Spirit. True faith is very much experiential in nature, and, a very personal gift from God.
No one comes to faith intellectually, though intellectual understanding can be used by the Holy Spirit to strengthen one’s faith. No one can be argued into truly believing a religious doctrine. But the heart can be strangely warmed through the influence of the Holy Spirit, and it is this experience which is the true fountainhead of the type of faith to which Joan so urgently testified at each and every opportunity. She did so because it was real for her. She had experienced this faith. As with all faith, it was real and convincing to her because it was based on experience interpreted through the kindly light we know as the Holy Spirit. Those experiences were gifts of God interpreted through the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. I know this to be true because I myself share this same faith and confidence.
I’ve not experienced everything that Joan experienced. And she has not experienced everything that I have experienced. But we both have experienced enough in common so that we appreciated the faith of the each other.
There are many different types of spiritual gifts, each of them providing a type of experience that can lead others to convincing faith. I have been told that some persons have the ability drive out demons, sometimes resulting in a person being cleansed, as for example, from an evil addiction, and then finding faith and becoming members of Christ’s body as a result. I have been told that some persons have foreknowledge of the future, visions and prophetic utterances. I have been told that some speak in tongues of mercy interpreted through the influence of the Holy Spirit. I have been told that there are many such gifts. I have been told that it is impossible to enumerate all the gifts which have been received from God, and, which every day are put to use through the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ, this use being for the benefit of the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What I have experienced is somewhat limited in comparison, and stretches over a period of many years.
I have experienced healing and being healed. I have experienced the Holy Spirit quicken my heart when words spoken by others, unknowingly by them, seemed to me to be words from the Lord meant just for me. Often, such words are spoken by someone at a time which at first seems to be a chance encounter but which upon reflection and the influence of the Holy Spirit I quickly recognize to be the hand of God. And years ago as a child, before having understood the Word yet having a rudimentary understanding of it written in my heart, I have looked up at the stars and felt inexplicable awe because of what lie before me. No, I have not experienced it all, but I have been given a few such experiences, experiences sufficient to establish within me an absolutely undoubted and convincing faith. Praise the Lord!
There is a song that all of you have heard. Unintentionally perhaps, this song tells of the importance of the experience of the Holy Spirit which is the fountainhead of true and convincing faith. It goes like this:
I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows
And I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come to show the way. Yes I believe, oh I believe.