2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
I sit down with families and ask how they would like for me to conduct the funeral services for their loved ones. The above scripture is often referred to. Sometimes it applies to those who have passed but more often it does not. The family members seem to think that services should say things about their departed that give tribute but do not relate at all to the life the loved ones lived.
The Christian life is a fight. Paul is not talking of the fight to keep a job or to raise a family. He is speaking of a fight to present the gospel is a world that is very hostile to that gospel. He is speaking of the struggle to live the Christian life in a manner that portrays a true picture of the changed life in Christ. This is a fight which is fought daily.
The Christian life is a race. A race follows a course. The course is laid out for the individual to complete. The race is won by the conpletion of the course. This course is the obedience in which the Christian walks with his Lord. He obeys in attitude and in specific actions. He loves at all times. He listens to his Lord at all times. He obeys in faith. Thus, he runs the course. His own agendas or paths are set aside so that this race may be run. It takes all the effort that the Christian has to finish this race.
Teh Christian life is faith. It believes when all the circumstances point toward something else. It listens to the Lord. It goes into dark places when it can't see. It continues when others say that it should turn back. It is counted as foolishness by those who have no faith. It continues to believe that God is what the Bible says He is. It continues to believe that God can and will do everything that He has said He will do. Faith is what allows the Christian to sacrifice all that he has for his Lord.
But I sit with these families and ask myself, "How can you say this? Your loved one did not attend church. He has no record of obedience to the Lord. Even his faith is sketchy for you are telling me that he believed but never talked about it." I dont' think this is the appropriate verse to be read for some people.
I guess some people think that funeral services are really shams. Those people have never had a son come to me and say, "Who were you talking about? My mother never had any of those qualities. She was never the Christian you made her out to be!" I have had to explain that this is what I got from other family members. The son knows better but I am rarely rebuked for saying good things about the dead. I wish I knew the truth.
Though, there have also been many times I have been pleased to read these verses at funeral services. I have known the deceased because they has been faithful to their church. I have heard them pray, known that they read their Bibles daily, watched them serve faithfully and seen their love towards all people. I have observed these believers as they fought, finished the race and kept the faith.
My question is this: What will your funeral service be? A sham or the one for the glory of God?
Your family members will probably say good things about you no matter how you lived your life but the truly only righteous Judge will know. Any you will too.