In 1 Thessalonians 4, the Apostle Paul writes,
... I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
My father was a wonderful man: good, honest, loving and gentle. He loved his family with every fiber of his being. We are his heritage; his gift to the world. And there is very little that can match, much less surpass, that legacy. But I'd like to tell you about the gift my father gave me which is even better than all that.
The most important gift Daddy gave me is his faith. From the time he placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ, Daddy lived out his faith in every moment of his life and with everyone he met. Daddy was not a perfect man before he believed in Christ, and he was not perfect after, but he knew his Savior, and he knew to the depths of his soul the love and forgiveness that Christ gave to him. Daddy's faith was simple, but not simplistic; child-like, but not childish. Daddy's faith never wavered. It was pure, strong and true; he was never ashamed of it and was always willing to proclaim his Savior in word and in deed.
Everyone who met Daddy would tell me about what a good man he was. But really, it is because of his faith that Daddy had such a good name, an excellent reputation, and was known for his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - which is the fruit of the Spirit of God. My father was a good man because he believed in his Savior, and his life was a journey toward being transformed into the image of Christ.
I stand before you, saved by that same God's mercy, in large part because of the faith my father lived before my eyes. His patience with me, his daily prayers on my behalf, his quiet talks - all these were used by God to draw me to my Savior. Daddy's calm persistence, his unpretentious life, and his unreserved love are all earthly examples of God's great love for all of us. This is my father's best gift to me; the legacy for which I will always be thankful.
Right now, I mourn because I miss Daddy so much. He's always been my Daddy, a title too few fathers earn these days. But I can rejoice in my grief because I know the promise of God that I just read from Thessalonians. I know where Daddy IS: he is in Heaven with Jesus Christ. In Heaven, Daddy will never again know sorrow or pain or suffering. Instead, he is in eternal glory and worshiping the Savior he loved so much. He has heard that wonderful welcome from God's own lips: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord." Daddy is perfectly, absolutely happy and blessed.
Right now, I rejoice because I have hope. Not the "hope" of "Oh, I hope I win the lottery" or "I hope it will rain tomorrow" or "I hope there's chocolate cake for dessert" (although that would be great - Daddy loved chocolate cake!) - no. Not that kind of hope. I have the hope - I have the real confidence - in the unshakable promise of the God who cannot lie, the Almighty Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us, that I will see Daddy again some day in the very presence of God. In my grief, that knowledge, that promise, is the ray of glory that lights up all the dark corners.
While he was alive, Daddy prayed for each one of his family. His deep desire was for each of us to know the God he loved and served. He would never have said this, because he was not a prideful man, but his life was lived out before our eyes - the eyes of his family and his friends and his acquaintances - as a prayer that this quiet, deep, transforming faith be born in our hearts as it was in his.
My father's body is now ash and will be scattered over the waters. And we all mourn. Yet I say to you, rejoice!, for my father is alive and well, and lives forevermore!
But now I have a question for you: what will you do with Daddy's faith? Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." I ask you today to take this faith to yourself; hear that voice of God whispering in your soul, and join the real family, the eternal family. I ask you, as Daddy would, to place your trust in his God - Christ Jesus who is also my Savior - and continue the legacy of faith that Daddy lived.
I'll miss you, Daddy. I'll see you soon.