We Have Hope

Saints Triumphant Sunday

We Have Hope

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

It was a long day.  A usual day, but a long day.  Get the kids up.  Get the backpacks packed.  Rush out the door.  Meetings, meetings, meetings.  A pile of work that somehow was growing and not shrinking.  More meetings.  A massive headache.  Screaming down the highway, rushing to pick the kids up from school on time.  Getting home past dark.  Whipping up something for dinner.  It was a long day, but a normal day.  Until the phone rang.

“Is this Sheila Johnson?  Ms. Johnson it’s your husband.  There’s been an accident.  You need to come to the hospital immediately.”  Sheila nearly dropped the phone as she dropped her dinner plate.  She left the pool on the floor of spaghetti sauce mixed with fresh tears as she grabbed the kids and rushed out the door.  Whatever the speed limits were, she wasn’t following.  She drove almost as fast as her heart was beating.  Her family had never really prayed before.  They didn’t care too much about God because they didn’t really have time for God.  But to whatever god was out there, she was fervently and feverishly praying.  “Oh, Lord, please.  Please no,” she kept repeating.

Sheila burst into the ER.  She left the kids in the waiting room as the doctors pulled her into a private room.  “I’m sorry Ms. Johnson.  You’re too late.  There’s nothing we could do.  Your husband has passed.”  The room erupted with an inhuman roar.  And as quickly as the wild wailing began, Sheila was passed out on the floor.  

The next moments and minutes were a blur.  It was like a surreal nightmare.  Now what?  What was she going to do?  What was she going to tell the kids?  She didn’t know what to say.

Likewise, friends and family didn’t really know what to say or do either.  They bought flowers because it seems like the right thing to do.  They gave hugs and bought thoughtful Hallmark cards expressing sympathy.  Maybe that would help.

A few days later Sheila Johnson found a location to hold the funeral.  Even though she had never spoken to a minister in her life, she finally found one who agreed to do it, too.  Again, no one really knew what to say to Sheila that day of the funeral.  Some tried to stand up and offer words of eulogy, but it was an uncomfortable series of awkward stories at the funeral.  Finally, to close the service, the casket was closed.  As it was being taken away Sheila nearly threw herself on top of it, wildly weeping and wailing because now she would never see her husband again.  Sheila and her family were devastated and were completely lost because they had no hope.

Death is devastating.  It brings sadness and hurt and tears—oh the tears!  You know this.  A father or mother, a beloved grandparent, a sibling, a dear friend.  We all have felt the pains of one’s passing.

Death brings fear, too.  What will happen to me next?  Where will I be?  Will I see my loved ones again?  Recently I heard a cancer patient say, “It’s spreading.  I’m dying, and I’m so scared.”

Hurt.  Pain.  Devastation.  Anxiety.  Fear.  Death brings all of it.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Death will bring pain and sadness.  But it doesn’t need to bring devastation or fear.  We don’t need to grieve like other people—like Sheila Johnson did.  We can handle death differently for one simple reason.  We Have Hope.

That’s what the apostle Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know.  It’s clear that Paul didn’t have as much time as he would have liked to teach them when he was on his missionary journeys.  It’s also clear that those people had a lot of questions and a lot of anxiety about death and Judgment Day.  That’s why he wrote them this letter.  They too needed to know that We Have Hope.

Here’s what Paul said first:  Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have hope.”  Paul wanted them to be “in the know,” to understand what happens to those who fall asleep in death.  With the proper knowledge and faith, they wouldn’t need to grieve like other people of the world.  And here’s the reason why:  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

But that there is the hardest part, isn’t it?  Belief.  Being convinced with a confident faith and trust that those who fall asleep in Jesus, who die with faith in Jesus, will be raised to live with Jesus.  Whether that’s concerning my own life or someone I love, believing that is the hardest part.

Satan knows that too.  So when death is on my mind, he’s going to be whispering in my ear.  “Remember what you did when you were younger!  Look at all the things you have done in your life!  You don’t deserve heaven!  Why would God let you in?”  Then after accusing me of my sin he even attacks my Savior:  “Really?  A dead guy on a cross?  That’s going to save you?  How do you know that worked?  How do you know that’s right?  How do you know one of the other religions of the world isn’t right?”

When Satan corners me with fear and doubt, that’s when I begin to lose hope in the face of death.  And when people lose hope, that’s when they begin to grieve in all kinds of unusual ways.  They convince themselves that their loved one has now become “their angel looking down on them.”  They say things like, “Well at least he lived a good and full life here.”  I’ve even heard of someone who said, “Every time I see a rainbow, I just know that’s him smiling down and saying, ‘Everything is going to be OK.’”

Those who grieve in these kinds of ways are never the same.  A loved one is lost and they can’t seem to get over it.  They dwell on the tragedy.  They go through a repeating series of emotions including denial, anger, sadness, and depression.  They have nothing to look forward to.  No joy.  No peace.  No hope.

That is precisely where Satan wants us to be.  He wants to take us from a place of belief to a place of unbelief.  He wants us to doubt the reality of Jesus Christ who came to this world.  He wants us to doubt that Jesus will return.  He wants us to doubt that the dead will be raised to life.  He wants me to doubt that I will rise.  And my sinful heart often leads my feeble faith to falter and bite that fruit as quickly as Adam and Eve first did in the Garden.

But we don’t need to grieve over death like other people do.  We don’t need to have doubts.  We can have hope because we do have hope.  And that comes through Jesus Christ alone.

Go back to what Paul says in verse 14:  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  We don’t need to worry about those who have died in faith, or about our own death either.  We know that those who die in faith will be brought to heaven.  Why can we believe this with certainty and confidence?  Because we also believe that Jesus died and rose again.

You see if I was simply some cuckoo talking about dying and rising again because of some guy in the past or some fictional person, you would raise some eyebrows and have reason to doubt.  And if Jesus were some wacko like David Koresh or Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, then you would have reason to worry and have no hope.  But Jesus is a real and factual person who lived and died and rose again.  

So when Satan comes accusing me of all my sin, I have peace knowing that the damning damage of my sin has been erased.  Jesus has forgiven all my faults and all my fears.  And when questions are swirling about what happens after this life, and Satan connives to convince me that I belong in hell, I have joy knowing that Jesus has defeated Satan and redeemed me from the doom of death and hell.  And when I’m personally staring death in the face and fear is filling my heart, I have real and certain hope knowing that Jesus died and rose and therefore I will too.  Jesus himself promised, “Because I live, you also will live.”

This is why We Have Hope.  It’s because we have Jesus.  Jesus died for our sins and he rose for our proof and guarantee of payment.  So if in fact we believe that Jesus died and rose again, then we certainly also believe that those who die in Jesus will also rise again.  This is not hope based on a whim and a wish.  This is hope based on the facts of our Savior Jesus Christ.

There’s more that gives us hope too.  We have God’s own word telling and promising what will happen on that Last Day.  Look at verse 15:  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.”  If we are alive when Jesus returns on Judgment Day, we won’t go before or precede those who have died, leaving them in their graves forever.

Rather, here’s what will happen:  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to see the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

This is the timeline:  The loud command and trumpet call sound as Jesus returns.  Those who have died will rise first.  Their bodies need to join their souls in heaven or hell.  Then, if we are alive on that day we will join them and we all will be raised to join Jesus in heaven.  And we will be with the Lord forever.

As factual and true as Jesus’ life and death are, so these future events are sure, certain, factual, and true.  We Have Hope in the joy of that Last Day because we have the Lord’s own word promising that it will happen.  Verse 18:  Therefore encourage each other with these words.”  Here’s what that looks like:

Another phone call came in.  It was long coming and expected, but much dreaded and feared.  It finally happened though.  It was not good news.  Tears instantly flooded the floor.  How awful.  So much suffering.  So much pain.  So young.  Sobbing in the shower, I wondered, “What am I going to say?  How am I going to tell my daughter that her classmate died?  How will our school and church family handle 4-year-old Kase dying from his brain tumor?”

Then I came here that morning.  The staff gathered around the Word of God and in prayer.  All over campus there were hugs and words of encouragement.  Bible verses were read and posted and texted and Emailed.  And all day long there was one song played all over campus that the Martin Luther College choir had sung the night before,

There’s a peace I’ve come to know Though my heart and flesh may fail.

There’s an anchor for my soul.  I can say “It is well.” 

Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed.  

The victory is won.  He is risen from the dead. 

And I will rise when He calls my name No more sorrow, no more pain. 

I will rise on eagles’ wings.  Before my God fall on my knees and rise. I will rise.

It hurt so much to lose our little loved one.  But we were not devastated and we certainly were not afraid.  Why?  Because We Have Hope.  Jesus died and rose.  Kase knew that.  Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so he used to sing.  Kase believed that Jesus died and rose which means that Kase died and rose.  That’s not a whim or a wish.  That’s a fact, a fact as true as the victory of Christ.

It is unusual for this world to mix tears of joy with tears of sadness.  It is unusual for this world to rejoice when you mourn.  It is unusual for this world to have peace in the midst of tragedy.  But we aren’t like other people.  We don’t grieve like the rest of men because we believe that Jesus died and rose and therefore we believe that we will die and rise.  We aren’t like others because we have Jesus and thus, We Have Hope.  

Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

AMEN

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About Pastor Phil Huebner

Pastor. Missionary. Principal. Husband. Father. Serving in love as each. http://www.ctkpalmcoast.com

Posted on November 19, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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