Of course, with Carp gone, I was asked to fill the pulpit. We were all in mourning. I was personally distraught. Tears were streaming down my face. The church’s heartstrings had been frayed. Everyone was ripped up.
It was a Friday. I’d have to preach to them on Sunday. What would I tell them? I guess I’d treat it like a funeral which it was. But it wasn’t the usual funeral, of course. This was a godly man who had given his life for the Lord!
“I know this is a solemn occasion. I know what I just said was an understatement. In normal circumstances at a believer’s funeral, I would say that it was an occasion of joy. In one sense, it is an occasion of joy.
We have to remember that Paulie is in Heaven and happy. We are still left behind and left with our memories of him. We are left to mourn.
I remember the very first funeral I presided over. I was still in seminary. My hairdresser had just lost her grandmother. The entire family was coming apart at the seams. We are all coming apart at the seams now. Her family didn’t like the minister. He couldn’t do anything right. Then she asked me to conduct the funeral. I was completely inexperienced in dealing with funerals and families wrestling with the loss of a loved one. How would I be able to assuage the anguish of her family when her experienced minister wasn’t able to console her family? So I prayed. The Bible promises wisdom in any circumstances. So I prayed.
A thought occurred to me. I could tell them, firstly, that it was OK to have their feelings. They could be mad at God. They could be depressed for a while. It was OK for them to mourn. God will allow them to have their feelings.
Then, secondly, I told them they knew many things about God and they knew many of the promises in the Bible. They had a lot of Bible knowledge. And nothing had changed though their loved one had passed.
Thirdly, God did expect something of them. He did expect them to allow their feelings to catch up with their Bible knowledge. They knew that eventually the emotions will heal. You never will get over Paulie’s death. You never will forget him, his love and his pastoral concern. But your hurt will diminish as the days increase.
I have to tell myself what I just told you. I have to remind myself of the great promises of the Scripture. The Bible tells us that it is OK to mourn.* So we do mourn. I am mourning. I miss my friend. I know that I will meet up with him soon. So let me encourage you to grieve. Also, realize that our sorrow will turn to joy some day.** That day may be soon.
We live in perilous times. In fact, we are living in the most perilous times in the history of the earth. Things are actually calm in comparison to the times that are coming. The martyrdom of Paulie is just the beginning of the trouble approaching. You have seen wars breaking out all over the universe. You have seen tsunamis in all the great seas.*** You have seen the persecution of those who now fill in the ranks of those who have been snatched to Heaven.
You have seen how the world has treated Paulie. You have seen how the government has treated Paulie. You may fear for your own lives. That is a real fear.
I have a direct word from the Lord. I did not used to believe in such things. But now it is apparent that God is doing all kinds of things to protect His own. In Paulie’s case, God chose to remove him from the earth. Personally. And Paulie was not afraid. God allowed him to know ahead of time what will happen to him.
God, “who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive,”**** has a personal word for you. In your case, God has chosen to allow some of you to be thrown in prison for ten days.***** Some of you may even have the privilege of suffering for the Lord just as Paulie did.
You may wonder if you will be faithful when confronting death. The answer is “yes.” You will be able. The time will be limited. You will be great witnesses to the Lord. And if your sacrifice is the ultimate sacrifice, know that you will be in His presence soon.
All of us believers had a chance to evacuate with the rest of the church but we chose to stay. We knew what the Scripture said. We knew believers would escape the wrath to come. But we chose to stay.
But then we all chose to trust Him. And with that trust comes all the promises of Scripture. He who said, “Fear not,” will be faithful. He will protect us all.
Encourage each other. Be firm. God will be faithful. Go on your way in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.******
(To be continued . . . .)
- see 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Living Bible, “And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope.”
** Psalms 30:11-12, “Then he turned my sorrow into joy! He took away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy so that I might sing glad praises to the Lord instead of lying in silence in the grave.”
*** Luke 21:9-11, 25
**** Revelation 2:8
***** Revelation 2:10
****** 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:24