As a pastor and a Hospice chaplain I attend loads of funerals. As such I’ve learned some lessons from funerals that I’m going to share today. These lessons particularly relate to how we should interact with people who don’t know Jesus.
Life Is Short– One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how long we live it seems it is just a short time. The son of one man whose funeral I attended told me that his dad had been sick and dying for quite a while. He said that his dad was tired of fighting and tired of hurting. Then he told me something that seemed sorta profound to me. He said, “In that way daddy was ready to go. But he wished he had more time, you know? But I guess no matter how long you live you’re gonna want more time. You will always think your life was a little too short.”
Scripture warns us about this.
“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.” Psalm 103:15-16 (NLT)
Seventy, eighty, or ninety years may sound like a long time, but in the big scheme of eternity they are just a moment in time.
Death Is Certain And Sudden– Most of us don’t like to think about the fact that we are going to die. But standing next to a casket at a gravesite it’s kinda hard not to think about it. People do all sorts of things to keep from having to face the reality of death. Some people avoid funerals or hospitals to keep from having to face facts. In an effort to postpone the inevitable we eat health food, exercise, take our vitamins so that we can be as healthy as possible and our lives will be extended. Not long ago I read that some people are trying to have themselves frozen in a cryogenic state to be brought out later when a cure for whatever is wrong with them can be found. It is all an effort to avoid death. But the truth is life is always fatal.
“None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle…” Ecclesiastes 8:8 (NLT)
We are all going to die at some point. Life teaches us that sometimes this death is sudden. People are here one minute and then a sudden heart attack, car wreck, or random act of violence changes everything.
Death Is Final– It sounds strange to talk about the finality of death on a Christian blog since Scripture is so clear that each and every person has an eternal soul. Not only that but Scripture just as clearly teaches that each of us will live forever, one way or another. We will either live forever with God, or we will live forever separated from God. But either way, we will live forever.
Saved or lost death isn’t the end of our existence. So in that way death isn’t final. But as I prepared for and preached funerals I’ve realize that there are some ways in which death is final. As I thought about this, I thought about it from three different perspectives. Let me tell you about it from the different perspectives.
My Perspective-When I go to these funerals I realize that my chances to talk to this person about Jesus are gone. If they didn’t know Jesus then I will never again have the opportunity to impress on them their need for Jesus. Many times I’ve cried and wished for just one more opportunity to share Jesus with them.
The Family Perspective-More than once I’ve heard the hopeless cries of the family that break my heart. In those hopeless moments there is no hope I can give them. There’s no “You will see him again”, because they won’t. There was no, “He’s in a better place”, because he wasn’t. There was no hope to give from the resurrection passages from 1 Corinthians or 1 Thessalonians.
The Perspective Of The Dead-This is the worst of all for those who die without receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord. Their decision in life is finalized in death. There will be no second chances after death. Their eternity is sealed.
Once death occurs eternal destines cannot be changed. There is only one life on this earth, and that is the time of decision. People cannot wait until eternity to make their relationship right with Jesus, because it will be too late. Judgment will be made on the basis of their choices, and it will be irreversible.
Take Every Opportunity Now-Right now in this life we have the opportunity to share Jesus with people. Right now in this life Jesus is willing and able to save anyone and everyone who comes to Him by faith.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)
Right now in this life we who know Jesus had better do everything we can to impress upon our friends, relatives, associates, neighbors who don’t know Jesus their desperate need for Jesus. We had better take advantage of every opportunity we are given.
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5-6 (NKJV)
Jesus give me opportunities every day to tell someone about you. Then give me the courage to take advantage of every opportunity you give. Work through me and save my friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors.