To me, preaching a funeral is one of the greatest privileges ministry affords. It’s always an honor to be the one called upon to say a few words, as someone is mourned and buried. In ordinary circumstances, as a preacher, I’m standing on my head to get people to listen, to keep their attention. But at the funeral, they listen. Everybody listens. It may be one of the few moments when believers and unbelievers alike sit side by side in the pews, hoping there’s a word from God strong enough to bear the weight of loss. When hearts burst open, when we speak and listen to one another through tears, the gospel preaches itself, if you point people to Jesus. I don’t care who you are.
When death knocks at the door, you need Jesus. Losing someone is hard. I don’t know exactly how anybody is ever supposed to deal with the kind of loss a death brings. Even Jesus, when he got to the tomb of Lazarus—whom he loved—Jesus just broke down and wept. It’s overwhelming, and I don’t believe anybody can say exactly what somebody else needs to do—every loss is different, everybody is different. But when you’re the one staring down into the casket of one you have loved, you have a choice to make.
What are you going to do with your brokenness and grief that day, and the day after that? Before the day comes, I want you to be prepared. You will have to guard your attitude, choose your attitude even. When grief knocks you down, your attitude often determines how long you stay down and how fast you get up. I find one passage in particular that offers several life-changing, attitude-adjusting promises. It’s from the book of Isaiah, chapter 43: “But now, …listen to the Lord who created you…the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One…your Savior…. You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you…. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God—there never has been, and there never will be.
Yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior…. From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch [you] out of my hand.” Let the words sink in. God says, “You are mine.” That means you have an advantage from the start—God created you, formed you, redeemed you, and God takes care of what belongs to him.
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