“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (New International Version 1984, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I had the privilege of preaching my mother-in-law’s funeral service two weeks ago and since it was such a significant event in my family, I want to share it with you.
Dorothy Louise Manning wrestled with significant health issues for years and recently had been placed on hospice care. Knowing the end was near I began to read Paul’s words of encouragement from 1 Thessalonians 4 each day. His challenge was used by the Holy Spirit to minister to me and I believe to the family as well.
The transformation of people on both sides of the bars is all about a life and death issue; our own mortality, the meaning of life and the claims of God upon our life. A devotion on dying is appropriate here. I trust you will be encouraged by these words as well.
The first word to note in this passage is “brothers.” This passage is for believers. There are hundreds of promises in the Bible. Every one of them operates under the sovereignty of God. The grace of God moves upon us as we yield to the working of His Holy Spirit. Surrendering your will to God is essential.
The second word to note in this passage is “not to be ignorant.” In all my years of ministry there is so much that people do not know about God. Do you want to know about God? God wants it more!
The Mannings vacationed in Oregon and California visiting relatives while my wife, Mary, and her sister, Debbie, were in high school. When they returned, Dorothy matter of factly told the pastor there needed to be more Southern Baptist churches in California. She had a way of speaking that way.
Little did she know that a few years later the Lord would call her daughter and first grandchild to that far state to start a church. We think we know. God knows more!
The third word to note in this passage is “grieve . . . who have no hope.” There are so many feelings when one who has lived a long and full life then endures a lengthy time of suffering and declining health. We grieve, but we grieve with hope.
The fourth word to note in this passage is “We believe that Jesus died and rose again.” This is the basis of our hope. Through faith in Jesus Christ we will live again and we will see our believing loved ones again.
I have been mesmerized watching Ken Burns most recent series on PBS called Country Music. The music and the stories are amazing.
One thing has stood out and brought me to tears. In the midst of fame, heartache and self-destructive behavior so many of the country music stars cried out for salvation and deliverance to Jesus Christ. Their songs were of hope!
From Hank Williams with his I Saw The Light (wrote it himself inspired by his mother) to Johnny Cash who closed each of his network shows with a gospel song over the objections of his network and with his Man In Black (which he wrote for the burdened and oppressed “who never read or listened to the words that Jesus said”) to Kris Kristofferson with his Why Me Lord?
Be encouraged with these words of hope from our Lord. Use these words to give encouragement to someone else.
Unleashing the captives,