Today in our brief time together I would like to focus on the wonderful hope that we have in Jesus. As many of you know, just a few short weeks ago we lost our precious little grandson, James Wright. James, who died just short of his eighth birthday, was the youngest child of our daughter, Elizabeth, and son-in-law, David Wright.
I want to thank each one of you who took the time to express your thoughts, condolences, and prayers for our family as we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Your prayers continue to lift and sustain us through this time, and we thank you.
Little James suffered for most of his young life from a debilitating, terminal illness known as "Alexander Disease." In spite of this, however, he was a sweet, kind, loving, and thoughtful child to all—including the doctors and nurses who cared for him. He was truly a sunbeam for Jesus.
And as difficult as it was to say goodbye, praise God, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18—"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
And, indeed, what a comfort these words are! Friends, as we think of our loved ones who have gone to sleep in Jesus, we can have such a hope and peace because we know that one day soon we will be reunited and will never have to say goodbye again! What a wonderful, glorious promise this is!
In the meantime, however, we can be at peace, knowing that for this present time, our loved ones are just asleep. No longer are they suffering, no longer are they worried, no longer do they have any struggles.
The Bible assures of this truth. In Psalm 146:4 we are told of those who die, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (KJV). And in Ecclesiastes 9:5 we are reminded, "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing."
And in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, Paul sets out very clearly how one day, those who die in Christ, as well as those who are living in Him when Jesus comes, will receive the gift of immortality. We read: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep. . ."—Notice again how the Scriptures call death a sleep—" We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?'"
Yes, dear friends, let us never give up hope. For we have the sure word of God that is filled with these very precious promises!
In closing, I would like to share something very encouraging that Ellen White wrote to her twin sister, Elizabeth, when Elizabeth's little daughter, Eva, passed away. She wrote:
"Our fondest hopes are often blighted here. Our loved ones are torn from us by death. We close their eyes and . . . lay them away from our sight. But hope bears our spirits up. We are not parted forever but shall meet the loved ones who sleep in Jesus. They shall come again from the land of the enemy. The Life-giver is coming. Myriads of holy angels escort Him on His way. He bursts the bands of death, breaks the fetters of the tomb, the precious captives come forth "As the little infants come forth immortal from their dusty beds, they immediately wing their way to their mothers’ arms. They meet again nevermore to part" (Select Messages, book 2, 259,260).
What a wonderful thought that our dear ones—young and old—who have died in Jesus, will one day very soon be given new, immortal life and we will be forever with them and the Lord. May these words give us all hope and courage as we wait for that great resurrection day. Let's pray together just now.
Father in heaven, thank you for the promise of immortal life, when Jesus comes down from heaven with great power and the trumpet will sound, and the shout will go forth, and those who are resting in Jesus, those who have died in Jesus, will be raised to life and we will see them go into the air and those of us who are alive, will follow them into the air, forever be with the Lord. Oh, we long for that day. Thank you for this blessed hope that we have, all because of what Jesus has done for us. His blood, and His grace, His righteousness, which is the core of the three angels’ messages. Thank you for hearing us in this prayer, and for the blessed hope that we have. We ask all of this in the precious and wonderful name of Jesus our Lord and coming king, amen.