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Memorial Service – “Hope Through Grief”
** Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUEBPomU3iM
I have found that in life there are enormous contradictions, and in way we simply don’t understand. And so we are faced with the question as to why, and how are we going to handle these losses that in our minds don’t make sense. And so our souls begin to hurt deep inside.
And what happens is that our hurt often turns to anger at the whys and wherefores, and yes, even at God. But if we’re not careful this anger can turn to cynicism, where if life make no sense, therefore, why bother or even try.
It is in these times that our faith in God must take over, because the only thing that will help us survive in this world filled with such contradictions is our faith in God and His ultimate plan through belief in Jesus Christ, with heaven then as our eventual home. You see, it is through such faith that eternity is achieved that will see us through this life and into the next in heaven.
And it is this faith that not only sustained Dan, but now also those of his family and friends.
For our time together I’d like to read about an incident in the life of Jesus and His disciples and may shed some light on this stormy time we are all facing as we ponder the loss of our friend, sibling, son, grandfather, father, and husband.
It is found in the gospel of Luke 8:22-25
“Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.’ And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!’”
Here they are on the Sea of Galilee, which for the most part is a pleasant lake. But every so often a storm sweeps down from the mountains and valleys, and that once quiet body of water becomes a torrent of wind and waves. And it was in such a storm that they now found themselves in.
And here is what we must see, that Jesus was in the middle of the storm with them, and calmed the raging sea, and the raging storm of despair that the disciples were caught in.
Afterwards, He asks, “where is your faith?” What He was saying is that in the midst of their trial and storms filled with hardships and contradictions, there is a faith that can see them, as well as all of us, through.
What I’d like to do in our time together is to give us what this faith looks like so that we can get through these storms as well.
First, Jesus is telling them that the storm was a natural occurrence, and therefore, not to let these storms get the better of us. In other words, don’t let it get to a place where we lose hope, like these disciples who not only felt hopeless, but helpless as well.
You see, even though the storm hit hard and fierce, Jesus was still in the boat. When we have faith in Jesus, then Jesus is in our boat to help us get through. When we have faith in Jesus, then Jesus will always be with us, or as the writer of Hebrews tells us that He will never leave nor forsake us, that He will be there in our time of need.
And so, in these storms that accompany life, Jesus calms them and gives us peace, a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that makes no sense, but a peace none-the-less that will overwhelm us and gives us hope.
Second, this faith is willing to go without having all the answers, a faith to accept those things we don’t understand.
So what do we do when we don’t have all the answers? The disciples went to Jesus asking why He didn’t care about their present situation. This is how many of us feel in how we handle these unanswerable questions about life and death. We want answers, and we’ll continue to doubt until we have them.
Yet, by faith we believe that God has a plan that is bigger than ourselves. Even the Lord said that His ways and thoughts our not our own, and far exceed our own in these matters. And so, while faith weeps and grieves at the loss of our loved ones, it also remembers that God is holy sovereign, trustworthy, and that He indeed cares for us.
In fact, He cares so much that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place so that by our faith in Him we can have eternal life in heaven. And such love is beyond our comprehension, but still by faith we believe. Therefore, we can go ahead in this life without all the answers and trust God through Jesus Christ, which is how Dan lived his life since he accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Third, God allows painful experiences in our lives.
The disciples could have done without such a storm, but then they would have never learned and trusted Jesus in the middle of the storms they would be facing later on in their lives. Storms that only their faith in Jesus could calm.
Faith in Jesus understands that even though life is out of our control, it isn’t out of God’s control. It believes that God is working out His best through even the worst of times. It’s what the Apostle Paul explained when He said that all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.
If we look at the life of these disciples, what we’ll see is that they were scared to death, but later what we see is their courage in spreading the good news in a hostile and violent world that hated them.
You see, in that storm they didn’t like and couldn’t understand, and wanted to get the heck out of, God was busy at work working the very things in their lives that would see them through later on. In the same way through faith, God will use the tragic and wrenching pain of this loss and using it in our lives in what lies ahead.
Finally, this faith Jesus is talking about reveals that our relationship with Jesus is far more important than the answers we wish we could have.
Over the years, especially this last one, I have a lot of questions that I’ve haven’t received answers for, and while it would be nice to have the answers, I’ve realized that I can live without them, but I can’t live without knowing Jesus Christ. Yes, it is difficult not having the answers to our questions, but we can live without them, but we cannot live without knowing that we belong to Jesus.
So, when Jesus asked the disciples where their faith was, He was saying, “Why are you looking at the storms in life more than you are looking at me?”
The storm winds are blowing, and the rain is pouring down, soaking us to the core, and the waves are coming up over the sides of our lives, and we feel like we’re sinking into the sea of despair. But when we see Jesus, that He is in our boat through faith in Him, then by faith we know that it will all be okay in the end.
Therein lies the heart of our faith. Today we are grieving the loss of Pastor Dan, but because of His faith in Jesus, He is now in that special place that Jesus said He was going to prepare for him as well as for all those who believe, and he heard the words of Jesus saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Wednesday Evening Bible Study