Matthew 7-8, Psalm 84
Pastor Chuck Swindoll tells the story surrounding a conference he was leading a number of years ago. On the first day an elderly couple sat down in the front row and before he barely opened his mouth, the husband immediately fell asleep. On day two the same thing happened, and Chuck Swindoll figured in his head that the last thing this guy wanted to do was go to this conference, believing she must have dragged this guy here. The last day, the same thing happened and Chuck found himself getting so angry at this man's lack of courtesy, 3 times in a row falling asleep loudly and obviously each day. He had this guy all figured out. The couple approached him at the end of the conference and explained that the husband was at the end stages of cancer and one of his dying requests was to have the ability to see his favorite pastor preach in person. Unfortunately, the drugs that he had to take to fight the pain didn't allow him to stay awake for long. Pastor Swindoll felt terribly for judging this man so incorrectly. In Mathew 7:1-2, Jesus says, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Though we must discern we are cautioned not to critically judge others. We have a tendency to judge others by their worst actions, but ourselves by our best intentions.
Every funeral that I have attended growing up, was presided over by a mainstream denomination. Every time the priest would say that the person was in a better place, was at peace now, etc. By doing this the priest inferred that every one of them was in heaven. But Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." In 7:23, Jesus goes on to say, "...I never knew you; depart from Me...". People believed they are secure because of the 100% guarantee from all of the funerals they have gone to. They have believed the lie that if they go to church, if they give on occasion, if they do some "good things" for others they are safe. A funeral should be eye-opening and scary to the unsaved world. It should be the opportunity for the pastor to drive home the gospel message. Outside of a true relationship with Jesus Christ, all others are on that wide road mentioned above. For those in a relationship with Jesus we should look at our loved ones realistically through this lens, and if Jesus is not Lord of their lives, the most important part of their lives, make sure they get to know Him before it's too late.
Many people question, "why would God allow this or that to happen in my life". They question the reality and the fairness of God. Jesus concludes His Sermon on the Mount with a contrast between a wise and a foolish builder. One puts the sayings of Jesus to action and is as solid as rock. The other hears the words but refuses to act on them. The first will handle every situation with strength and confidence. The truth is I tell those I share with that we will all suffer one day, the only question is how will we respond. I pray that we glorify God in our sickness and glorify God when we lose a loved one. He will never leave us or forsake us, may we learn to lean on Him and glorify Him in the process.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: