Mom was a great lady, and she’ll be missed by all of us. She was a great mother to Kristy and I. As kids, she was so patient with us. And, when she did lose it, it was short lived. In fact, even when she gave us some much needed discipline, she would end up feeling bad about it.
She was also a tremendous grandmother. All of the kids love her. And she always enjoyed being around her grandbabies.
Most importantly, she was a woman of faith. She wasn’t a theologian. But she enjoyed going to church and attending Bible studies. She also enjoyed reading her Bible at home.
As most of you know, mom’s diagnosis was very unexpected. She wasn’t very old. And, outwardly, she seemed pretty healthy.
Like most of us, she worked to keep her weight down. She made a habit of walking most days. She liked to get in her 10,000 steps every day. In fact, she was wearing her fitbit all the way until the end.
It all started when she woke up with back pain. And after visiting the chiropractor, who advised her to seek medical help, her real problem was soon discovered.
Mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She was told from the outset that there would be no cure, from a medical standpoint anyway. Her treatments would serve only to minimize her pain and to provide her with a better quality of life.
She could be cured by God, of course. He has the power to do anything. And, if he so desired, he could have simply spoken the word, as he often did in the gospels.
And that's the rub, you see. It's the place where we often get hung up when it comes to our faith. If God has the power to heal, why didn't he do it? If he's as loving as Scripture proclaims him to be, why would he do nothing?
This is explained to us in Philippians 1, which is our epistle lesson for this morning. When he wrote this passage, Paul was facing the prospect of death. Not in the same sense as mom. But he was facing the possibility of death in a very real way.
He had been arrested because of his faith and his ministry activities. He was now awaiting his trial, the verdict of which could be life. But it also could be death.
And look at the words Paul penned when faced with this prospect. Starting in verse 18, he says: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
He says, first of all, that to live is Christ and to die is gain. If God spared him from the power of his earthly rulers, he would be able to live for the Lord. He would be able to continue in his ministry of directing the lost to the salvation found in Christ. To die, however, was to gain a blessing not possible this side of eternity.
Paul goes on to say that, if the choice were his, it would be a difficult one. He desired to continue in his service and ministry. But to be with Christ, he says, is better by far.
This is what we must bear in mind in a loss like this. Yes, had God healed mom, that would've been a great blessing. She would have loved to live among us for a while longer. I know that she desired to watch all of her grandkids graduate, grow up, get married, and have families of their own. And, had she remained, it would've enabled her to be a blessing to all of us, as she’d always been. But, the simple fact of the matter is that to be with Christ is better by far.
No, I didn't want to lose mom. If I had been able to impose my will, she’d still be with us. But would I want to deny her the great blessing she's now received?
When it comes to our loved ones falling ill and passing away, we often make the mistake of thinking that this life is the greater blessing. We think that the greatest thing God could do for our loved ones is to restore them to us. But that's not why Christ was born into this world.
He came, he suffered and died, and he rose from the grave that we might be delivered from this world of sin and death. He endured the cross that we might dwell forever with him in his presence, in a place free of the sufferings of this life.
So, in calling her home, the Lord didn't fail her. And, in calling her home, he did not fail us. He answered our prayers by giving her the greater blessing. He answered our prayers by giving her the blessing that's better by far.
Isn’t this what we also look forward to? Most of us enjoy our life in this world in many ways, and none of us are eager to die. Yet, our life is filled with problems and hardships. And our hope is that, one day, this will be a thing of the past. Our hope is that, one day, we too will live in the presence of Christ. And, through faith in Jesus, this is exactly what God has promised us.