But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you
may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
The last couple of weeks I have been reminded of the blessings of having “HOPE.” Earlier this year we went through a series on “Hope” and realized there is a big difference between worldly hope (I hope the Kentucky Wildcats start winning) and biblical hope. We defined biblical hope as a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. The reason it is called “hope” is simply because it hasn’t happened yet (but there is complete confidence that it will happen). Because of my faith in Jesus, I have the hope of eternal life. Spending eternity in heaven with Jesus is not wishful thinking but my confident expectation for the future.
In the last few weeks, four of my former church members have passed away (Covid was a contributing factor for all four of them). As I think about their funerals and their lives, all four of them enjoyed the hope of eternal life because they were all followers of Jesus. As we went through the Book of Job, we were reminded that even though life might be tough sometimes, God always has the last word. Covid-19, cancer, heart disease, or even a terrible tragedy does not have the last word, God does. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of that truth.
Paul tells us that as believers we don’t have to grieve as those who do not have hope. Our hope is that for the believer “to be absent from the body (at death) is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Our hope is that one day, the trumpet of God is going to sound and Jesus is going to return for His bride (the church). Our hope is that we will be forever with our Lord. As I have mentioned in the funerals, our hope doesn’t eliminate the sting of death and the grief we feel when we lose somebody we love, but it does allow us to grieve with hope, confidence and assurance.
Over the years there have been times when I have been around death and grief so much that I felt down in my spirit. I don’t really know how to explain that feeling but even Jesus wept when He was around Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus. It is appropriate to mourn with those who mourn (just as we rejoice with those who rejoice). Recently, I have been comforted with thoughts of eternity and the realization that even though we are all going to die (unless the Lord returns before we die), this life is not the end but really just the beginning of eternity. If this earthly life was all there was, we would feel hopeless and experience unquenchable grief. But we know God has created us to live for eternity with Him or separated from Him (in heaven or hell).
Whether we get 63 years, 79 years, 83 years, 89 years, or 49 years, life is like a vapor that is here for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14). It is so important that we are saved and living in a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Life is so uncertain. None of us are guaranteed another day, week, or year of life. May Covid-19 and death renew our urgency to take the gospel to those we know and love and to those around the world who have never heard of Jesus. Will you continue to pray for your “one” that they might be saved? Will you attempt to have a gospel conversation with him/her this week? Will you pray for our international missionaries who are taking the gospel to other parts of the world? Will you give to support them in their gospel work? We want everybody to live with the hope of the gospel. When death comes, we want to be able to celebrate the person’s confident expectation that they are with the Lord. Hope, that comes from faith in Jesus, makes all the difference in life and in death. May you be blessed with the hope of eternal life this Christmas!