Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Victory in Tragedy

Our church buried an 18-year-old boy today.

The funeral was such a sad event, knowing the grief and emotion that was tearing his family and all of us apart; yet ironically there was an undercurrent of joy running throughout the ceremony.

Somewhere around 1,000 people attended his memorial service, most folks were not from the church as it was mid-day. I was fortunate to be able to attend, and am so glad that I witnessed the legacy that this young man left behind.

His best friend performed the song "I Can Only Imagine", which led most in the sanctuary to tears. The pastor, in his message, related that he asked Steven when he knew he was going to die, (knowing Steven was saved and walking with the Lord). The young man replied, "I pretty much knew I was dying when they told me I had brain cancer." He knew. Throughout his months-long agonizing ordeal, he knew.

And he was at peace with dying. Why? Because he knew Who he served.

Many of Steven's classmates, teachers, and football teammates were present today. The message was for them - the pastor candidly told them that his dying wish was that they may have the same assurance of eternal life that he had. He wanted them to come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and for 20-odd minutes, our pastor gave the best Gospel presentation I have ever heard.

All of us must face the Lord someday, and the road diverges to either heaven or hell. How do you know where you are going? What would you give as an answer to the Judge of your soul? The pastor addressed the two main misconceptions that people have about heaven - that righteousness ("I hope I've been good enough") or religion (I'm a spiritual person - I go to church and take the 'sacraments' ") will get you in. He talked about repentance, what it means to follow Christ, and being born again. Statistically, most of the attendees were Catholics; such a clear-cut, simple explanation of salvation and assurance from the Bible was foreign to most of them. I heard a few kids talking about the message over the lunch that followed with a tone of awe. Never had they heard, seen or felt anything like the message of Christ lived out in the sanctuary that morning.

The most moving part of the service came when the adult leader of the teen post-Katrina mission trips took the podium. Sharing a few special (and humorous!) anecdotes about Steve, he then spoke of his last few weeks. Confined to bed and hospice care, he was weak, in pain, with virtually no motor ability and no speech. He and the boy's best friend prayed through much of the Word with him. A day or two before he died, straining to participate in praying a psalm, this boy pleaded with God to "use [him]". "Let my life have meaning....for your glory," he prayed.

Even on his deathbed, even in his own pain, he was thinking of bringing others into the Kingdom. He longed for God to be glorified.

What an amazing, moving life. We know he is rejoicing now in heaven, and so many people have heard the Good News because of him. His death, although tragic and by our standards early, may be used of God to save as many people as he did in life.

THAT is a life well lived.


A Dusty Frame said...

What a wonderful testimony he had!
Thank you for sharing this.

Si se puede said...

Thanks for sharing! It's a delight to read your blog!

Don Kimrey said...

Thank God for young folks like your friend. On a different, but related, subject: Did you see or hear the service conducted in memory of Kay Yow? In all my life I've never seen anything like it. Keep up your good work, Marie.