|Sermons from Lone Rock Bible Church
February 9, 2003
In Light of Going Home
When I first learned 13 months ago that Mr. Lacey was terminal, a Bible verse popped into my mind -- it was Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" or, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones." That would be his funeral verse. Mr. Lacey knew this; we talked about it.
If we took a poll of Christians, we would agree that most of us would prefer to be raptured out of this world rather than die. Ive said those words, perhaps you have: "Wouldnt it be great if we were just minding our own business, going about our daily chores and we hear the trumpet sound, and Jesus takes us out of here?" Voila! Were gone to heaven, everythings fine!
I once sat in a church service where the pastor cleverly tricked his people. He asked, "How many of you want to go to heaven?" Everyone did. "How many of you want to die?" Nobody really wanted to die. Isnt that interesting?
The Bible verse says clearly, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones." Ive never found anywhere where it says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the missing out on death of his godly ones, or the rapture of his godly ones." Its the death experience that God holds as precious.
Interesting reflection, isnt it, on our faith, perhaps on our maturity? The disciples felt this way too. They wanted to be with Jesus but they werent really excited, or at least they didnt have a realistic handle on the dying part. Remember the night He was betrayed, Hes telling them, "Im going to be betrayed and theyre going to come and get Me and youre all going to leave Me." "No, - well die for you, Jesus!" [say the disciples]; --until it came right down to it. The Bible says they all left Him and fled. Were a lot like they are. We want to avoid that.
Ive come up with a number of reasons why "the death of His godly ones" might be "precious in the sight of God", and perhaps you can think of others. Here are six:
Reason 1: Because the training and waiting time is over.
We want out of here; were groaning right along with this cursed creation, this waiting time. The Apostle Paul, in crystallizing this waiting frustration, down to the pain of his own soul, cried out at the end of Romans 7, dealing with the struggles he faced with sin, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Bible says that this life, being temporary, is like a training time, a preparatory time for the real world which we cant see yet.
In our culture we go to school to learn to become something in the real world, correct? A professional student to us is something a little different. A professional student is a strange duck in our world, not necessarily a complimentary term. Theres always training and never arriving. When we have transition from school into the next step we call that a graduation ceremony. Another word for that is commencement. Students think of it not as a commencement but as an end, but the word depicts not something weve finished but something were beginning. Commencement means to begin something we havent seen yet, getting on with life. Death is kind of like graduation. The training is over; new life, where were really going with things, is begun. Death is commencement. Thats got to be precious to the Father, to see His children getting out of school and getting on with life.
Reason 2: Because upon death, true citizenship is realized.
In Philippians 1: 21, the Apostle wrote:
"I am hard-pressed," Paul said, "Im on the horns of a dilemma. From both directions -- having the desire on one hand, to depart and be with Christ, that is much better; but on the other hand, I can see where you might want to have me around for awhile." Paul knew where his citizenship was and in Philippians chapter 3, verse 20 he wrote this:
Our home isnt here our home is there. This occurred to me as I read recently through the Gospel of John. Notice how many times in Johns Gospel Jesus refers to where Hes from. Even in a matter of fact sort of way. Its not a strange thing to Him to think of heaven being home. Im going to read from the book In Light of Eternity by Randy Alcorn. This is a phenomenal book, where he develops the notion of heaven and does it very well. These are his thoughts on heaven being home, where we really, really belong.
Reason 3: Because one more saint is praising God perfectly.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones", because now one more saint is praising God perfectly. In I Corinthians 13, beginning in verse 10 the Apostle says:
I John 3:4 says similar words:
"We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is." The veil will be gone, the glass will no longer be cloudy, all will be absolutely, perfectly clear, and we will then be praising God perfectly. Hell have one more voice, a perfect voice, in His choir. Our best wor-ship now, here today, in this life, this room, this bunch of people, is now imperfect. We bring our distractions, our pains, our coughs and sneezes, our differences of opinion, our musical preferences, our preferred order of service, preferred translation of the Bible. All we bring as Christians to worship, are constantly pulling at us and creating a bridge over which its very difficult to see clearly. We give it our best shots, by Gods grace we do.
Are we worshiping truly? Yes, we are. Are we worshiping perfectly and fully? No, we are not. Will we be then? Absolutely. Is Mr. Lacey? He sure is. And is that not precious in the sight of the Lord? Imperfect praise is all throughout Scripture. Gods people giving it their best shot, albeit imperfectly.
Reason 4: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones", because of the testimony to Gods grace in the transition.
This is where it gets pretty personal. In II Corinthians chapter 12, beginning in verse 9, the Apostle Paul reflects on his physical affliction and even says, "Its ok, because when Im weak, God looks better. If Im strong, I look good. If Im weak, God looks good. Let me be weak then, so that He may be honored and glorified."
"Not to me, but to Him, and He gets the glory in greater measure when Im not doing that well. Because when Im hitting on all eight, I look better." Mr. Lacey astounded me with his comment on these words when he once had the affliction of Bells palsy. He said to me, "I used to want to be raptured. Not any longer. I want this. I want what God has for me." His nearness to the Lord was never greater. His appreciation of Gods love through His people was never more intense, and I would suggest that the last 3 months of life on this earth were the most spiritual 3 months he ever knew. He preferred it to being raptured away, and that is an amazing thing. God came through for Mr. Lacey in amazing ways as the clock ticked on and as his time on earth was drawing to a close
Ill share with you this story, how it was last Tuesday, as a very touching example of Gods working. As I was leaving the Laceys home at about noon, Don Oberg pulled up. Don is from Lolo Community Church, a friend of the Laceys for many years. Don got out of the car and he had in his hands a towel and some other things. He said "Youre going to think Im really strange, but I just I feel so strongly compelled to come down here and minister to Mr. Lacey, uniquely. Remember in the gospels where Mary anointed Jesus feet with oil and rubbed his feet? For some reason (Ive never done this before), Ive got to." He had brought a towel and some olive oil with some of his wifes perfume mixed in. He went into Mr. Laceys room. At that point he was sleeping and not responding, but Don rubbed the oil on his feet, rubbed his feet, sang a song or two, prayed with him and shared Scripture, and gave him a hug; did all these things, then left.
That was about 12:15 pm. Charlene found out later when she checked her email, that 5 minutes before noon she had received a letter from a friend in Atlanta, who wrote her words of counsel that said, "It might be good if you were to rub Jacks feet. He may not be able to express it but hell appreciate it. And sing him a song, too."
Don was there, prompted by the Spirit of God without question, doing what this dear soul in Atlanta was encouraging. You see that Gods hand was in it throughout.
When we think ourselves strong, its difficult to see those things. But when were at the end and our resources are diminished and our avenues of help are exhausted, its here that God comes through and his grace in transition is powerful. Mr. Lacey went home with a smile of joy. His last words that Charlene is aware of, were to the hospice nurse, and characteristic of his Christ-like nature, his last words were "Thank you." And then he left.
Reason 5: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones", because those left behind will grow in faith
Now, Ill say this in advance. It is all well and good to memorialize and, indeed, to honor our brother who is gone, but friends, there would be no greater honor paid neither to Mr. Lacey nor to the Lord Jesus Christ whom he served, than to pick up where he left off.
As the chaplain in Deerlodge would say, "Talk is cheap. Save your breath to cool your soup." Those left behind will grow in faith, first by remembering.
From Hebrews 12:1-2: In light of this "great cloud of witnesses" cheering us on from the grandstands, those who have already gone before, the Bible says, "keep running steadily the race that is set before." The witnesses are cheering; our eyes are on Jesus. Keep running. Dont quit. The witnesses are cheering, and our brother is among them -- now. Hes among them now. Cheering now. What would be his message? "Hey, Ive been there. I know. Keep your eyes on the prize and move forward!"
Well grow in faith by remembering. Well grow in faith by trusting His grace in grief. And brothers and sisters, we have a grieving family among us. Others are grieving for other reasons. Its time to minister. Its time to care. Its time to love. How comforting is it that the Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in Thessalonica and said: "We grieve." Theres an empty place at the table. We grieve, we cry. Its good. But, "not as the rest who have no hope", because we do have that hope. We grow in grief because we can only cling to the One who defeated it.
Third, by stepping up to the plate in serving. Gods people grow in faith in light of the passing of a saint, by stepping up to the plate in service. Mr. Lacey swung at a lot of plates. Most of them, I think, we dont have a clue. I wonder who will pray like Mr. Lacey prayed. Prayer in support of those hurting. Prayer in support of those on foreign fields in mission service. Prayer for the conversion of lost souls. Prayer for leaders and those in authority. Who will pray now? I would challenge us, myself, all of us where will we step in? Mr. Lacey was a prayer warrior.
He was a sacrificial giver. He understood better than most that what he had was not his. And his very best investment was the kingdom of God. He knew that and he practiced that -- sacrificially so. He saw God do some miraculous things there as he stepped out in faith in regard to giving.
He was so encouraging, and could we be perhaps, a little more encouraging now to those we know are hurting, to those who are confused, perhaps to those who are just in need of an uplifting word, which he always had? Who will be that voice from the back of the room at the nursing home, who knew every hymn? And he was such an angel of mercy to the folks who couldnt leave there.
His burden for mens ministry and mens fellowship was well known. And thankfully, that ministry is ongoing. His support of missions, the open door of his home for hospitality, the fact that he looked for in prayerful sensitivity and took advantage of any opportunity he could to share the gospel with the lost. Will we share the gospel more now? Will we be quick to see and humble to open our mouths?
Reason 6: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints", because those left behind will grow in faith and finally, because the blood of the Lamb has done its work.
This is the best one. This is really what its all about. Mr. Lacey said, speaking of the old hymns, "I do not cherish the old rugged cross. I cherish the Lamb who died there." He was pretty persnickety about the words of songs, but he had it right. The worth of Jesus meant all to him. He was an active person, did a lot of things, had many gifts and abilities, but his point was always the worth of the Lamb.
Many years ago, when we were in Bible school, about this time of year in 1979, a total solar eclipse of the sun was predicted on a certain day and the best place to view that eclipse was Lewistown, Montana where our Bible school was located. Becoming aware of that, a lot of the students rallied for the gospel and had a big campaign in the chapel to really get out there and hit the streets and give every single person a tract. When it was over, the student leader stepped from the platform and who should confront him but the dear, elderly, sainted, frail founder of the school. In a very loving way he said, "Youve forgotten about the blood of Jesus."
You see, its not the rah rah, its not the activity, its not what we can generate or we can do or we can accomplish. Its all about what Jesus did. He paid the price. He deserves the purchase. Sometimes theres a fine line in our minds and in our hearts between who we are and what we think God wants us to do and devotion, simply first of all, to the Savior.
In Revelation 5 thats very clear. The Apostle John whos translated there rejoices to see the victorious Lamb. When the Lamb of God, Jesus, Who has been slain, receives title deed to the earth and there is a happy ending, the Bible says in verse 9 that everybody fell on their faces and sang a new song to Him.
When a saint dies and goes to heaven, Jesus receives what He paid for. And thats the most precious truth. Mr. Laceys going to glory is vindication of the cross. The Lamb that was slain receives the reward of His suffering. Its all about Him. It always comes back to the beauty of Jesus and the glory of His death on the cross. We can never get away from that and Mr. Lacey would be the first -- he would have been in this life; he certainly would be in the next -- he would be the first to jump up and say "All glory to the Lamb!" The Lamb Hes the One Who was slain. Hes the One Who bought us. Hes the One Who paid for us.
Let me close with one final scripture in I John 5. Mr. Lacey lived a very confident life spiritually. He knew his Lord. He died a very confident death. He knew where he was going.
Beginning in verse 11:
Thats confidence. Today if you have the Son, if you have surrendered your life to the One who died on the cross and shed His blood to pay for your sin if you have Him youll live forever because He lives forever and He lives in you.
It is a most precious truth; one that weve got to hang on to, that weve got to know and certainly that we must apply.
© Jim Carlson 2003, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA