This week’s episode is a little different. I was recently given the opportunity to share some thoughts at my grandmothers funeral. I wanted to bring these thoughts to you all as well, because I believe many could learn from her life and example.
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My grandmother—Mommom, as I knew her—passed away on Friday, May 10th, 2019.
I was asked to speak at her funeral on the following Wednesday just briefly.
These are powerful words:
In Christ, there are no goodbyes
And in Christ, there is no end
So I’ll hold onto Jesus with all that I have
To see you again
And I close my eyes and I see your face
If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place
Lord, won’t you give me strength to make it through somehow
I’ve never been more homesick than now
The hope we have in Jesus is really beautiful and unmatched. How do people live without it? I ask myself this question a lot.
What can we learn from the life of someone who lived sold-out for Jesus?
Here are four things I learned about life and Jesus from Mommom:
1. The Power of Devotion
Mommom loved the Lord with all of her heart. Her life was marked by her service and devotion to God, the things of God, and the people of God around her.
She loved her husband. She loved her church. She loved her family. But it was her love for God that enabled her to love these other things so deeply. She understood that love for others can only really be understood in the context of God’s love for us.
She instilled this devotion within me, though I rarely live up to the precedent set by her example. Quite often I remember her speaking wisdom and truth into my life.
She’d say something like,
Whatever you do, always make sure to put the Lord first. If you do that, he’ll take care of the rest.
Of course, Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
So if I could you give you just one spiritual takeaway—just one peice of advice to take from my Mommom’s example—it would be to live a life that simply puts Christ first.
If seeking God’s glory and God’s will is your primary focus, the rest—I can assure you—will fall right into place.
2. The Power of Prayer
The devotion of Mommom’s spiritial life carried over into her prayer life.
Though I wouldn’t trade my life and/or experiences for anything, it’s true that I wish I had gotten to spend more time with Mommom during the past 10-15 years.
She would have, no doubt, had an even greater spiritual influence on my life had I been closer. At the same time, I know she spent much time in prayer for me. She told me, and frankly, I could feel it.
Without a grandmother who knew how to appeal to God, I don’t know where I’d be. Would I have been raised in a Christian home? Would I have a love for gospel music? Would I have gotten to travel in full-time gospel music ministry? Would I have met my wife (who I met while traveling in full-time gospel music ministry)? Would I have three beautiful little boys? Would I have accepted the call to preach? Would I have been called to preach in the first place?
I believe in a sovereign God. But I believe in a sovereign God who anticipates—and answers—the meaningful prayers of his people. I can only conclude that much of the good in my life is the result of her fervent and unceasing prayer life.
3. The Power of Diligence
If one thing is certain, it’s that Mommom was not scared of a little hard work. In Ecclesiasates 9:10, King Solomon writes
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Mommom understood something very important about the Christian life. Being a Christian is not a “Sunday” thing—it’s an every day thing, and it shows up in every area of our lives. It’s a worldview—a way of looking at the world which informs everything we do, right down to the most minute task.
She had limitations that would leave many today completely helpless. But not Mommom. My Poppop was a hard worker, to be sure. But she didn’t leave him to do all the dirty work!
She was legally blind, yet she knew her way around her house and her property and could always be seen working in the garden, picking up sticks or leaves, hanging clothes on the line, walking up and down the basement doing laundry, etc.
She never even had a driver’s license, and yet she could navigate Philly to get to various doctor appointments with skill that would make a boy-scout blush!
Any anytime friends came over, you could be sure they’d be offered plenty to eat and drink—over, and over, and over, and over—again.
One of my favorite memories growing up at Open Bible Baptist Church and Victory Christian School was Holiday House, where Mommom helped sell antiques and other goods at the “Second Time Around.”
Mommom loved to serve in any and every way possible. She was diligent for the Lord. I only pray that I learn to approach every opportunity as an opporunity to serve the Lord, in the same way she did.
4. The Power of Encouragement
Last—but certainly not least—Mommom taught me the power of encouragement and being an encourager.
Every time I spoke with her, I tried to be a blessing and encouagement to her. And yet, it seems that I was the one who always left encouraged.
As you should understand by now, Mommom knew what was important. She knew that unless something was done to and for the glory of God, it wasn’t done in the right way or in the right spirit.
So she always encouraged others to use their gifts and talents for the Lord. She let people know she was praying for them. She offered her help and extended her hand to those who needed it.
I often think of how surprised some will be on Judgment Day. Some who worked, and worked, and worked without understanding the grace of God and desiring the only praise of men will hear “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22).
And then there will be some devoted saints of God—like Norma Fitting—who’ll receive more crowns to cast at the feet of Jesus than some of the most well-known preachers and evangelists of days gone by. Her life will be eternally marked and defined by those most desirable words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
A Christian poet and illustrator named Dan Lietha penned a beautiful poem after the passing of a dear co-worker and ministry parter. It so beautifully captures what I want to express and etch into the memory of all who remember Mommom:
Today I look up to the sky, with a smile and some tears. A friend has gone to a place on high, with no more sickness, pain, or fears.
Lord, heal the pain as we miss our friend, we’re glad her pain is gone. May the memories of her life not end, and her testimony carry on. [And what a testimony she had, by the way.]
Thank you, Jesus, that in this sorrow is found fantastic celebration. Will see our friend again tomorrow because of the gift of your salvation.
One day I’ll go to that perfect place, with loved ones there to find. This time with a smile upon my face, but the tears will be left behind.
To the one who’d begin to feel sorry for her, don’t. She can see again. She is fellowshipping with friends and loved ones who’ve already breached eternity. But more than anything, her faith in Christ has become sight, and she’s experiencing Jesus face-to-face.
Our grief may continue for days, for weeks, for months; but because of the hope of Christ, goodbye is not forever. If you don’t know the Jesus Mommom knew, she’d love nothing more than for you to meet him, today. Don’t wait a moment longer. Run to Jesus, and live in the power of devotion, prayer, diligence, and encouragement.
The example of Mommom’s life is a gift to you, to me, and to all who knew her. Let’s take care not to waste something so precious.