Last week I had the privilege of helping to lead a funeral service for a dear friend and brother, Kelvin. Most of us don’t think about death much despite the mortality rate being 100%. I am posting an edited version of the short funeral devotion below to help us process the reality of death; feel free to share this with anyone you think might appreciate it.
The Bible passage read a moment or two ago was from a book called Isaiah. It’s an ancient book, around 2800 years old. But Isaiah’s experience of life was one of a country where things were broken, where judgement was coming, but where those who trusted God had hope. In other words, a country kind of like ours. Kelvin claimed this passage as his favourite passage, especially v3:
- 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isa 26:3 ESV)
I am sure all of you know that Kelvin was a Christian who trusted in God; his Facebook feed was full of references to this, especially in recent times. He trusted in God, and if you saw him in the past few months you would leave with no doubt he trusted in God. He knew where he was going, and we are going to just see a few brief points to make us consider this too.
- The world that is broken.
The truth of the matter is that the world we live in is broken. It is broken in many ways. Wars continue, injustice is everywhere, and people die before their expected time. Isaiah knew this too – the context of the verse we read was that cities had risen and been destroyed; people have died, and civilizations have gone that once were powerful. There was immorality everywhere, and injustice, and godlessness.
Sounds just like today, really. Just turn on the news any day and you will be overwhelmed with the evil in the world. But we can switch the news off and move on with our lives; we are desensitized to the facts that we are presented with. We have seen them too often. We cannot so easily switch off when it is someone we love. Kelvin is gone from us. Death is a reminder to us that this world we live in is not perfect. It is full of pain and mourning and sickness and death. For Christians, that is no surprise.
We believe that God made the world perfect in every way. But it’s not like that anymore. The Bible teaches that this world is opposed to God, and all of us by nature are like that too. Some of us reject God; most of us ignore God much of the time. And that means judgement is coming on us, and that the world we live in is broken in many ways. Many look at the life expectancy figures and are appalled when someone doesn’t reach that number. But many don’t, of course. We are not guaranteed a long healthy life in this world. The stark fact is that one day, if Jesus does not come back first, all of us will also be in a coffin like this one. It could be tomorrow, or maybe in 50 years. But it will come. If our lives are simply spent entertaining ourselves and buying nicer things, that will seem such a waste. The one with the most toys still dies.
- The God who is an everlasting rock
The great news that Christianity has to offer is that there is hope in this broken world. Kelvin’s favourite verse says it clearly: there is perfect peace for the one who trusts in God. In fact, the next verse refers to God as an everlasting rock. Maybe that sounds an odd thing to call God. But the image is of being reliable, unmovable, something that has a firm foundation.
On holidays recently my family climbed a granite outcrop south of Manjimup, a few hundred metres high. Standing on it you cannot help but think that when the first settlers came, this rock was there. In fact, when the Aboriginal people came, however long ago that was, the rock was still there. Still much the same. Peoples come and go, but the rock remains. It is constant and reliable. You can trust it to stay.
God is still there. He still longs to connect with people and adopt them as His children. Maybe you are not the kind of person who thinks about God much. Maybe you think that you are not a religious person, or that you just cannot be sure that this God stuff is real. Christians are sure. Kelvin was sure. People are born and people die, but God continues. One Day we trust that God will end this world and all the brokenness in it, and there will be no more death and pain and mourning and tears. He will wipe them all away. Christians believe that God has already won the major battle when Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross to pay for our rebellion. He defeated the power of death, and one day we will see the wonderful results of this victory in full. Jesus rose again, giving us hope that there is truly life after death, a life that is better than the one we experience now.
See, whether we believe it or not, God is really there. Really the King. Really reliable and powerful and strong. Ignoring Him doesn’t make Him go away.
- The difference trusting God makes
Knowing that God is really there, and that he has worked to deal with suffering and death and rebellion, is either a really good thing or a bad thing. It depends how you look at it.
In Kelvin’s mind, and in the mind of all Christians, knowing God the everlasting rock is there means we have something solid to trust in. Christians know that everything else is unreliable in the end. We cannot trust in our health; however fit we are, one day we too will be frail and sick. We cannot trust in our money; a financial downturn, a sharemarket crash, housing prices, they all show us that money comes and goes.We cannot trust in other people, for they are going to one day let us down. But God is reliable.
If we trust that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and he rose again, we are admitting that we need God. We are accepting that there is more to life and reality than possessions and money. There is a life beyond this one. One that our brother Kelvin is experiencing now.With no pain and sickness, with death gone forever.
But if you don’t trust in Jesus, the reality of God being there is not great. It means that the Almighty God will come to judge the world, and that will include all of us. And if we spend our lives ignoring Him, and not coming to Jesus, it means we are counting on this life meaning so much and fulfilling us. Friends, it won’t do that. One day this life will end, and you need to know where you are going.
The Christians in this room are still crying; they miss Kelvin too. But that mourning is tempered with the knowledge that Kelvin is truly in a better place, He is home in an ultimate sense. He is with his Father whom he loved. He is in perfect peace for he trusted in God.
Funerals are thoughtful, reflective times. Don’t waste today. Think hard. Remember you too are mortal. Make sure you have thought about what really matters in your life, and what happens when this life runs out.