There is not a single thing we can say or do here today that would have any effect upon the destiny of this one who has passed away. We simply leave all such matters in the hand of a God who knoweth and doeth all things well.
After Stephen had been put to death for the cause of our Lord, the brethren lamented his death (Acts 8:2). Sorrow is not wrong, but we must not sorrow like those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13).
Our deeds will follow us, even in death (Rev. 14:13). Dorcus was remembered by the tunics she left behind (Acts 9:36-40). Today, while in this house of mourning where our minds are centered upon death, ask yourself, "What will I leave behind at my death?"
First of all, you will leave every worldly possession behind. We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we will carry nothing out (1 Tim. 6:6-10). Since we can take nothing with us, why should we get so wrapped up with "things." Jesus said, "If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26). If you gained the whole world for your own, what would you really have? Nothing that would be of any value in eternity.
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus asked us to count the cost of serving Him. While there are many costs associated with being a Christian, there is also a price to be paid for disobedience. Christ used the example of two kings going to war. He said the one with 10,000 soldiers should consider whether he is able to war against the enemy with 20,000. Those who refuse to obey God are the ones with 10,000 going to make war against Jehovah -- they can never win!
In the hour of death, you will also leave your spouse behind. What will they have left? Pictures and memories. Don't wait till your spouse is sick or dying to express your love. Many flowers have been sent here today as an expression of sympathy and to let the family know that our thoughts are with them even in death. Your wife would appreciate flowers now more than at her death. A few words of kindness now will mean far more than rivers of tears shed by a tombstone. Solomon admonished his son to "rejoice in the wife of his youth" (Proverbs 5:18). Let's not wait till it's too late to express our love.
We will also leave our children behind. Our "children are a heritage from the Lord" (Psa. 127:3). What are you going to leave your kids? Money? There are a lot of things money just can't buy.
On January 28, 1986, Christa McAuliffe died aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Her friends had purchased a $1 million life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London. But one million dollars could not dry a single tear from her children's eyes. Money can not buy your children new parents who love them. The most valuable thing you can give your children is your time. Psalms 90 contains the prayer of Moses who bids us to "number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." We need to do that numbering when our children are young. It will be too late when they leave home for good.
All of your friends will also be left behind. What will they think when they read your obituary in the paper? Will they be surprised you were a Christian? Will the name of the church be harmed? Romans 14:7-8 tells us that none of us live to ourselves, and no one dies to himself. Our actions have a great deal of bearing upon other people. A line from one of my favorite hymns reminds us that, "We are the only Bible the careless world will read, we are the sinners gospel, we are the scoffers creed; we are the Lord's last message, given in deed and word, what if the type is crooked, what if the print is blurred?"
What do you want the preacher to say at your funeral? What do you want him to say to your family? Will he be able to comfort them with the hope of a future reunion in that glorious abode of the soul? Like Joshua of old, I know not what course others might take, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).
As the wise king Solomon reflected on his life, he said, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole mater: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).