I am returning to the blog after a two month hiatus. Sorry. After we put my sermon manuscripts on the website, I had to rethink this medium. At this point the plan for the blog is to write periodically on different theological topics, biblical passages and current events rather than seeking to be a devotional resource. I pray that it is helpful to you.
Grief and Pain
Lately, our church has seen many people come and go from the hospital and I have had to perform three funerals in the last month. I have had lots of questions about grief and pain lately and so I wanted to share the Apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4.
 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)
Two things that God doesn’t want (13):
- God doesn’t want us to be uninformed about those who are “asleep”. In the Scriptures, death is often likened to sleep. Lazarus is said to be asleep and when the disciples question Jesus about his sleeping, Jesus says plainly that Lazarus had died. Even the word “cemetery” means “sleeping place”. The body is said to be asleep, while the soul immediately at death goes to be with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8).
- God doesn’t want us to grieve like those who have no hope. The bible assumes we will grieve, and grief is normal for this life, but what is different for the Christian is that grief has a hopeful aim.
Two things that God wants us to know:
- Christians who die have hope (14):
- Because of Christ’s Resurrection: The Christian takes comfort in death as sleep because Christ died so that death would not be the end for us. As Christ died and lived again, so we all die to live again. We often think wrongly about death, we think that our loved ones go from the land of the living to the land of the dying, when, for the Christian, they go from the land of the dying to the land of the living.
- Because of Christ’s Return: One day Christ will return and those who have fallen asleep will have their bodies reunited with their souls and they will reign with Christ for eternity (1 Corinthians 15:52-57).
- Christians who live have hope (15-17a)
- Because they are in Christ!
- Are you in Christ? What does that mean? It means to understand the biblical truth that God is holy and great and that we, by nature have fallen short of his greatness and glory because of our sin. It means that we understand the wages of that sin is death, or eternal separation from God. But the good news is that Jesus came for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. He died the death that we deserved so that our death would be just sleep. Do you know Christ? Have this hope that death will just be sleep for you? Put your faith in Jesus today, rely upon Jesus today. Turn from your sin and turn to the one who died to save you from sin and death. If you know Christ, death is nothing to be afraid of.
One thing God wants us to do:
Encourage one another with these words (18): Painful times are interesting times because we all want to say something. We want to be encouraging to the people who are hurting. We all want to come to grips with a difficult thing in a way that’s not so difficult. God has equipped us to encourage one another and help each other in our grief. How can we encourage one another with the words of this passage?
- This life is not the end for us. This is just the beginning. Death for the believer is just sleep. He closed his eyes here and his spirit was instantly in the presence of the Lord. Martyn LLoyd Jones, on his deathbed passed a note to his wife that read, “Don’t pray for healing…don’t hold me back from the glory.” He was ready to be with Christ.
- Eternity is ahead of us: (17) we will be in the presence of Christ forever singing glory, glory, glory to the lamb. All praises and honor, forever and ever to our God. Eternal blessing will be ours in Christ! We will always be with the Lord! No more goodbye, no more pain, no more struggling with surgery and cancer and doctors and hospitals that lose people. Just perfect eternity with Christ.
So as you grieve, do so as one who has hope, and encourage each other with good words, true words, biblical words.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6 ESV)