Jump Start # 2422
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.”
I was at a funeral the other day. The person who died was a Christian. Her family are Christians. Kids, grandkids, and even great grandkids—so many Christians. The audience was packed with folks from our congregation. The message was about hope. I thought of this verse. Some have no hope. Some do. That difference determines how one grieves. That difference determines how dreadful death is. That difference turns what could be the worst day of your life, into a celebration of life. Hope. Some have it and some don’t. And, that difference is Jesus. Jesus is the hope. Jesus is the reason some are not destroyed by death. Jesus is the reason that some can see beyond death. There is hope and there is no hope.
Just what is it that the Christian hopes for? There has been a death. Death hasn’t escaped the Christian. We see that in the Scriptures. Stephen died. James died. Antipas died. All the apostles eventually died. Every name we read about in those early churches died. The hope isn’t in escaping death. The hope isn’t in finding a cure for death.
What is there to hope for:
First, to live on in the joy of the Lord. We cross through that ugly doorway of death and enter a new realm. We are still very much alive. Our bodies are left behind, but not us. Our memories, our feelings, our experiences, all cross through that doorway. The rich man and Lazarus illustrates that for us. The death of a Christian means one has completed what God wanted. He was a light in the world. He was God’s hands and feet. He was walking faithfully with the Lord. As found in the parable of the talents, “enter into the joy of your master,” is the hope that we have. We leave this broken world. We leave temptation and trials. We leave pain and sorrow. We leave heartache, disappointments and sin. We leave the bounds of earthly life, such as growing older, having to eat, dealing with the weather, bugs, sickness, and even the process of going through the doorway of death. For the Christian, things just get better after death.
Second, there is that grand reunion with those who have gone on before. Not with everyone, but with those who belong to Christ. There is that hope of Heaven that we all carry within us. Moms and dads who loved Jesus and followed him closely, won’t it be wonderful to see them again? Beloved brethren that have touched our lives and made us better. Can you imagine seeing them again? Death separates us here. The living must go on and those who have died, have gone through that door of death and they cannot return. Only faded memories and photographs is all that we have. But among the righteous, there is more. There is that hope of seeing them again. Can’t hardly wait to see some again, how about you?
Third, there is that wonderful hope of being with the Lord forever. Here, we must busy ourselves too much with secular things. We have to go to work. The yard needs mowing. The house needs cleaning. There are things that require our time, energy and thoughts. But to be with the Lord and not have those distractions, won’t that be great? To be with the Lord and not to have any other place to go, can you imagine? We always have to go somewhere else. After worship, we have places to go. There is always another place you have to go to. You go to work, but after work, you go home. You go home, but then you have to go back to work. We go to weddings, but after the wedding, we have somewhere we need to go. We go to funerals, and after the funeral, we have some other place that we need to go. But once we cross through that door, there is no other place we have to go. Our tired and weary little hearts will finally be with the Lord and that’s the end of the journey.
The hope of seeing Jesus, the one we have read about, talked about, preached about, sang to, prayed to, thought about, imitated our lives from, we finally get to see. Forgiven. Wrapped in grace. Loved throughout our lives. The Lord welcomes us home. The Lord welcomes us to Him. And in the presence of Jesus, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, everything will be fine. We will have no worries. Oh, we worry now, but we won’t in His presence. We will have no fears. Oh, we have fears now, but we won’t in His presence. At peace. Calm. Not having to try to run the world like we do. Not having to find all the answers, like we do. Not having to make decisions like we do. In the presence of Jesus, that’s where we belong. That’s where all things are right.
Now just about everyone thinks that they have this hope. Just about every funeral you go to, you hear that the deceased is going to Heaven, even those who never believed in Heaven. But that’s not hope, that’s wishful thinking. There is a difference between wishing and hoping. You may wish that you had an unknown uncle out there you left you a million dollars. But you don’t have any hope for that. You know the family tree. You know there are no unknown uncles and no one has that kind of money. Hope is something that is sure. It’s going to happen, you just don’t know when. Hope is built upon evidence, truth and a foundation of faith. Hope stands upon the promises of God. God never lies. If He said it, it will be. The Christian has the assurance, the hope, for Heaven. It’s based upon God’s promises and the walk he continues with the Lord.
Someone who has lived a life ignoring God may want to go to Heaven and his family certainly wishes that he is in Heaven, but there is no hope. He has not sought the forgiveness of Christ. He has not honored God by his life. He has not worshipped God as the Lord wants and has directed. He has not built his life upon the word of God. He has lived a secular life as if there was no God. And, now in death, his family, doesn’t even know a preacher among them. They search and search for anyone to preach dear ole’ daddy into Heaven. So twisted and so confused are these families that they are likely to offer a toast of alcohol at the funeral as they are to pray. But if anyone was to say a word about dear ole’ dad not making it, a real dog fight would take place.
But as our passage reminds us, there are those with hope and those who don’t have hope. At death, it’s too late. That hope was either made or lost during one’s life. The choices, the attitudes, the worship, the kindness, the righteousness, the forgiveness, the grace—all of those things wrapped around the word of God gives real and eternal hope, or they reveal that hope is lost.
Are you living with this hope? Your life will show it and it won’t be a question to those who know you.