No One Wants to Go Home

I'd like to talk to you this morning about a subject that you've all heard preached on, probably several times, but only on certain special occasions, and never in any real depth. This is in spite of the fact that this subject is a universal constant of the human race, and is one of the most important things that can happen to a person. It's a bit of a touchy subject, one that many aren't comfortable talking about openly, but I'm a bit of a risk-taker. I want to deal with this subject gently and tastefully, but I want to deal with it. I want to talk to you this morning about death and dying.

This is not a new phenomenon. For instance, every person recorded in the Bible, died. Yes, there were two exceptions, Enoch and Elijah, but neither of them had any reason to think they'd be different from all the rest of humanity. All of the other great heroes of the Christian faith, died. Jesus Himself died... although He didn't stay dead. Even the people in the Bible who were raised from the dead, were not set free from this law of human existence. They died again at a later date. And if Jesus doesn't come back first, all of us are going to die, too. Barring the Rapture, there is no escaping the fact that our lives on this earth will be ended someday.

Our first question might well be, "Why must this be so?" The first place we should look for answers is in Scripture, and we find our answer in Genesis 3:17-19:

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
Death is a consequence of Adam's sin of disobedience. If he had resisted Satan's temptation and obeyed God, then he would not have died, and neither would we. You may recall that there were two special trees in the Garden of Eden? One was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and Adam was instructed not to eat the fruit of that tree. What was the other tree? The tree of life. Was Adam allowed to eat the fruit of that tree before he sinned? Yes, that tree was not forbidden. And what would have happened if he had eaten the fruit of the tree of life? Scripture tells us that, too, in Genesis 3:22:
Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"
Adam would have lived forever if he'd eaten that fruit, instead of the forbidden fruit, and so would his descendants. So he not only disobeyed God, he also made a very dumb choice – he chose dying over living forever. He died spiritually at the moment he ate the forbidden fruit, and his body began the process that led to physical death. And we, as Adam's descendants, also have this process at work in our bodies. We are born spiritually dead, and our bodies are destined for physical death.

Jesus can take care of the spiritual death if we are willing. If we believe that we are sinners, that God cannot allow sin into His perfect Heaven, and that we can do nothing about our own sins, and if we believe that Jesus paid the full price for our sins on the cross and ask Him to save us, then we enter into fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and our spirits become alive in God. But our bodies are still destined for physical death. Why? If Jesus can bring our spirits to life, then why can't He keep our bodies living?

The answer is, He could, but that would not be the best thing for us. What God longs for is perfect fellowship with us. As Christians, we long for perfect fellowship with God. But as long as we remain in these fleshly bodies, our old sin nature will get in the way of that perfect fellowship. We try to pray, and our mind wanders. We try to read our Bibles, and suddenly we're too tired to focus on the Word. We try to do the right thing, and we feel the urge to do the wrong thing. The old man inside us, which is built into our fleshly natures, will not stop troubling us until we're free of these bodies.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to in Heaven is being free, free at last, from the temptations that dwell within me. No more lust of the flesh! No more lust of the eyes! No more pride of life! I'll be able to live the way God wants me to live, without that constant struggle and without all those failures. I'm looking forward to that! But it won't happen, it can't happen, as long as I'm living in a body that is part of a fallen world. So God does us a blessing by not leaving us to live forever on earth.

Not only that, but think about this: would you really want to live for hundreds of years in a world like this? A world that is controlled by the prince of the power of the air, and which is forming itself into Satan's image more and more each day? You who are over 50, think back to your childhood and your teen years. Did you ever dream you'd see the day when it would be illegal to pray in school, but it would be fine and dandy for sinners to go into the schools and tell children to experiment with depraved lifestyles? Did you ever dream you'd see the day when a President who repeatedly cheats on his wife and publicly lies about it got the highest approval ratings from the public? Did you ever dream you'd see the day when every wild philosophy, every screwball social experiment, every Hell-spawned religion is tolerated and accepted and celebrated, but Biblical Christianity is practically banned? And do you think it's going to get any better? The Bible says it isn't, in 1 Timothy 3:12-13:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Do you really want to hang around for another two hundred years or so, and see just how bad it's going to get? At this rate, you soon wouldn't have any choice – soon they aren't going to let Christians live!

How do we respond to this? We all want Jesus to come back today, right now, and take us away from all this in the Rapture. He could do that, you know. But what if God chooses to take us away from all this by taking us one by one in physical death? Oh, we didn't pray for that. How should we deal with this issue? Here's a Biblical perspective (Philippians 1:20-24):

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this issue. He was torn between what was better for him – to depart and be with Christ – and what was better for others around him – to remain on earth and minister to them. And Paul wasn't talking about the Rapture here. He knew that his life on earth was drawing to a close, and that the Roman emperor was going to take his life very soon. Paul didn't pray for death as an escape from a sinful world, but he didn't shun death as something to be avoided at all costs, either. When we read of the deaths of the saints of God, men like Moses in the Old Testament or Stephen in the New Testament, we do not read about their struggle to avoid death or to delay it. When they were confronted with the end of their days, they saw it as passing into the presence of God Almighty, the One they loved the most and the One they most wanted to be with.

Before I go any further, please let me emphasize that this message is for Christians in general, as they deal with illnesses and deaths in general. It may be asking too much for a husband to watch his own wife slip away from this life and say nothing but, "God's will be done." I'm not speaking to those who are closely involved with the terminally ill, but rather to all those outside that person's immediate circle, who can bring nothing but prayer to the situation.

The next question might be, "Okay, we know why there is death. Now, why do particular people die when they do?" There are many answers to that question.

The first answer, and the one you'd think we have the least problem with, is old age. We see this in Job 42:16-17:

After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.
"Full of years." What does "full" mean? It means something is holding as much as it can, and you can't add anything more to it. Job lived his full life span, and he could not have lived a moment longer than that.

Okay, how old should we expect to live? We don't know the day or the hour of anyone's passing. But if someone is 90-something years old and becomes seriously ill, why do we always assume that this person is not full of years yet? How much longer is this person supposed to live before we decide it's okay for them to go be with the Lord? I'll be coming back to that thought later.

Another reason people die is because of judgment for sin – Acts 5:1-11:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. 3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
We all know about that reason, and how his wife Sapphira followed in his footsteps a few hours later. We hope it will never apply to someone we know and love. But note – it never says or suggests that Ananias was not saved. He was a member of that early church. But God took him and his wife out of this life so that God's holiness would be honored. God has smitten transgressors throughout the Bible, and He can do so at any time if it is part of His perfect plan for His creation.

There is another reason for death, which will never bring anyone any comfort, but which is fully Biblical and must be considered, and we see that in Job 2:3 -

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."
Part of that ruin, as you may recall, involved losing all seven of his sons and all three of his daughters at once. Why did they die? Look at the last three words of that verse: without any reason. That's not something you'll ever hear at a funeral service. We don't like to think our loved ones' deaths might be meaningless. But it can happen, and it's something we need to think about, especially if all our attempts to make sense of the situation come up empty.

But how many of you have considered this reason for dying, in Isaiah 57:1-2 -

The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. 2 Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
You never hear anyone claiming that verse when they learn that someone has a terminal illness. And I don't know why not. This world is an evil place, and it's getting worse. There are those whose tender hearts would be so broken by what is going to happen here, that God does them the great mercy of taking them away so they don't have to bear it. They get to go to Heaven instead.

There's one more reason, one that we will probably not see, but which did happen at least once: Someone died as nothing but a sign to others. We find this in Ezekiel 24:15-18:

The word of the LORD came to me: 16 "Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. 17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners." 18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.

If you keep reading, you see that this was a sign of how Israel would be unmourned after its destruction. I'd like to look at this in a little more detail. You might read that story and think, "How cruel and heartless of God! Was there no other sign He could give Israel, that He had to take away the beloved wife of one of His faithful servants?" If you think that, and I thought that way for years, then you're thinking like a man and not like God.

First point: Ezekiel was a man of God. He loved his wife dearly. So we can safely conclude that his wife was a woman of God. That means that when she died, she went to Abraham's bosom, and to Heaven after Jesus rose from the dead. The same fate awaited Ezekiel; he just had to wait longer on earth, and then he was reunited with his wife, and they are still together in Heaven to this day. Is that a bad thing? We only think it's cruel because we're not thinking eternally.

Second point: God made Ezekiel. God made Ezekiel's wife. Both of them were God's property. God had the right to do with them as He thought best. If a sign that drastic was what He willed for Ezekiel and for his wife and for Israel, then that must have been what was best. Doesn't He have the right to do as He sees fit with His creations? Does He have that right with us? He certainly does, but we seem to have a mentality of "not in my back yard."

And that brings us to some people who seem to have a problem with death. That's us, the ones who aren't dying yet.

We all know that we're going to face death some day. Some of us may face that day earlier than others. Some may be snatched suddenly out of this world by accidents. Some may live to a ripe old age. Some among us are fighting mortal illnesses right now. I'm assuming that all of you are Biblically saved, and if you aren't sure about that, please talk to me before you leave this room. But if you know that you'll be bound for Heaven when this life ends, then tell me this:

Why doesn't anyone act like it's true?

Think about this: When we were kids in school, and we knew that school would be letting out early (due to bad weather, a teacher's convention, or whatever), we could barely contain our excitement, because whatever we spent the rest of the day doing, it had to be better than school. We wanted out! The moments dragged, we checked the clock every thirty seconds, waiting for that bell or that buzzer or that announcement that meant our day of hard labor was over early and we were free! Remember that?

As Christians, we say we believe that Heaven is the most wonderful place there is. We say that Jesus is the most wonderful person there is. We say that being in Heaven with Jesus is the best, the most wonderful thing that could happen to a person.

So how come, when one of us gets the chance to "get out early" from this life, to go to that wonderful place to be with that wonderful Person, our usual reaction is to pray against it with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

How many times have you heard something like this in a prayer meeting: "We need to pray for so-and-so's grandmother, she's critically ill." "Is she saved?" "Yes." "How old is she?" "She's 96." "Oh, we need to pray for healing." Where do we get off, making a snap judgment like that? Are we that wise, that we instantly know what God is doing in that person's life?

Now, I'm not talking about praying for someone who's not saved. Because if an unsaved person dies, their soul goes to Hell for all eternity, and that's something to pray against. But, while I'm on the subject, we do need to get rid of the mindset that says, "If so-and-so is miraculously healed, then they'll believe." Oh, will they? Shall I give you a list of the names of people on our little church's prayer list, unsaved people for whom we prayed for healing, and they were healed, sometimes against all medical odds, and they just went on their merry way without so much as a thank-you for God? What it boils down to is that we're asking God to show that unsaved person a sign, and that's not a good prayer. You can pray that God would extend someone's life long enough that he or she could hear the Gospel once more; that's a good prayer. But what good is it if someone recovers their physical health, but remains unsaved? "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Our prayers for the unsaved have to remain focused on salvation first, or we're praying amiss.

What I'm talking about today is a saved Christian who becomes seriously ill. Does anyone ever pray for anything besides complete healing, as though that were the only thing we could pray for? How many of us spend even five minutes asking God if this sickness is supposed to lead to death or not? And if you don't know, and you haven't even tried to find out, then you may very well be praying amiss. You may be asking God to do something that is against His perfect plan. His answer to that prayer will have to be "No."

And I've seen too many Christians who set their hearts on seeing someone healed, and God calls that someone home instead, and the Christian's faith is destroyed. They prayed, they did everything Scripture tells us to do so their prayers will be heard, but God didn't answer the way they wanted Him to, so there must be a problem with God, and you never see them in church again. I've seen it over and over, I grieve every time it happens, and I'm just sick of seeing it. God doesn't like it, either. It doesn't have to happen that way.

Turn, if you would, to Ecclesiastes 3:1:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to –
what's that next word? Die.

So God says there is a time to die. We agree on that. In theory, at least.

When is it time to die? How do we know when we should pray our knees off for healing, and when we should pray that our loved one will just slip peacefully into the arms of Jesus? I think that's the real question.

First off, we look at what the Bible says. The passage that everyone turns to first is James 5:

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
That's a pretty clear promise from God. The conditions are spelled out, and the results are spelled out. You can argue over whether "anointed with oil" means physically anointed with real oil, or whether it means praying for the medicine and the doctors. I've been in churches that practice both. And I've seen two things they have in common: they ask for a lot of miraculous healings, and they get very few.

What do we conclude from this? Some will rack their brains trying to figure out what we did wrong. Did we pray in faith? Did enough people pray? Should we have fasted more? Should we have tried a round-the-clock prayer vigil? These people may be on the wrong track, but they have got one critical point right: they aren't blaming God. They aren't accusing God of breaking His promise. They aren't saying that the problem lies with God. Therefore, they reason, the problem must lie with us. But that may not be true, either. I'll come back to that thought later.

But keep this in mind: if promises like that one are meant to be taken as unbreakable, inviolable laws, then the Bible is nothing but a book of magic spells. Say the right words, take the right actions, and you get the desired results, every time, guaranteed – just like the Novenas that the Catholics say. Aside from the fact that it just doesn't happen that way, this also takes away God's sovereignty. He ceases to be the Lord of all, because we can give Him orders and He has to obey us. It turns His promises into walls around Him, forcing Him into certain actions. It puts God at our beck and call. I don't have to tell you how wrong that idea is.

I know this might sound heretical – it sounds like I'm saying that God doesn't have to keep His promises. What I am saying is that God can't do anything that is against His nature. God didn't give us promises so we could manipulate Him, or force Him to do something against His will. Every promise He ever gave, no matter how carefully we fulfill the conditions, is still dependent on His sovereign will. He is the Lord, not us; we cannot order Him around, not even with His own words. We can ask, but we can not demand. It is vital that we understand this.

What this means is that, when we claim a promise in Scripture, we must be as certain as we can be that what we're asking for is in accordance with the will of God. If we aren't sure of that, then it's not a sin to claim the promise anyway, but we must be ready to learn that we are asking amiss, and we must not blame God if He doesn't change His perfect plan to fit our desires.

How about the many passages in the New Testament where the sick came to Jesus, and He healed them all? Or the sick came to the apostles, and they healed them all? Those are key verses for the confess-it-possess-it group. The New Testament pattern, they say, is that everybody gets healed unless they lack faith or are in sin, so that's what should happen for us.

The answer to that theory is that we aren't living in the time of Jesus and the apostles. All those healings that took place in the Gospels and the book of Acts were signs for a specific reason: to confirm the ministry of Christ and the apostles.

The miracles of Jesus were signs for His ministry:

John 14:11 – Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
The miracles of the apostles were signs for their ministries:
I Corinthians 12:12 – The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.

So if we're going to rely on those verses about all being healed, then we are nothing but sign-seekers. And what did Jesus say about sign-seekers?

Matthew 16:4 – A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign.

That's not what I want Jesus to say about me. How about you? Then we can't generalize and say, "God did it before, so He has to do it again." God doesn't have to do anything according to our preconceived notions. He won't let us put Him in a box.

Okay how about this one: you've prayed to God about this sickness in a loved one, and you have peace that He will do a healing. How reliable is that?

We have had to put a man out of our church who had complete peace about his grossly immoral lifestyle. No Scripture we could read could shake him from his confidence that he was right. I'm sure almost all of us, at one time or another, have felt peace about some course of action that turrned out to be dead wrong. A sense of peace is a feeling, an emotion. Our emotions can fool us easily. If a feeling isn't backed up by the word of God, then it's an empty emotion, and you can't base a confident expectation on that. That's building your house on the sand, and when you do that, it's just a question of time until your house comes crashing down around you. So you can't go by a feeling of peace if that's all you're going by.

Well, suppose you find a Bible verse that seems to promise the healing you're seeking. How do you handle that? The first thing you need to do is examine the terms and the context of the verse. Most of God's promises to His people are conditional. We've already seen that there are things we need to do to fulfill our end of the deal. We've also seen that meeting all the conditions doesn't force God's hand. But we also need to be sure we can apply the verse to our circumstances. For example, God gave promises to Israel that don't apply to New Testament saints. We can try to twist the Scriptures to make them say what we want them to say, but God doesn't have to honor a promise under those terms.

And that is the crux of this matter. He is God and we are not. No matter what we say and do, we can't make Him do anything against His perfect plan for His creation. There are things He won't do if we don't ask, and there are things He can't do if we don't do our part. But even if we do everything right, that doesn't twist His arm. He is sovereign and He will do what He knows is best. He loves us and wants to do what is best for us. And we must be very careful not to ask Him to do anything else.

I won't deny that this is a hard thing to know. No matter how carefully we search the Scriptures, no matter how earnestly we seek His face in prayer, there are many parts of God's plan that our finite little minds cannot understand. In many ways, our prayer requests are like a small child asking his parents for things he wants. Does a small child always ask for the right things? I know a four-year-old boy who wanted a real chain saw for Christmas. Was it an unloving parent who said "no" to that request? No, it is a sign of the greatest love when a parent says "no" to an unwise request. And so it is with God. Because we can't see the big picture of His plan as it unfolds, we sometimes ask for a healing that would not be God's best for us. And, because He loves us so much that He wants nothing but the best for us, He answers that prayer request with a "no."

That's what agape love is all about – putting the loved one's welfare above all else. But do we love like that? Do we ever consider that when we're praying for someone's life? Do we ever stop to ask God if the sick person would be better off in the arms of Jesus? Or do we just assume that it's always better for the person to be healed of whatever-it-is, and eventually die of something else (maybe something worse), than for them to go to Heaven now, regardless of what God might want? Doesn't that describe the way we usually pray for the sick?

I think the root of the problem is that we aren't considering what God might want, and we aren't considering what might be best for the one who is sick. All we're really considering is what we want. We don't want to lose that person; therefore, they must be healed. That's the logic that's at work in most of our prayers for the sick. It's a natural thing, especially when it's someone we love. But doing what is natural is often the opposite of doing what's best in the eyes of God.

Look at the words we use when dealing with death. What's the common phrase? "The Lord took her." Why did the Lord have to "take" her? Because we wouldn't let her go! It's as if there was a tug-of-war going on, with God on one end, us on the other end, and we're using the poor sick person as the rope. Strictly speaking, God doesn't "take" anyone. He doesn't have to – we're already His, we all belong to Him. He just moves us from one place to another. He has the right to do that, and we don't have the right to tell Him "no." Who are we to hang onto someone else's life? Other people's lives don't belong to us; they were bought with a price, just like we were. Yet when God tells a saint, "It's time to come home," we immediately respond, "No, it isn't time yet! He needs to stay here! You're wrong, God!" Think about it – that's exactly what we're telling Him.

Then there are our attempts to put a positive spin on someone's death. How about this line: "She had passed all the tests in life that God intended for her to pass." Ever hear that one? I've heard it a few times. Did you ever think about what it means? It means either she was perfect when she died, or God never intended for her to strive for perfection, and He gave her an "A+" when she was probably earning a "C-" at best.

Then there's this one, which I personally hate with a passion. "I prayed that God would heal him, and he is healed – he's all better now, isn't he?" Do you realize you're bearing false witness against the Lord when you say that? When somebody dies, that's not what the word "heal" means – you're playing an unbiblical word game. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was dead, did He say, "No, he's not dead – he's healed"? Did the apostles ever end someone's life and call it a healing? In the Old Testament, when somebody died, they weren't pronounced healed. Dying is not healing. Dying is dying. If God didn't answer your prayers for healing with a "yes" answer, don't tell a lie and say He did. Yes, your loved one has been set free from all pain and suffering, but that's not a healing, and I'm sure it's not what you were praying for. If you're determined to say this kind of thing among yourselves, I can't stop you, but I beg you as your brother in Christ – don't ever say that to me when I lose a loved one.

Why do we say things like these? Because to us, death is always bad, and we feel the need to put a good face on it. But the apostle Paul thought that going to be with the Lord was the best thing that could happen to him. He encouraged us, as Christians, to emulate him. How can we do that?

The first thing we need to do is to acknowledge that, most of the time, we don't know what God is doing. That bothers the dickens out of us, because it takes away any sense that we're in control. We want to keep our hands on the wheel! And if we can't do that, at least we want to see the map and know where we're going. We want to be in on the plan. So we search the Scriptures inside-out for promises we can claim, we compare verses so we can see what we need to do to get our prayer answered, and when we're done, we don't know any more about God's plan than when we started. We read Christian books and we talk to older and wiser Christians, and the wisest of them will admit that they don't know what God is doing, either. All we can expect to know is what God wants each of us, individually, to do. What He means to do in the lives of others, what the big plan is, is not for us to know.

This means we need to stop looking for excuses when someone's life ends. So many will say, "We didn't pray enough," or, "we should have fasted more," or, "I was lacking in faith," or... you know all the lines we use. All we're doing is trying to think of reasons, because if we can figure out the reason, then we're in on the plan. My friends, I don't know the reason my three children died on Christmas Eve 1994. I doubt I ever will know, on this side of Heaven. The answer may be too wonderful for my little head to contain, or it might destroy this earthen vessel. But I firmly believe that God was in control of everything that night, and that it served a purpose in God's perfect plan. That's all I'm likely to know in this life, but I can find comfort in knowing that much.

The next thing we need to do is get beyond the idea that God is doing something bad when He calls someone home to be with Him. God is not cruel – He is incapable of cruelty. Our God knows how we feel as we watch a loved one's health fail, because He watched His only Son die a gruesome death. If we really believe Romans 8:28 – "all things work together for good" – then we would agree that, when someone dies and goes to Heaven, it's good for him or her, and it's also good for us, because that's what God promised in that verse.

Finally, we need to reach a place where our heart's desire is to pray the prayers God wants to answer, instead of the prayers we want Him to answer. Sometimes it's hard to know which is which; that's when you pray the James 1:5 prayer for wisdom. We want to be going in the same direction God is going. We want our prayers to be working toward God's glory – we don't want to waste His time and ours by praying prayers that He, by His nature, can only answer with a "No." If we're striving toward a goal that is against what God wants, then we're just like Saul of Tarsus – it's hard for us to kick against the goads.

What I'm talking about here, what all three of these conditions are about, is summed up in one small word. Faith. But this is a different kind of faith from what you usually hear about. It's not a faith that gives God orders. And it's not a faith that won't take "no" for an answer. This kind of faith is the kind that will accept a "no" from God as the best answer, because the best is the only answer our loving Father can give us, and this kind of faith will thank Him for it. This faith is a few steps above where we're accustomed to living, and it's miles above our natural way of thinking. But it's the only kind of faith that won't be crushed when a loved one leaves this world for a better one. It's what the Bible means when it speaks of a childlike faith.

Have you ever seen genuine childlike faith? I saw that kind of faith in action when I took my own children to the doctor for blood tests. I sat them in my lap and restrained them, and the nurse gave them the needle in the arm. It hurt them, they were scared, they cried, but Daddy said it was necessary, and that was enough for them. They didn't blame me for what they were going through. They knew I loved them and I wouldn't do anything that was bad for them. And that's all God is asking of us as we deal with the loss of a loved one. Yes, it's going to hurt. But if we believe and are convinced that our Abba Father is always doing what's best for all of us, then we can find His comfort in the midst of the pain. Then we can stop clinging to other people's lives as though they were ours. Then we can truly accept what God does in our lives and in the lives of those around us, and we can completely obey I Thessalonians 5:18 –

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Earlier, I said that when someone dies, some people try to figure out what they did wrong to keep God from keeping His promises. I said that they were right in not blaming God for the problem. But when we have that childlike faith, we will realize that there is no problem. Something hasn't gone terribly wrong. It's just our Father, working all things together for good, even if we don't understand it in the here and now. We trust Him. He's our loving Father, and that's enough for us.
For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8)

The title of this message is, "No One Wants to Go Home." I know this is a hard message to receive. Believe me, it was a hard message to write. It's not what you'd call an encouraging message. But the next time you're facing someone else's mortality, or even your own, please remember what you've heard today.

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