For Those Who Have Lost A Loved One
The late Carl H. Stevens Jr. was pastor of the Greater Grace World Outreach in Baltimore, Maryland, until 2005, and he also founded thriving ministries in Maine and Massachusetts. Pastor Stevens’ death in June 2008 marked the completion of a ministry that spanned four decades and included the establishment of Maryland Bible College and Seminary in Baltimore and the development of “The Grace Hour,” an Angel Award-winning radio talk show that is still heard on Christian stations throughout North America and via the Internet. This booklet was created from a message preached by Pastor Stevens. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the King James Version. Italics for emphasis are ours.
Grace Publications 6025 Moravia Park Drive BALTIMORE, MD 21206 Printed in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. Copyright © 2010 From a message preached in 1978. Grace Publications is a ministry of Greater Grace World Outreach, Inc. www.ggwo.org ISBN # 1-57907-600-9
Table Of contents
Foreword................................................... 5 Chapter 1.................................................... 6 Many Mansions are Prepared Chapter 2................................................... 12 Thinking of Heaven Chapter 3................................................... 17 Finding Our Rest Here and Now
FOREWORD This booklet was developed from a message preached in 1978 by Pastor Stevens in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was a message he delivered not long after the death of his first wife, Barbara, who suffered through an intense bout with leukemia. Our prayer is that these words will encourage and comfort all who are going through great trial.
MANY MANSIONS ARE PREPARED “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. “Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. “And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:20-23). As we walk before the Lord Jesus, there are many different things that we as believers learn. Our position on divine healing has always been based on believing God all the way. When healing doesn’t happen, we believe Him for some
thing that is far better. We have the Word of God to encourage our faith until we discover the perfect will of God. Of his dead baby, David said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Many times it is God’s plan when our loved ones are ill that, through prayer and through God’s grace, they return unto us. God gives us one another for a longer period of time. However, in the sovereign plan of God, there are those times in every life in which the Lord ordains another course. Ephesians 3:15 speaks of the whole family in heaven and the whole family on earth. Generally speaking, this means the beautiful Body of Jesus Christ. But specifically I believe it means exactly what 1 Samuel 12 relates to, that David would go to his child. The special relationship and the special ties would be obvious to David in relation to the particular child who had gone home. He speaks of not only going to Heaven to be with the family of God, but of going there to be with his particular child. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself;
that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). It has always interested me that Jesus Christ, the all powerful, who holds the world together with the word of His power, said that He goes to prepare a place, a particular place. If God is allpowerful, I have wondered, why wouldn’t the place already be prepared? He prepares a particular place. In effect, Jesus is saying in John 14, “This is no fairy tale. Believe Me, I would not tell you, because it’s impossible for Me to lie.” In the Father’s place, there are many, many dwelling places, many, many mansions, and many, many homes. For all the millions and millions of people who have and will receive salvation in Christ, particular places are being prepared for each one. Heaven being the place that it is, in order for it to be all that it is in its beauty and reality and practicality, heaven also has to be a prepared place for every single individual. It has to be more than just a generally beautiful place. It has to be made up of particular places prepared for particular people with their different personalities, different designs, and different make-ups. King David’s child is already there. He did not come back to David, but David did go to him. There is place for David and this child. It was prepared and made ready.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). God is behind every single move and every single step that we take on earth. There is a purpose for every day we live on earth and go through things with our fallen natures. We are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb and sealed by the Spirit as Christians; we endure being in a body of death (Romans 7:24). We face trials of limitation and weakness in our humanity. But once we believe on Christ as our Redeemer, He comes into our lives and promises never to forsake us and to stay with us always even to the end of the world. He is with us to the end and beyond. The day of death is a day of graduation for the believer in Jesus Christ. The beggar died and was carried away by the angels (Luke 16:22). An escort is arranged for the transition from this place to glory. I believe that there is an escort and also a reception. In Acts 7:55, Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God to receive him as the stones rained upon him, battering, bruising, and killing his mortal body. Don’t let your heart be troubled. You believe that Creation has a Creator. You believe that every effect has a cause. You believe that everything is
because of God. Then, believe the words that He says in particular. When this earthen house, this frail tabernacle of flesh, this human body, is dissolved, we go straight to the presence of the Lord. There is a place reserved for us in Heaven. For a season, we will be absent from our bodies, but our human spirit shall dwell with God. A day of resurrection will come and our bodies shall join our spirits in a glorified state. The reason the Lord shall give us a glorified body is to simply show Satan that in every single area of his pernicious desire to defeat God, he is defeated. The Lord even takes the decayed, deteriorated body and perfects it as a mockery of Satan and his devices. Whatsoever God does, He does perfectly (Deuteronomy 32:4). Nothing the Lord does is in vain, according to Isaiah 45:18. If He allows our human body to deteriorate and perish forever, then the very original human body that He created would be in vain. He will not allow a single thing that Satan does to stand unchallenged. God will not even allow the devil to usurp authority over that body, even though it is weak and frail and returns to the dust. At death, the angels escort usâ€”up, up, and away to be with the Lord. Jesus stands there to receive us and then, I believe, for the first time we will really begin to breathe in the reality of 10
what Jesus meant when He said, “I prepare a place for you.” At that moment, we will begin to realize exactly the depth and the scope of God’s love. We will start to comprehend the intricate beauty of His design for each one. As a master interior decorator, Christ will go beyond and fulfill the very innate desires of our personalities. He knows each of us and will make a place suited just for us.
THINKING OF HEAVEN Heaven is a place where every redeemed, born-again child will be. Heaven—too little thought is given to it until the inevitable comes. This is the place that God has so beautifully prepared in His master design. In the light, the reality of Heaven becomes extremely exciting. Consider the grace that is finally fulfilled and the ultimate desire of God’s heart to bless us as His children. It is the place where we will enjoy rich fellowship among the spirits of just men made perfect according to Hebrews 12:23. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul, writing in the second person about his own experience, describes how he was taken up into Heaven. The reality of it was absolutely beyond the capacity of human language and human understanding. He found it incomprehensible. The beauty of it all so overwhelmed Paul that he couldn’t even put it into words. “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 12
“And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (Revelation 4:1-4). The Lord Jesus revealed much about things to come to the apostle John, but notice how he was captivated by the scene he was invited into when he was told to “Come up hither.” John did his best in giving us this picture of Heaven. He also declared that the great thing about our existence in that place is that we shall be like Christ. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The Lord Jesus Christ shall make us like Himself. We shall all be like Him. What a joy to consider as we think on the ones who have gone before us. In the amazing creativity of His mind, He prepares individually, amazing and beautiful palaces and sends an angelic escort to carry His 13
people to their places. He stands to receive each one and then I think He takes great pleasure in announcing to all the host of witnesses, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Think of this truth in the power of the Holy Spirit: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). David wept many tears. He fasted and prayed that his child would live. Yet, God’s design was for this child to come to Him. Many reading this just now have wept many tears for fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, close friends and neighbors. I have been there. I have cried and wondered aloud to God, “Why?” Let’s stop right here. “God shall wipe away all tears.” Can you hear Jesus Christ saying this? How about His next phrase? “…And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow.” Tears will be no more. Death will be no more. Sorrow will be no more. That’s Heaven. Christ goes on to say, “Neither shall there be any pain.” This great Savior is touched by the feeling of our every infirmity. He looks down through the ages, thinking of the masses of people in all parts of the earth and He sees the amazing pain. He experienced all of these pains 14
for us, and as the Son of Man who was just like us. Now, He announces, “Pain is done. It is no more.” In kind of a breathless expectation, it makes me say, “That’s Heaven.” Tears. Death. Sorrow. Crying. Pain. These things touch us all—especially when we face the loss of a loved one. Yes, we rejoice and thank God with all the hope and faith that’s in us. Even though you’re deeply grateful and thankful to God, there is no pain greater than losing a loved one. This goes beyond physical pain. It goes beyond going home yourself. Each of us has experienced this at different times. The waves come over you in all reality without being superficial. The waves are great, but so is the love of God bringing the comfort after the waves go by. The loneliness is there and yet still the comfort. The hopelessness comes and yet all the hope in the world. The missing of our loved one pains us and yet we understand all the security of the reunion that is to come. The memories leave us brokenhearted and yet we rest in the purity of knowing God’s plan. No more sorrow, no more pain—these are promises we must hold fast. Consider this as you look into the eyes of grieving kids. Remind them of the faith, confidence and love by which they have been raised. 15
There are deep wounds that create a lasting sensitivity. The Christian lives in that kind of a paradox. He is filled with grief and yet filled with comfort, filled with something that will never be the same and yet filled with Someone who never changes. The paradox of a Christian: He has been hurt so deeply that he thinks he cannot go on, but he sees God come through so beautifully that he knows he can never quit. As believers in Christ, we are enabled to go deeper in identification with others. We possess another level of understanding through our personal experiences in many areas because of what we see others going through around us. When it’s all said and done, we know that through the blood of Jesus Christ, through the grace of God, and through His beautiful promises, we rejoice over the fact that believers who have graduated to Heaven are really free—free from suffering, free from the hospital, free from the needles and tests and diagnoses, free from living in a world that opposes God and all that He is doing in it. God in His mercy has perfected them and placed them in a perfect dwelling place.
FINDING OUR REST HERE AND NOW Those of us who must remain here for the moment find rest in our churches. What a comfort and joy it is to know that you have a beautiful Body, filled with members who really know how to love, who really care, who really pray. What a help to our faith it is to be part of a ministry that goes forward in the purpose of God who saves hundreds and thousands from Hell and destines them for Heaven. By taking our places in the Body of Christ, we make it possible for thousands and thousands to be built up into the Kingdom and comforted by the Glorious Gospel. The Gospel speaks of our glorious future. We experience an amazing spirit of thanksgiving because we live with a beautiful expectation. One aspect of this great expectation is found in Revelation 19:7. Here, we read about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We have a place set for us at this table of grace. This time of rejoicing is just one of the amazing events awaiting every single redeemed, Blood-bought child of God. It is our blessed hope to know that we will be seated at once with all the precious saints of Christ. 17
We will celebrate the joy of fellowship that will continue for all eternity. This ought to be enough to set our hearts on fire! It’s enough to take away any slothfulness, any weariness, any sinfulness. It’s enough to take away any selfishness and put into our hearts the fresh glow of God Himself: an amazing, spontaneous attitude, an amazing faith, an amazing love, an amazing vision, and an amazing burden which is constantly being renewed. What a beautiful thing as we go forward and stand together in grace. God has allowed us for a while longer to co-labor together with Him in our outreaches. God has given us some more time. He’s given us this privilege to go forward with loved ones in Heaven, knowing that Jesus at any moment could come to receive us. Think about how throughout all eternity we will reap the amazing results of grace. Let’s redeem the time. As you sit among your loved ones, purpose to treasure them. Cherish the moments you have here. Go forward in prayer, consider every moment a highlight of your life. Consider everything God has given you. He has a perfect plan for right now. Make the most of it. Begin to move with God as never before with renewed sharpness. Forsake sins that make you less than you are. 18
Forsake these things. Look into the mirror, face the reality of the Word of God and become God’s man or God’s woman or God’s teenager or God’s young person. Enter into the faithfulness of preparation. A glimpse of reality always reveals the truth of God. Everything God brings into our life is an opportunity to honor Jesus Christ. Let’s cherish the time we have to pray, the time that we have to share and give to others, the time that we have to be gentle and kind, the time that we have to be one and to be peacemakers. These are golden hours to be on our knees and to build up the saints. Quietly and confidently, we can be so used as a vessel of blessing in God’s vineyard. Frailty and weakness are no problem for God. He can use even me. I thank God for the amazing family that God has given me. What a beautiful thing. God gave them to me as a provision for my life. These were given to be with me as I exercise the privilege of helping others get ready to go. We are used to prepare people to meet the Master. What a privilege that is. What a thrill it is to have God’s grace for such a calling. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” 19
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11, 22). Jesus prayed that we would be one as the Father, Son, and the Spirit are one. Oneness is so important for us as a body of believers as we face the future together. It was one of the last things on Jesus’ heart as He faced the Cross, and what a great thing it is. Let’s purpose to be obedient to the Cross. This is the greatest investment we can make in the plan of God—just being obedient to the Cross. Also, let’s be kind to everyone because you never know what someone’s going through. Let’s just decide to love one another. Finally, another thing, let’s not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We need each other’s faces, we need each other’s hearts, and we need each other’s eyes. We live in an eternal union that’s inseparable. Let’s respond to the Word of God and to everything that God says. I can remember my wife, just after she was diagnosed with leukemia, saying once to me, “Remember this, that if God should take me home within the next year, my life is completely fulfilled. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” As we go forward as a Body, we’ve all faced quite a few trials together. We faced some dark nights and some bright mornings. We have been 20
a part of some of the most serious things that have ever happened. In all that we face, God makes darkness His secret hiding place (Psalm 18:11). After some of the dark nights, we have enjoyed great treasures (see Isaiah 45:3). Remember, God scattered the New Testament Church abroad through persecution. Out of trials come treasures. Today, our ministry has missionary teams in all the world. Our radio broadcasts reach millions during the course of the year. God enlightens our darkness (Psalm 18:28). If you have a lost a loved one, it is a dark and heavy time. Your heart is broken. God knows. God sees. God loves. This may be a season of walking in darkness, but trust in the name of the Lord. Let Him be your Light, according to Isaiah 50:10. The Lord Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world, and he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” I am so thrilled because I’m so secure. Secure in God. Secure in Christ. Secure in His perfect plan. Secure in His provision. Hurting? Yes, I am. Wounded? Yes, I am. I don’t believe in being superficial and hyperspiritual because I’m not that kind of a person. I’m hurt badly only because I miss my wife, and 21
I loved being with her. I am wounded and hurt, and in some ways these feelings will never really go away. Still, I am totally fulfilled in confidence, security, and trust because of Jesus Christ. I know days will come when I’ll be riding along and I’ll start to weep because I miss my wife. It will not be unbelief; it is just reality. Three months ago, I was thinking of my mother. Several times a year, I will just stop and weep because I miss my mother. I’m not ashamed of that. No one takes her place, no one. No one could take my wife’s place. When Jesus Christ allows us to go through these things, oceans of comfort come after the oceans of pain. The Lord comforts us to comfort others. So there’s such a meaning in what He has us go through, such a purpose in the plan He has for us. In our weakness, His strength comes. We get to know Him more and so that we might better help someone else. This is the reward of great trial. This is the benefit of suffering while we still rejoice in the perfect heart of God Who is faithful through it all. He is with us always and forever.
Published on Sep 19, 2012
This booklet was developed from a message preached in 1978 by Pastor Stevens in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was a message he delivered not long...