By Pastor Bill Rowe
Losing a loved one brings to surface deep emotions. This past week, two of our Revive families experienced the death of a loved one. In times like these, we not only hurt inside for our own loss, but also for the suffering of our friends and family who grieve. Death also is a stark reminder of our fragile and temporary state; the truth is that a day will come for us all (and all whom we love) to step from this life into eternity.
In times like these, we are reminded of a two-fold ministry the Lord has put before us, both rooted in God’s commandment to love Him and to love others:
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.'” (Matthew 22:37-40, NKJV)
When the grief of losing a loved one strikes, and our questions point beyond this life, two ministries that God’s love calls us to are:
- Making disciples; and
- Comforting the broken-hearted.
Ask yourself: “Do I love deeply enough to share God’s saving truth with everyone?”
Death brings us face-to-face with the prospect of eternity. We ask, “What happens after we die?” When we know the Lord’s answer to that question, we want desperately to be sure our loved ones have heard of God’s promise of eternal life in Christ. So what do we do?
First, we “make disciples.” The Lord’s Great Commission is this:
“18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
The structure of that sentence means that “as you go…” about your daily life, you, Christian, are to point people to the Savior so that they will be drawn to Him and to become His disciple. It is good news that God has assigned you to point people to Christ during every moment of your busy life. You are a witness for Christ at home, at play, at work, at school, at church, and in every aspect of your life.
A second truth about living the Lord’s Great Commission that comforts in times of loss is that it is not your job to convert people – not even your loved ones! Rather, it is God who changes hearts and saves the lost. Your role in making disciples is to sow the seed, to lift Jesus before the world, and to trust God to convict and to win them to Christ.
“6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
Your role is to sow the message of the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ, God’s role is to change hearts. Notice that God rewards the witnessing, not the converting!
Whenever a loved one passes away, I struggle with whether I did enough to witness Christ to them. I still struggle with this question, but I know by God’s Word that when I do share the gospel with anyone, whether they accepted Christ or not is in the Lord’s hands, not mine. Determine to share Christ with your loved ones now, before they move beyond this world.
God’s truth is clear:
“27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
This truth makes the Lord’s call to witness quite urgent. Yet, while we wrestle with the salvation of our loved ones, especially in times like these, our Lord gives us peace in knowing that He rewards our sharing the gospel, while He does the supernatural work of converting non-believers.
Pray for one another in a similar way as Paul sought prayer from the Ephesians:
“…that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)
Your first role in times of loss and pain is to “make disciples.”
Comforting the broken-hearted
Ask yourself: “Am I a loving friend, relative, and companion?”
The defining mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ is his or her love for others:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
God’s love is the most powerful and effective salve a Christian can offer to hurting hearts:
“Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant” (Psalm 119:76, ESV).
The Lord Jesus promised,
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:8)
During times of loss, our entire church family has opportunity to comfort our friends and relatives who are in mourning. We can offer the love of God to all who have suffered loss. Let me suggest three simple ways that you can share God’s love with these dear ones:
- Pray for them—pray for God to comfort their hearts and to receive His love at this time;
- Talk to them—Brenda wrote this in her e-mail about the loss of her nephew: “It’s good to know everyone cares.” If you cannot speak with them in person, a phone call might be just what your loved one needs. Even a voice mail or e-mail with a short message that shares your heart and reminds them that you’re praying for them will help them realize that they are not alone, that they are loved, and that God is interested in their suffering; and
- Be available to them—these are unique situations where our daily schedule is worth rearranging. Do not be afraid to drop what you’re doing to reach out and comfort another. God may be calling on you to represent Him to someone in desperate need of His love.
I will leave you with two simple questions that you should ask daily:
- Do I love deeply enough to faithfully share God’s saving truth with everyone?
- Am I a loving friend, relative, and companion?