Yesterday, I received some sad news. One of my family friends passed. He was someone who I had known since I was a child and our families had always been close. His mother was my godmother. His brother, a local pastor, participated in my installation at Zion. He passed from an aggressive form of leukemia.
Now, my sadness in losing him was quickly surpassed by my joy in knowing that he is in a better place. You see, his brother, told me that he knew where his heart was. His heart was in Christ; therefore, for all of us who are believers, we know that he has gone home. So, when the arrangements are made, family and friends will celebrate, and I do mean celebrate, a homegoing. And, as I have said, on the other side of glory, there has already been a homecoming celebration for the word of God tells us that to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord.
So, what does that mean for us in how we deal with the loss of life on this side of glory in the midst of death? It means that, unlike much of the world that may not know Jesus, we must find joy.
For, if we are robbed of joy, then our faith is incomplete and we may not fully believe what the word of God tells us.
A time of mourning is appropriate but it should not be perpetual.
But, our joy should be everlasting.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians,
"For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and to be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you...Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:21-24, 27)
Beloved, Paul was a man who wanted to see Jesus again. He was also a man who was finding joy in bringing others to Christ, encouraging them in the way, and helping them learn how to bring others to Christ by living out the Gospel in their lives.
So, he was torn between temporal joy on this side of glory and eternal joy on the other side of glory.
But, make no mistake, he had joy.
I pray that you will find and keep your joy too. Be joyful in your family. Be joyful in your community. Be joyful in your job. Be joyful with your friends. Be joyful in your school. Be joyful in your church. Just be joyful.
Why? Because your joy is evidence that you are doing exactly what Paul said he wanted his followers to do - live a life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, stand in one spirit, the Holy Spirit, and work together with your other brothers and sisters in the faith.
Do these things and you will have your joy...in life and death.
We will learn more about such things this evening at HOPE (Hour of Power and Encouragement) Wednesday. It will start at 6:30. Come with the expectation that you will increase in knowledge, understanding, and therefore power. And, in your power, mixed with faith, I am already praying that you will leave encouraged. And with your power and encouragement, you will find our joy.
Come and invite someone else who needs HOPE with you. And, that should be easy to do. We all need HOPE.
I love you and look forward to seeing you.