It is the last day of May 2022. I have had a lot to reflect on recently. As most of you know, my father passed away on May 20th. It was the day after my mother’s birthday. One of my father’s goals in the past couple of years was “to reach the age of 80 and 60 years of marriage”. Well, the Lord granted him those goals for both he and my mother.
A couple of days ago my mother called and shared some of her thoughts concerning the memorial service for my father. She thought of some folks that she wanted to include in the service and also expressed the desire for simplicity. She then asked me if I would “give the talk”. You know, the message. I was honored that mom would ask me. I was hoping to be asked. But with many in the family involved in Christian ministry, she had more than one choice.
In the past couple of years while reminiscing with my parents, my mother shared with me the details of my birth. I was probably told the story in the past, but the details had faded from my memory. When my mother was ready to deliver me, there were unexpected complications. My life was in jeopardy. In a decisive moment, the doctor had to change the plan and I was delivered cesarean. The unexpected in life called for a decision that saved my life.
Back in February when I was in Florida with my parents, my father shared with me the title of his funeral message. He didn’t have it written out or even outlined, but I knew what he wanted. Afterall, we had MANY conversations over the years.
Looking back, it seemed every conversation included sharing the ‘unanticipated or unexpected’ events of our lives. It included the joy of the often unexpected success of the Red Sox, the unplanned crisis in ministry or the country, and unexpected difficult happenings in the lives of others. Each of these conversations included a fair amount of emotion. With the Red Sox, four World Series titles in the past 18 years brought great joy! In the other 14 years, our conversations centered around the unexpected that contributed to their lack of success.
When it came to talking about the country or ministry, there were times of encouragement. We talked about what God was doing. At the same time, we talked about the challenges facing the world and the church. Family members and friends often faced unexpected difficulties as well. The end of our conversations often left me wondering, “What would we do without Jesus?”
I am reminded of God’s Word.
Job 12:10 (ESV) In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
These truths about the greatness of our God are comforting to me. God is not inferior, untrustworthy, or incapable. He is great, all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere always. He is also holy. He is ultimate purity and righteousness. He is loving, kind, merciful, gracious, and good. God is also just. He is Savior. I can trust Him in all things, no matter what comes my way.
As children and as a singing family, we heard dad and mom sing one song often. That song was, My Father Planned It All.
1 – What tho’ the way be lonely
And dark the shadows fall;
I know wheree’er it leadeth,
My Father planned it all.
I sing thru the shade and the sunshine,
I’ll trust Him whatever befall;
I sing for I cannot be silent–
My Father planned it all.
2 – There may be sunshine tomorrow,
Shadows may break and flee;
‘Twill be the way He chooses,
The Father’s plan for me.
3 – He guides my faltering footsteps
Along the weary way,
For well He knows the pathway
Will lead to endless day.
4 – A day of light and gladness
On which no shade will fall;
‘Tis this at last awaits me–
My Father planned it all.
The title of the sermon my father wanted for his funeral was Life Is a Journey. Over the past few years, he frequently used a couple of phrases. One was, “Your choices now will impact your future.”
Our lives are comprised of thousands of small decisions. On occasion, a major decision comes our way. Sometimes we are prepared. Sometimes life surprises us and we have to react to the unexpected challenges. What I can say is that on this ‘journey of life’, in the “sunshine” or “along the weary way” we will trust someone. Either ourselves or God.
Our lives are filled with lessons, hardships, heartaches, joys, and celebrations. There are moments we would rather erase from our memories and moments that we wished would last a lifetime. We know this for sure, the road of our lives will not always be smooth. Along that journey we will encounter many challenges. Those challenges will test our courage, strength, weakness, and our faith.
My father was a sinner. He knew that, because he confessed it and placed His trust in Jesus to be his Savior in his early teens. He became a child of God! Prior to that, the early days of his life were characterized by uncertainty in his family. You see, Jesus was not a part of his home life. Then one day, a knock on the door of their home brought hope. The unexpected in life called for a decision that saved his life.
My father wasn’t a perfect man, and he would be the first to admit that. But when he trusted Christ as his Savior, his life changed. He then began to trust the One who ‘who planned it all’. Not only the One who planned it all, but the One who sustains it all, and who can be trusted in it all. No matter what planned or unplanned events came into his life, Dad had someone above it all he could call on, trust in, and hold on to. A heavenly Father.
For those who are children of God, we are given new life with Christ and the promise of heaven. Not because of anything we have done, but because “God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us.” (Ephesians 2:4 ESV)
Paul goes on to tell us why in verse 7, “…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Dane Ortlund writes in the closing chapter of his book Gentle and Lowly these remarks on Ephesians 2:7:
Ephesians 2:7 is telling you that your death is not an end but a beginning. Not a wall, but a door. Not an exit, but an entrance. The point of all human history and eternity itself is to show what cannot be fully shown. To demonstrate what cannot be adequately demonstrated. In the coming age we will descend ever deeper into God’s grace in kindness, into his very heart, and the more we understand of it, the more we will see it to be beyond understanding. It is immeasurable.
For those not in Christ, this life is the best it will ever get. For those in Christ, for whom Ephesians 2:7 is the eternal vista just around the next bend in the road, this life is the worst it will ever get. In that resurrection morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in the heavens, shining in all his brightness and glory, he will come forth as a bridegroom; he shall come in the glory of his Father, with all his holy angels.
On the journey, in the time of life’s biggest decision, Dad chose well, and it changed his future. Along the journey, in the expected and unexpected times of life he had someone he could depend on and hold on to. My Dad chose rightly, and he will enjoy the immeasurable riches of God’s grace and kindness forever!
Walking with you,