“Funeral Message Johnny Chase” Pastor Bill Lepley Psalm 77
To your entire family, Phil, Laura, Taylor, Corrie, Paula, Marta, Maria, Carter, Susannah, Colson, Bethany and your entire family I want to express my deepest sympathy.
The stark reality is that none of us planned to be here today. It was not on our calendars. We all planned to be somewhere else at this moment. But because of an appointment with death we are here. And this is not the last appointment with death we will keep. There will be at lease one more for each of us.
What makes the joy of this memorial celebration of Johnny’s life, so vivid, is the background against which it is set. It is set against the background of suffering. The dark background of suffering is what provides the contrast that makes our faith in God, and our hope in his promises, so brilliantly visible.
A perspective like this, at the loss of such a young life, is possible only when we choose to place our entire lives, in God’s all powerful, hands. That is what we call, Faith in Christ!
Faith in Christ makes a difference. It makes a difference in how we live life, and it makes a difference, in how we face death.
Faith in Christ is how you explain eyes filled with tears, and voices echoing God’s praise, both at the same time.
Faith in Christ is how you can explain the sense of loss and the sense of joy, both residing in our hearts at this moment.
The message of God, for this moment, to each of us, is one of soaring confidence in Him. That’s what Faith in Christ produces in us. Because you see, even this stretch of life’s road is not beyond his reach. God’s compassionate care for us is as fresh as this morning’s sunrise.
Lam 3:22-23 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
And so, this is why, we confidently place our brokenness, in his strong hands. Because his compassions never fail us, and his faithfulness is always great to us!
This was the kind of courage that guided Johnny’s life, especially these last two years. Because he lived with such confidence in God, he would want us to do the same.
Ps 77 is a portion of God’s word that shows us how to navigate time like these in our lives. It shows us how to experience a grief that lead to growth. The truth of God’s word is what lights the path we now walk on. This Psalm shows us how personal anguish can lead to spiritual growth. This Psalm shows us some crucial steps that lead from despair to joy, from our own inadequacy, to God’s sufficiency.
No matter how much we try to fight it, suffering is a part of life. It may be in the form of a broken body or a broken heart but, sooner or later, it comes to all of us.
Suffering can make us or break us. When it hits our lives, with full force, we have two choices: To blame God and reject him, believing he could have prevented it, or To trust God, that it is part of our lives is part of His mysterious plan for us. Suffering is often the crucible in which faith is formed.
The Psalmist had an exceptional ability to be honest about his spiritual struggles. His honesty is shown throughout this psalm. Whether he is confessing his own failures, or admitting his confusion over God’s ways, he perseveres. He holds on to his belief in God, and that belief produces hope. Words of instruction and wisdom for those of us who are left to walk life’s road.
1. Take some time to focus on yourself.
As you serve others who are suffering, don’t forget yourself or ignore your own needs. Your need for God’s help matter too.
Psalm 77:1-4 I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. 2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. 4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.
Sometimes people condemn this kind of expressions as being selfish. But it’s really just being honest. And honestly acknowledging our hurt can be a huge step toward healing. When we take the time to focus on what is happening to us, God will help us see beyond what is happening to us. After all, God is thinking about us, too. He loves us. He desires our greatest good.
While God cares about our suffering, He is also concerned about molding our lives so that we will bring honor to Him. Sometimes our suffering prevents us from understanding everything God is up to. That may be why he sometimes moves slowly. We will cast all our cares on God only when we are honest enough to admit that we are overwhelmed by them.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
This verse doesn’t say it’s wrong to have anxiety, it says it’s simply unwise to try to bear it yourself. Give it go God! If we try to cover up the pain, or pretend it is not there, we are really relying on ourselves to deal with it. So looking within ourselves, and becoming aware of our own hurts and needs is a big step toward all God has for us in the future.
God is our refuge. He waits eagerly to take us in, to listen to our heart’s cry, to care for us, to comfort us, to mend our broken hearts. But first we have to acknowledge our need of his help.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask God hard questions.
He now takes up a series of questions. Questions not about himself or his circumstances, but questions about God. There is nothing wrong with asking God hard, honest questions. There’s a difference between asking questions and questioning God. A big difference. Don’t miss the significance of this difference.
Some think these questions are accusations against God. I don’t think so. I think they are questions, that will lead us to re-affirm, in our hearts and minds, what we already know to be true, about the goodness of our God. Listen to these questions...
Psalm 77:7-9 "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
We know that the answer to all of these questions is NO! God has not rejected us, or forgotten us, or failed us. He is not withholding his compassion from us. His love for us has not vanished, especially not when we face things like this.
God is not angry with our honest questions. He wants us to ask them. When we do, he wants us to listen to him. Though God may seem silent during parts of our journey, do not mistake his silence for his absence. The one who said, “I am with you always,” meant it for right now in your life.
For every believer, there are times of darkness. Times when we don’t have answers to all of our questions. Living by God’s clock means learning the discipline of patiently waiting on his ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So, because of this, we can say with Jesus; “Not my will, but your will be done, God.” “Not my way God, but your way, God.” The conclusion of these questions brings us to the realization that trusting God with what we can see and what we can’t see, is our best response to what we experience. It’s how we say; I want your way in my life God.
3. Remember God’s goodness in your life.
Wrestling with life’s problems and circumstances can wear us down. It can sometimes cause us to forget what God has already done for us. When those times come, and they come to all of us, we need to remember all that God has done for us.
Psalm 77:10-12 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Notice how he puts it. “I will...” Three times he says it. “I will!” He is choosing to remember God’s goodness, in spite of his suffering. When God seems silent, he says, “I will remember what he has done for me.” When the way seems too difficult, he says “I will remember your miracles of long ago.” When his mind seems confused, he says, “I will meditate on your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”
When we remember what God has done for us in the past, we know that, once again, even in the midst of a great test, He will lift us up. And He will reveal Himself to us. Looking back, on God’s goodness, gives us the perspective we need in the present, to find his hope for the future.
4. Express your heart to God in praise.
To express a prayer of praise to God, in the midst of our grief, is an expression of faith in him. It is saying that we truly believe, that in all things, God is working for our good.
Psalm 77:13-15 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Placing our eyes in God, and choosing to praise Him, is the final step toward growth in the midst of grief and suffering. Praise proves we are; Heb 11:1 “...sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” As we praise God, our spirits rise, and we reaffirm God’s rightful place at the center of our lives. As Paul wrote; 2 Cor. 3:18 “we... are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory...”
So, because of this we choose to say with the psalmist,
Psalm 89:1-2 I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
My question for you is this. Have you made a place in your life for God. This God the Johnny knew and loved and followed wants you to know him to.
Eph 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9not by works, so that no one can boast.
Rom 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I want to give you an opportunity, at this moment, to do exactly this. To ask Jesus Christ to come into your life.
Grabill Missionary Church, December 27, 2005, 2:00pm