Jump Start # 2531
1 Thessalonians 4:14 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
This is a tough one to write. I pray that it comes out right. Sometimes things happens in life that leave us speechless. This is one of those times. My dear son called last week. He preaches in Dallas. There had been a tragedy. I could tell that it was so difficult for him to tell me. A young boy, Clay, who had just turned eleven, got sick suddenly. His family rushed him to the hospital. The angels came, and sweet Clay was carried home to Jesus. He died. So young. So sweet. His family are incredibly strong Christians. I remember meeting Clay. A great kid. And, now, his precious time here is over. It all happened so fast. Life is a vapor, James tells us, and in a short while our lives here are over.
It’s hard to know what to say. Death is so ugly. The longer one lives, the more one hates death. Often times, the best thing is to say nothing. Let the Holy Spirit take our groaning’s to the Lord.
Our verse today was written to help Christians. It was written to help them understand. It was written to comfort those who had to journey the long and lonely path to the cemetery. And, from these ancient words we find three truths that ought to touch our hearts.
First, we believe that Jesus died and rose again. That is the exclamation point of the Scriptures. That alone is what the Bible is about. Without that, there is no hope. Without that, nothing else really matters. Without that, salvation is lost. Without that, the grave is final. Prophecy, testimony, eye witnesses all attest to the fact that Jesus died and rose again. This we believe. This we know. We serve, as the hymn states, a risen Savior.
Second, we believe that Jesus is coming again. “Even so,” our verse says, “God will bring with Him”. God is coming. He hasn’t forgotten us. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t given up on us. He promised to come and He is. This place will never be Heaven. This place is broken. The few happy moments we have are suddenly shattered by news of death and sorrow. Thankfully, Jesus is coming. This we believe.
Third, God will bring with Him, those who have fallen asleep. Not just everyone who has fallen asleep, but those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Believers. Those who believed that Jesus died and rose again. Those that believed that Jesus was coming. Those that changed their lives to follow Jesus. Righteous ones. Pure ones. God’s people. Not forgotten. Not forsaken. With God and coming with God, what a grand thought.
Now, what would these simple truths mean to those early Christians? What do they mean to us?
First, it means that death doesn’t have the last word. Death isn’t the end. Death doesn’t win. Death can break our hearts, but it can never steal the victory in Jesus. Sweet Clay lives on and on. I wonder what eleven year old Clay is seeing. The eyes of a child. The curiosity, the love and the faith of a child. Not scared, because the Lord is with him. I just wonder what his world is like today. Excited. Happy. Loved. Accepted. He’ll be alright. Heaven’s got him and Heaven will take special care of him. He’s with the Lord and will never be separated from the Lord. It means he made it. It means he’s home. It means he is where God wants him to be. I cry for his parents. I cry for those who will miss him. But I except if Clay could speak to us, with a big smile on his face, he’d say, “I’m ok.” But he doesn’t have to speak to us. The Scriptures do. We know. We believe.
Second, it means that the journey we are on, Heaven Bound, is the right path. We must stay on this path. The world offers all kinds of trinkets to get our eyes off of Jesus. The world presents all kinds of excuses for not staying with Jesus. But we know. We believe. And, when our time comes to pass through that door of death, we too believe that the Lord will bring us with Him when He comes. Some days the journey is long. Some days it’s just hard. Some times our bodies and our hearts tell us to just stop. But we can’t. We mustn’t. Jesus promised. Where I am, He said, there you may be also. With the Lord. That’s where Clay’s at. That’s where all the righteous who have gone through that door of death are. They are with the Lord. There is no prize for quitting. There’s nothing for those who give up. We are on the right path. We believe that. We must keep going. When one of us gets tired, the rest needs to pick them up and help them. When one seems overwhelmed, the rest will be there. Together, we will make it. Encouraging, helping and reminding, we are marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion. We believe.
Third, it means that we all leave footprints for others to follow. Our words. Our kindness. Our love. Our faith. It is witnessed by others. It touches others. Some leave footprints that are hard to see. Some leave footprints that are headed the wrong direction. But, there are those few golden footprints in the sand of time, left by the righteous who are following the steps of the Lord that remind us and teach us what is good and right. For a family, for a church, and for a community that remembers a sweet boy who was good, kind and helpful, they are seeing footprints. Even a young person can leave the right footprints. And, as people mourn, they too, leave footprints. They can blame. They can get angry. They can walk away from God. Or, they can rejoice and be thankful for a wonderful blessing given to them and shared among them by the Lord.
These words of Paul to the Thessalonians were offered to comfort, strengthen and help brethren who mourned. They were words of peace and hope. They were words wrapped in Jesus Christ. As shock and tears become reflection and observation, it is my hope that we see that God remains good. Death is His enemy and someday soon, death will be no more. There is a land that we are heading towards that will not permit death, sorrow or even tears. How wonderful that will be.
We can be sorry for what might have been, or we can be thankful for what we had. Each day is a gift and each day is a blessing. We must live as if we have one foot already in Heaven.
Our thoughts, prayers and heart go out to the wonderful Chapman family. May the Lord be with you and may you wrap your arms around the Lord who loves you so much. A powerful church family will help you. The Scriptures will comfort you. And, your faith will carry you through until you meet your sweet boy again.
Safe in the arms of Jesus—what a wonderful place to be!