Lessons When Someone You Loved Has Died

Steve Viars May 17, 2009 John 11:1-46

--This message was preached days following the deaths of 3 church members.--

- whenever you heard the news about the Waggoner’s, whether it was Friday night, or sometime Saturday, or even for those who didn’t know until this morning…it would be perfectly appropriate for you to respond, in part, with questions…

- one quote that I’ve used several times over the years is…

- now, I’m not suggesting that I/we have answers to every question…

- the last thing that is needed this morning is pious platitudes or shallow ideas that we really don’t believe or that are of little help or comfort…

- however – we should never confuse not having all the answers…with not having any answers…

- God addresses this subject head on…in ways that are compelling and potentially life changing…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to John chapter 11…[page ____ of the Bible under the chair in front of you…]

- we’re thinking this morning about Lessons When Someone You Love Has Died

- you know the Bible teaches that Jesus had close friends too…

- that is one of the beauties of the “incarnation” of Christ…God became a man, a real human being…with the same range of emotions that you and I possess…

- John 11 tells the amazing story of the death of Lazarus…

- let’s read it together…Read John 11:1-46

- there are several very prominent themes in this story, and let’s use them to find 4 truths to remember during times of grief.

I. People Who Are Genuine Followers of Jesus Christ Will Never Completely Die.

- now I realize that you might say – how could you possibly say that after the events of this week?

- friends, that’s exactly what Jesus said to Martha…

- John 11:25-26 - Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

- and you might say – I don’t understand that…

- well, what does “completely die” mean?...

- death is the Bible is always separation…

- and the word is used to describe at least three distinct conditions…

- spiritual death…physical death…and what the Bible refers to as “the second death”…

- spiritual death is the condition that every human being is born into because of our sin…

- Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death.

- Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

- that is why, apart from Christ, there is such an emptiness…

- Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

- that is spiritual death…

- there is also physical death…that is what Jesus meant in verse 14 of this passage…

- John 11:14 - So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead…

- so there is spiritual death (separation of the person from God), and physical death (separation of the soul from the body)…and lastly, what the Bible refers to as “the second death”…

- Revelation 20:14 - Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire…

- you might say – “what is that?”…

- the “second death” occurs if a person dies physically without ever having trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord because then there is no longer an opportunity to repent and believe…

- the point is – biblically speaking, a person has not “completely died” unless all three aspects have occurred…

- spiritual death – separation of the person from God…

- physical death – separation of the soul from the body…

- the second death – separation of the person from God, forever…

- and it is in that sense that we could honestly say this morning…People Who Are Genuine Followers of Jesus Christ Will Never Completely Die…

- and what was our Lord’s question at the end of verse 26?...Do you believe this?...

- the second lesson is that…

II. The Life that Jesus Provides is Truly Amazing.

John 11:43-44 - When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

- and I realize that you might say – but PV, where’s the parallel between that and what’s just occurred?...

- where are Leah, Harrison, and Sophia?...

- anyone who knew Leah knew that she was clearly a follower of Christ…

- the same is true for Harrison…

- the beauty is that although we believe God would have had a provision for Sophia had this not been the case, Sophia had just communicated to her parents that she had trusted Christ, and at our last church family night, partook of communion along with the rest of our church family…

- 2 Corinthians 5:8 - we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

- where are Leah, Harrison, and Sophia?...they are home with the Lord…their home did not burn down, not their eternal home…

- Romans 8:18 - For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

- Leah, and Harrison, and Sophia are now in a perfect place…

- and that is because Jesus Christ truly is the resurrection and the life – and when He said that in this passage, He knew that some day He would die on the cross for our sins, in our place and then be raised from the dead to prove that the penalty of sin had been removed…

III. Jesus Wants to Use This Topic to Mature our Faith.

- this point is made repeatedly in this passage…

A. That is why He purposely waited before going to see them.

- when we read that…John 11:5 - Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

- what would you have expected the next verse to say?...something like, so He got up and went to them right away…but that’s not what happened, is it?

- John 11:6 - So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

- some of the people in this story had some faith, others had no faith – but in every case, God wanted this event to help them get to the next place in their walk with Him…trials and suffering can help us in that way if we allow God to work in/through us even when we’re hurting…

B. Jesus explained this clearly to his disciples.

- John 11:14-15 - So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

- Jesus loved his disciples, and He knew that there would be ministry opportunities for them in the future that would require greater faith on their part…

- how do you get that?...wrestling with hard questions during a time of death is one of the answers…

C. Mary and Martha demonstrated an admirable level of faith but Jesus wanted them to continue to grow.

- each sister said something like…

- John 11:21 - Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.

- Mary made a similar comment in verse 32…

- and that was a expression of faith – there’s no evidence that they were condemning the Lord…the fact that they believed that much says a lot…but the point is – Jesus wants them to go further…

- you’re right that if I had been there, I could have prevented his physical death…but my power is even greater than…I can overcome death even after it has occurred…

- the fact that some in this story did not yet believe this may be…

D. The reason that Jesus wept?

- John 11:35 – Jesus wept.

- of course the question is – why?...

- He knew what he was about to do for Lazarus…

- many people think that the core of Jesus’ emotional response was the unbelief of the people who were there…

- they went on to say…John 11:37-38 - But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

- that’s why in the next verse Jesus ‘groaned in His spirit”…

- the Lord allowed this entire event to unfold to help them establish or stretch their faith…

- it’s interesting that…

E. The result was a split decision.

John 11:45-46 - Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

- friends, do you agree with me this morning that Jesus wants to use this event to mature your faith?...

- and the follow-up question then is, will you allow Him to?...

- Ecclesiastes 7:2 - It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.

- I’ve been praying for people who would be here today who have heard the gospel but never responded…and maybe one of your excuses has been…I’ll always have tomorrow…

- friend, this event proves that’s not true…

- perhaps the faith God wants to develop in you is saving faith [develop – the gospel, and exactly what they should say/do]

- you may be here and you know the Lord but you’ve been satisfied with faith that isn’t particularly mature…perhaps one of the ways God can use event for good in your life is to say – well I have the opportunity to do so, I am going to make the cultivation of my faith, and that of my family’s to be a much higher priority…

- if Jesus wanted to do that for his followers on that particular day, perhaps that’s also what He wants to do on this one…

- one last theme that is very prominent in this passage….

IV. Our Response to Death Can Glorify God.

John 11:4 - But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.

John 11:40 - Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

- How is that true?

A. God is glorified when parents raise their children in the nurture and admonition of Christ – Ephesians 6:4.

- God is glorified by parents who develop that kind of eternal perspective in their homes…

B. God is glorified by Sunday School teachers and Wednesday Night Kids of Faith teachers who assist parents by faithfully teaching God’s Word.

- sometimes as a teacher you wonder if your work is making a difference…

- another Sunday and another Sunday --- is it really that important, is it really that valuable…

- there’s no question about that now, is there?...

C. A grieving husband and father who is trusting in God’s sovereign control.

- I’ve been able to speak to Brian several times already as have our other pastors and some of our deacons…

- of course we’re not going to minimize the pain and the loss…but Brian is seeking to trust the Lord and rest in Him even when its hard…

- and I realize that you might say – I’ll tell you right now – If God wants me to glorify Him then He should have given me something better…

- I’ll start glorifying Him when the conditions improve….

- friend, do you realize that that position is satanic?...

- you say – why would you say that?...

- that is the point of what is probably the oldest book in the Bible…the book of Job….

- satan says to God – the only reason that Job loves you is because you’ve blessed him so much…

- if you take away his blessings, he’ll curse you to your face…

- and understand – fundamentally that was not a test of Job – it was a test of God…and whether He was powerful enough to develop the kind of faith in His children that would transcend temporal circumstances, even ones that involved tremendous suffering…

- and when Job...after facing a situation eerily similar to what occurred Friday night…Job 1:20-22 - Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

- Job would later say…Job 19:25 - I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

- only a powerful God could produce enduring faith like that…

- and if so – but I’m sure what I think about God being sovereign right now --- [walk through the mental process you went through Saturday morning…what’s worse, having a faithful wife who loved the Lord for 15 years…or having a wife who rejected Christ, was unfaithful to her family, and lived what we would consider to be a full life?...do you, or do I, want the power of sovereignty?

- I know these truths are challenging – that’s why I’ve asked several of our deacons to come now to lead us to the throne of grace…

1. for Brian and the other family members

2. for our church family

3. for our community

4. for children’s workers who are especially grieving

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video