Summary: There is comfort for those who grieve at the death of a loved one who died in the Lord. The message explores that comfort that is ours in Christ the Lord.
“We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”
Her name was Sally. She had asked me to drive her to Colma, just outside of Daly City. When we met Sally, she was elderly. She had never driven a car in her life, so she was dependent on municipal transportation or requesting rides from friends. Our family had adopted Sally, and she was a surrogate grandmother to our children.
I must explain that Colma is an unusual town. Known as the “City of Souls,” Colma is the smallest town in San Mateo County—the population is only 1,600 people. However, the city fathers claim there are 1.5 million souls. You see, within its two square mile boundary are sixteen cemeteries. All the burials for the San Francisco peninsula take place in Colma.
Sally had asked if I would drive her out to Colma. She directed me through what seemed an endless maze of quiet roadways through several cemeteries, until she quietly asked me to stop. She got out of the car, walked a short distance before stopping before a rather humble grave site. She stood quietly at the foot of that grave for an extended period. Finally, I walked over to assure myself that all was okay with Sally.
She had a little smile on her face, and what I can only say was the radiance of heaven. She quietly said, “My Johnny is buried here. I like to come and spend time when I am able to get out here. I like to think that one day while I am standing here, God will call all the saved out of the tomb, and I’ll be the first to see my Johnny rise from the grave.”
She really didn’t say much else. After she was in the car and we were again driving back to Daly City, she told me that Johnny was a green grocer. They ran a little store in Daly City for many years, and Johnny was so busy trying to make a living that he somehow never found time for the Lord. Sally began to attend Calvary Baptist Church. There, she found life in the Beloved Son of God. Though she prayed for Johnny, and often spoke to him of faith in Christ, he was always too busy, and put off doing anything about believing in the Lord.
He was stricken and diagnosed with serious illness. Sally continued to pray for Johnny, and she spoke to him about the love of God when she was with him. It was in his final days that Johnny came to faith. Lying in a bed of illness, he at last believed. God had graciously given the answer to her long unanswered prayers, and Johnny believed. Though it would have been so much better had he believed earlier, he was nevertheless saved—a brand plucked from the fire, as it were. Now, Sally maintained an intermittent vigil at the grave. She had the hope of the resurrection, and she believed with quiet confidence that when Christ came, He would bring Johnny with Him, numbered among the saints.
Sally’s parting words to me on that day were along this line: “I know that Johnny isn’t in that grave; that is just his body. I know he is in Heaven with the Lord. I am not just a silly old woman when I say that I want to be the first to see my Johnny in his new body when he rises from the dead. I want to greet him and tell him how handsome he is in his resurrection body.”
CERTAINTIES FOR THE CHRISTIAN — “We know…” One of the marks of the life of a Christian is confidence. So very often the Apostle speaks with a boldness that is absent in our day. “We know,” is a constant refrain. After listing a dark catalog of wicked deeds in the opening chapter of Romans, the Apostle says, “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things” [ROMANS 2:2].
The Mosaic Law declares all mankind accountable to God. Paul says, “We know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” [ROMANS 3:19].
We are confident that Christ, having died once, shall never die again; now, He is risen from the dead [ROMANS 6:9]. We know that the entire creation groans under the weight of sin [ROMANS 8:22]. In the same vein, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” [ROMANS 8:28].