Like Vanessa I was delighted to discover that I had another sister. It was 22 years ago (1984) that I first met my sister Kath. We had a wonderful time as I showed Kath, and my niece Debbie, around Cape Town. I believe it was the first time Kath had ridden on a motorbike – and the last time apparently as well! We went up Table Mountain, rode around the Cape Peninsula and I gave Kath a hike through a little river in Kirstenbosch.
Recently my 7 year old son, Calvin wanted me to follow him on a trial and took me along the same river as I had led Kath 22 years ago! We live on through our children and grandchildren and Kath has her son, David, and daughter, Debbie, and 5 beautiful grandchildren – Matthew, Charlotte, Mitchell, Jade and Olivia.
We are all the better, and stronger, for having known Kath. We grieve because we have lost a sister, mother, grandmother or wife and friend, and because it may be a long time until we see her again. But we also rejoice in the blessed hope of the resurrection of the body at the Day when Christ Jesus returns to judge the world. Death for the Christian is not fatal, nor is it final. Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Kath is now free from pain, and, when God raises her body, it will be healthy – free of every physical affliction which she had to endure in her last days here on earth.
Many religions believe there is an after-life. But what is unique to Christianity is the distinctive belief in the resurrection of the body. Christ’s Resurrection guarantees that those who die believing in Him, shall one day be raised in His likeness to be with Him forever. Through Christ’s victory, death has lost its sting. Because there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem we can face death in the sure knowledge that Christ has delivered us from the coming wrath and from eternal judgment through salvation by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
We grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. At this time when we feel such heartache, pain and loss, the Bible offers us great comfort, encouragement and direction in life.
In the Bible we are told that it is better to go to a funeral than to a party - because the living should always be reminded that death waits for us all (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die… ” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
There is one appointment none of us will miss. In fact none of us will even be able to be late for this appointment. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this to face judgement.” Hebrews 9:27
There is nothing more certain than death and nothing as uncertain as the time of dying. We should therefore be ready at all times for that which may come at any time.
We do not know when, or under what circumstances, our lives will come to an end. But we do know that when we die we will stand before Almighty God - our Creator and Eternal Judge - and we will have to give an account of our lives - to Him.
"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:28-29
"For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to
his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:12-15
When John Rockafeller (the richest man in the world at that time) died, a reporter asked his accountant: “How much did he leave?” The accountant replied: “All of it!” There are no trailers on a hearse. There are no pockets in a shroud.
At death we leave behind everything we have and we take with us all that we are. The character with which we die is the character with which we will appear at the Judgement.
If you are prepared to die then you are ready for anything. Until you are free to die - you are not free to live. It ought to be our business of every day to prepare for our last day. If we take care of our life - then God will take care of our death.
"Our days on earth are like a shadow ...” 1 Chronicles 29:15 "Each man's life is but a breath.” Psalm 39:5
"No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death …” Eccles. 8:8
"Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
"Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die…” 2 Samuel 14:14
Being mindful of death should make us serious, industrious and conscientious.
"Only one life, it will soon be past -
Only what's done for Christ will last”
We need to work out our priorities in the light of eternity. We need to invest our time and talents and treasure into those things that are going to last for eternity; our family, the people of God, the Word of God and the Kingdom of God. These are what are ultimately important.
Life is full of choices. We make over a hundred choices every day – from deciding when to get up, to what clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast, which things to do, how to do them, where to go, which route to take, when to accelerate or stop, who to phone, what E-mails to respond to, what articles to read. All day long we have to make choices – from the trivial and routine, to the important and vital - choices affecting our relationships and our health, safety and security. Well, today, at Kath’s funeral we should make another choice: Where are we going to spend eternity? Some of us have already made that choice and can say: I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. Praise the Lord! No turning back. Others of us may not want to think about our eternity right now. But, in time, death will come to us all. As we gather at any funeral we should soberly consider our immortal soul and the day when we stand before our eternal Creator and give an account of our life. At that point our choice will be final. What will God say to me on that great Day of Judgment. Will I hear: “Well done! Good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord”?
God is just and merciful. He is Holy and He is loving. Each one of us here today has to choose to face the reality that we only have one life and it will soon be past – are we living in accordance with the Creator’s instructions (the Manufacturer’s Handbook) in the Bible? Are we loving God and loving our neighbour? Do we forgive others when they offend us? Each one of us needs God to forgive us. We need to forgive our loved ones whatever we may have against them. We dare not carry grudges, bitterness or unforgivness in our hearts. Forgive one another as God, in Christ, has forgiven you.
In the light of eternity, knowing that you are going to die and stand before the Creator and Eternal Judge, you need to review your life's work, your family relationships, habits and activities.
One day you and I will be standing before the Judgement throne of Christ where "God will judge men's secrets…” Romans 2:16, "all the harsh words… ” Jude 15 and "judge each man's work impartially… " 1 Peter 1:17
"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgement for every careless word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:36
"So then, each of us will have to give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12
In eternity: will any of us regret praying too much? Being too forgiving? Being too generous? Studying the Bible too intently? Sacrificing too much for others? Being too concerned about the welfare of others? Investing too much in our family? No, I don’t believe any of us will regret being too forgiving and generous in the light of eternity. But we will regret missed opportunities unresolved conflicts, and wasted time.
If you knew that you were to die next year - what would you do differently this year?
We must work out our priorities, and repair our relationships, in the light of eternity.
We must be ready at all times for that which may happen at any time. Are you ready?
Can you say:
"For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain!” Philippians 1:21
Dying Christ destroyed our death.
Rising Christ restored our life.
“Jesus said: ‘Whoever hears My Word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life
and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
Dr. Peter Hammond
PO Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa