Published (June 29, 2010)
"Ready To Go - Followup"
Last week in this space I shared my experience of being asked to preach about heaven including an invitation at a friend's (Bob's) funeral. I said that a funeral is a wonderful place to share the Gospel and invite anyone there who's unsaved to get right with God, and I had several people write to say they're going to have that done at their own funerals.
Just the other day I was going through some old interviews, including one we did with Dallas Holm nearly thirty years ago regarding his very popular song (now a standard), "Rise Again." He told me that even back then he was receiving numerous reports that the song was being played or sung at funerals. In fact, he said he received two very similar reports in which high schoolers had died and the song was used at their funerals, one in Maine and one in Washington. At one, 11 of the teen's friends were saved. At the other, 12 found Christ!
My column generated quite a few interesting responses from readers, and I'd like to share a few of their stories:
"My mother unexpectedly died two years ago. We had services at our home church and then again at the church [where] I grew up near mom and dad's gravesite. At each I asked the Pastor to preach a message of salvation. My youngest son was saved as a result. I am so glad such happiness come out of our sorrow." Michael W.
"A year ago my 96-year old mother-in-law passed away. I was her caretaker the last nine months of her life and she was under Hospice care the last three. The last ten days, I wondered why God was leaving her alive. She was unresponsive and wouldn't eat or drink. She was a great Christian lady and at the funeral, her pastor stated that we would all see her again if we had Jesus in our hearts. On the way to the burial the young daughter of some dear friends told her mother that she was sad, because she would never see Agnes again. Her mother asked why and she said she didn't have Jesus in her heart. At the end of the gravesite service she accepted Jesus and was baptized the following Sunday. I know now that God kept her alive for ten days to prepare the heart of a young girl to accept His Son. God is good." Clarence G.
"As a born-again 75-year-old who has asthma and cancer and has had a stroke, I really appreciate your Epistle. Where would someone like myself be without faith and trust in our Lord? Certainly not completely at peace, as I am. With others knowing this, what better time is there than at my funeral for an altar call? As another Bob,' I think I'll follow his example..." Bob R.
"My preacher has an invitation at the end of each of his funeral services. One such was for a good friend at church, for his 20-year-old son (died two years ago this past June 2). The son was in a Christian band in college. [The father of one of the band's members] wasn't saved till the funeral of my friend's son." Tex N.
"For many years I have explained the Plan of Salvation and given an invitation to commit to Jesus as Savior and Lord at both funerals and weddings. My thinking: (1) Captive audience no one is going to get up and leave. (2) Everything is thinking about death at funerals and life at weddings. (3) There are always those there who may never hear again. (4) I feel compelled to do so! Thus, you did the right thing." Pastor Rod R.
"My brother Jeff had brain cancer for 20 months and went home to be with the Lord July 25, 2008. He was 49. Before his second surgery he said, Well, buys, if the Lord wants me He knows where I am.' He said if he hadn't been sick he wouldn't have been able to witness to all the hospital personnel..." Elaine G.
That last letter really goes to the bottom line in all this we should miss no opportunity to tell others about the Lord, regardless of our circumstances. Death and illness are times when people are most aware of their spiritual needs, it seems. But anytime is a good time to share the Gospel. Let's resolve to work harder to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities the Lord provides.
"I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor. 9:22b).
NOTE: See Shelia's related column below.
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