This is a great message submitted by my friend Robert.
The message shares lessons that we can learn from the deceased if we read their “life’s story.”
A Funeral Based on our Life’s Story
Dearly beloved friends and family of XXXXX, we gather here today to pay our last respects to XXXXX and to share our love and grief with one another. We know in our heart of hearts that this is a time of joy, for XXXXX has run the race, fought the fight, and even now is at rest in the Lord and will receive his crown of glory from the Savior that he loved and served. We know that his battle with pain and disease is over, we know that he is going to a better place, we know that he is finally at rest after a long time of battling sickness. We know all that in our head, yet our hearts are still broken. Because of our great love for him we will weep today and in the days to come and there will always be a big hole in our lives that was once filled by his presence. We cry today because we will miss him, and those tears are evidence of the love that we had for him: we mourn greatly because we have loved greatly. So today we come with this tension between our hearts and our minds: in our mind we know that today is a day of joy and a day of celebration for XXXXX’s life, but in our hearts we are filled with grief and sadness and wish that we could have him with us on this earth for many more years.
I woke up this morning thinking about funerals and life and it occurred to me that in many ways a funeral is like a publishing party for a writer. What I mean is this: when we are born we are given a blank notebook filled with empty pages and each day we write a little bit of the novel that will become our lives. We write and we write, filling page after page, chapter after chapter, section after section until the day we die. When we die, the book is finished, sealed, bound and covered. A funeral is our occasion to gather together and read the novel that the deceased has written, to not only see how it ends, but what led to this day. Once we take our final breath that novel is finished and we are not able to write in it any more, it stands set in stone.
Sadly, some people’s novels are very small and do not have many pages, like when we say goodbye to a young child. Some are very thick and cover a time span of 80, 90 or even 100 years. We look at XXXXX’s novel and are glad to see that it is a good size, covering a full XX years, and for that we are grateful.
But you know, the type of book that people write varies greatly as well. Think about some of the life novels that you have read and that you see people writing. Some novels are filled with hardship and strife, evidence of a life lived under trying circumstances. Some novels have clear turning points, a time when one chapter ended on a bad note and the next began on a good note as the main character changed some part of their life. Most of our novels are full of romance as we meet people, fall in love, and they become an integral part of our story, like when XXXXX met XXXXX and married her. Some novels are comedies, full of laughter and mirth while others are melodramas, filled with bitterness and hate. You can see places where a new chapter begins, when a person grows up, moves out of the house, gets married, begins work, retires and has grandchildren. Some novels are filled with action: wars, travel, disappointment, victory, happiness.
The thing is, though, for the most part, you write your own novel. Oh sure, there are other characters that interact with you and there are circumstances that are out of your control, but by and large, the words on the page of your novel are written in your own handwriting. You decide how you are going to react to both the hardships and joys of life. You decide how if you are going to be pleasant and loving or bitter and unforgiving. You decide if you are going to live passionately or if you are going to count the days down; whether your novel reads like an action-adventure or a phone book is up to you. You decide if you are going to love faithfully and passionately and if your book will have a chapter where you gave your life to something bigger than yourself like God. With the exception of unexpected plot twists, most of your novel is determined by you.
But, when you take your last breath, your novel ends and stands there for all eternity as a testimony of what you did with the time that you were given. The bible says in Hebrews 9:27 that a man is destined once to die and then to face judgment. In a sense, when we die we stand before God and our novel is read and we must give account for what we have done, what we have said, how we treated others, how we used our time, and ultimately, whether or not we received Jesus as our savior.
So, a funeral is essentially a time when we come around, open up the novel of XXXXX’s life and read it together. We cry at the sad scenes, we laugh at the funny scenes, we remember fondly the romantic scenes, and at the end we cry when we read the final words: The End.
What can we say about XXXXX’s novel? To be completely honest, the first thing I thought about when I thought about the life of XXXXX and the things that he wrote with his life, I thought about a textbook. That is, I thought to myself, “A person could sure learn a lot about XXXXX.” His life could be read as a lesson on how to live a good life. Let’s examine that and ask ourselves, “What can we learn from XXXXX?” Because I honestly think that we could all learn a lot from XXXXX.
**Obviously, here you only want to speak about characteristics which are true for your circumstance!**
First, I think we can learn the value of having a good sense of humor. Ps 126:2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. If you were around XXXXX for any length of time you would be laughing, since he viewed the world through the eyes of humor and joy.
**Insert some humorous stories here.**
Second, we can learn the value of love. Many of us like to get caught up in the middle of things, we seem to thrive on conflict and strife, it’s just human nature. But not XXXXX, he believed in love and harmony. I get the sense that he didn’t care about all the things that most of us get excited about, he just wanted to love others and have others love him. He was not the one to get in the middle of a fight and he was an immediate friend with everyone that he met.
**Insert some personal stories of love here.**
So, we could learn how to love and get along with people from XXXX’s novel.
Third, and this goes along with the value of love, we can learn the value of family from XXXXX.
**Insert some family stories here.**
Fourth, we could learn the value of being a good friend. There are some people who have a lot of friends, some people who only have a few. But, then there are people like XXXXX who is a friend to anyone that he meets. Prov 17:17 says, A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
**Insert some friendship stories here.**
I’ll be the first to admit it, there is a lot about XXXXX that I could learn. How to be more easygoing, how to laugh more, how to smile more, how to take people at face value, how to be transparent of my love for my family.
But the most important thing that we could all learn from XXXXX is also the most important, hands down. I’ve already said that we when take our final breath we put the words “The End” in our novel. We can write no more after that moment. We can not make up for past wrongs, we can not take back words that we have said, we can not rebuild bridges that we have knocked down, we can not mend fences that we have broken, we can not say “I love you” to the person who means the most to us. That’s it: when you close that book, it is closed for good and whatever is written is there for good.
But that doesn’t mean that our life is done. No, as the scripture I read says, it is destined for man to die, and then to face judgment. Even when we end our novel here on earth, we have an eternity to live. We will have to come before God with our novel in our hand and account for what we have done. And he will then pass judgment on us based on what is written there: we will either enter into eternal life or eternal punishment.
Do you know what God will be looking for in your novel? It won’t be how good you are, because none of us is good enough to have all our sins forgiven. It won’t be how much money we died with, since we can’t buy our way into heaven. It won’t be how influential we are because titles and degrees and the such will not matter to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Master of the Universe.
The only thing will matter in our novel will be whether or not we gave our life to Jesus at some point in that story. It doesn’t matter if it was in the early pages when we were a kid, in the middle when we became an adult, or even on the last pages when we were laying there dying. If we obeyed God’s plan of salvation and believed in Jesus and were baptized in his name, then God will say to us: as he does in Matthew 25:23 23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
This is something that we can all learn from XXXXX. I think he knew that when he went into the hospital for the last time that his novel was coming to an end: his body was too tired, too worn, too sick to carry on. He told the daughters to not worry all along, but this time he said that it was time to worry. But, he went with confidence because he knew that even if he died, he would live again because he had given his life to Jesus. Jesus said that to see the Kingdom of God we have to be born again. If we are born twice we will only die once and then live forever.
XXXXX had given his life to Jesus and had obeyed the bible’s plan of salvation, so even though his novel on earth is over, it will continue on forever in heaven. Because XXXXX wrote the lamb into his life story, Jesus wrote XXXXX into the Lamb’s Book of Life. It doesn’t really matter what your book says so long as you are in that Book of Life.
So, we close the book on XXXXX’s life. It’s a good novel, a great story.
But most importantly, there is a chapter where XXXXX gave his life to Jesus, and that means that his story never ends.
We can learn a lot from the book of his life about love, service, devotion, laughter, friendship and peace. Most of all, though, I hope that we learn the importance of giving our life to Jesus.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”