Issue No 6
5 OCTOBER 2018
The Lord took our brother Mark Smith (age 65) to be with Himself on 5 September 2018. For those readers who did not know him, he was quite disabled all his life. In spite of this he managed to overcome, even to climbing scaffolding.
He had been seriously ill for several months with a combination of cancer and sepsis. He left a widow Christine, his aged parents David and Gwen and three brothers and their families.
The burial took place at Witham, Essex where he lived. The words given at the burial follow:
Where we find Strength
Many people spoke about Mark and the strength that he had. Our brother had put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and I believe that is where Mark found his strength. These scriptures tell us why.
I was privileged to see Mark at home a few weeks before he was taken to be with Christ. He told me of a recent incident: he needed to get to the downstairs bathroom, but he did not know where he was going to get the strength from. He cried to the Lord to give him the strength. He said “I managed to get there, but I did not know how ever I was going to get back. So, each time I moved my leg I cried out to my Saviour, and He gave me strength until I found my way back to my chair.” That was somebody who had put their faith and trust in the Saviour in a very practical way. He knew His Saviour.
I appeal to every soul in this hall today. Do you know Jesus? He will be your strength. What a Saviour He is!
I am thy God: I will Strengthen thee
In the first scripture that I have read there is wonderful appeal from God himself: ‘Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness’ (Isaiah 41:10). These words mean so much to everyone who has put their trust in Jesus. They should be a comfort for us all, and especially for Mark’s family. Our brother had proved the amazing grace of our Saviour who ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (or ‘cross’ as modern translations say 1 Peter 2:24). Wicked hands put Him to death, but He rose from the grave. The Bible says, ‘An angel of the Lord, descending out of heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it . . . and said to the women, Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus the crucified one. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay’ (Matthew 28:2,5-6). The grave was empty for all to see. Have you, put your trust in the risen Saviour. If you have not, come to Jesus, He is waiting for you today.
That brings me to the second scripture: ‘Blessed be Jehovah, for he hath heard the voice of my supplications. Jehovah is my strength and my shield; my heart confided in him, and I was helped: therefore my heart exulteth, and with my song will I praise him’ (Psalm 28:6-7).
God words may comfort us, but there has to be an answer to all that God has done. It says, ‘With my song will I praise him’. Mark loved his music and singing, and this scripture would have given him joy, knowing that his Saviour had given him strength. The same strength, dear friend, is available for you today. What a Saviour God we have!
I must admit to wavering sometimes. A poem that comes to me is:
Each step I take my Saviour goes before me,
And with His loving hand He leads the way.
And with each breath I whisper “I adore Thee;”
O, what joy to walk with Him each day.
Each step I take I know that He will guide me;
To higher ground He ever leads me on.
Until someday the last step will be taken,
Each step I take just leads me closer home.
At times I feel my faith begin to waver,
When up ahead I see a chasm wide,
It’s then I turn and look up to my Saviour,
I am strong when He is by my side.
I trust in God, no matter come what may,
For life eternal is in His hand,
He holds the key that opens up the way,
That will lead me to the promised land.
W. Elmo Mercer, 1953
The Lord has power. He could say to a woman in Luke 8:46, ‘I have known that power has gone out from me’. She had touched the hem of his garment, and her chronic bleeding condition had been cured.
Dear friend, Jesus can be at your side in whatever you have to pass through. I don’t know everyone in this hall, but I do know that many have put their trust and faith in Jesus. If you are not one of them, I trust that you will not lose the opportunity of confiding in the Saviour today.
Jesus is Coming Again
Now I read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-19: ‘For the Lord himself, with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord. So encourage one another with these words.’
Jesus is coming soon for all who have put their faith and trust in him. Mark spoke to me about the wonderful hope he had, knowing that the dead in Christ shall rise first. He is now in that company. ‘We the living ‘ are still here. I trust, dear friend, you can count yourself amongst the ‘we the living’. It is more than just being alive. The living have life in Jesus who said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). If so, and you know Jesus as our brother did, you will know that hope. It ends, ‘So encourage one another with these words.’ I trust that these words will be a comfort to all our hearts, for the Lord’s Name’s sake.
The Resurrection and the Life – and the Giver
Jesus said to her [Martha], I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes on me, though he have died, shall live; and every one who lives and believes on me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11: 25-26
Now there was a certain man sick, Lazarus of Bethany, of the village of Mary and Martha her sister. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. The sisters therefore sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. But when Jesus heard it, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore he heard, He is sick, he remained two days then in the place where he was. John 11: 1-6
I have shewed you all things, that thus labouring we ought to come in aid of the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35
Christ is the Resurrection and the Life
We are in the presence of the body of our brother Mark, and I have a simple word of encouragement and comfort for us all, especially for the family who are mourning him. Mark had committed himself to the Lord Jesus, who had said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11: 25). He said these words in the presence of death. What I am talking about is not a religious or mystical thought: Christ is the resurrection and the life – a life that is indissoluble. Christ died on the cross and was put in a grave, but the grave could not hold Him. Jesus is now out of death: He is glorified in heaven – as we say, alive on the other side of death. Do you know anyone else like that? Do you believe on Him? You can have a living link with Him now.
In his word, our brother John Hutson referred to what came into Mark‘s life by way of restriction. In his suffering, disability and illness, he was an overcomer. He had put his faith and trust in his Saviour, his Creator and his Redeemer who is the resurrection and the life. He loved Him. You might say, “I am not in Mark’s circumstances”, but look beyond the circumstances and say, “I believe on Jesus and trust Him for what He has done”. I think our brother is an example for us. I do not want to eulogise him, but there are specific characteristics I can draw attention to which point to the Lord Jesus Himself. I think our brother was a bright, bright believer in his circumstances. Can the same be said of you or me?
Mark believed on Jesus: he loved Him, and in his part here, was faithful to Him. We have already heard a little about Mark‘s practical life. However, I can also tell you that he looked forward with joy to the promise of being with the One who is the resurrection and the life. Mark had physical restrictions here, but now he has no restrictions. He is with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, awaiting a body of glory – a wonderful thing for our dear brother. I am sure Mark would have wanted everyone here to leave this hall with that hope. Do you have that hope?
Earlier in John 11 we read that the Lord knew exactly what was going to happen: He knew that Lazarus would die. Despite that knowledge, Jesus remained two days in the place where He was. We might ask why did Jesus not go straight away and save him from dying? Was that fair? But something happened that neither his sisters nor anybody else could have anticipated. We read, ‘He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And the dead came forth, bound feet and hands with graveclothes, and his face was bound round with a handkerchief. Jesus says to them, Loose him and let him go’ (v 43-44). This was proof that He was the resurrection and the life. Not many days later, it would be Jesus who would come out of the grave. The Son of God who has the inherent power of life would be be glorified. And He can give life to you and me.
It is more Blessed to Give
In reading from Acts 20, I had in mind these words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (v.35). I don’t know how you knew Mark: maybe you were blessed to be in the same family – God sets us in families: that is His doing. Perhaps you were a neighbour; perhaps you were a friend; perhaps you were a workmate or knew him in Witham or Chelmsford. However you knew Mark, and I knew him, you would admit that if you asked him for help, there was nothing that he would not have done to help you. His help went far beyond my capabilities: there were tasks which, I would have thought, were well beyond his physical capabilities – it never stopped him having a go. That was Mark. You might say, “What has that got to do with Jesus?” But he knew the words of Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.
Jesus was the One who filled this out completely: He gave Himself. The One whose life was precious to God, the only Man who glorified God in everything He did, gave Himself that sinners like you and me might be secured for God eternally. Our brother would have wanted me to tell you of His giving.
Mark is now with the One he loved. His testimonial path is over: ours continues. I leave it with you to have a living and current relationship with the One who is the resurrection and the life – and the One who loves you and has given Himself for you.
May the Lord bless the word!
Christ is Precious – the Believer is Precious
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance, reserved in the heavens for you, who are kept guarded by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye exult, for a little while at present, if needed, put to grief by various trials, that the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be proved by fire, be found to praise and glory and honour in the revelation of Jesus Christ: whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom though not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory. 1 Peter 1:3-8.
Knowing that ye have been redeemed, [Redeemed – that means purchased, and our brother was purchased – may we be among them!] not by corruptible things, as silver or gold, from your vain conversation handed down from your fathers, but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19.
Because it is contained in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be put to shame. 1 Peter 2:6.
The next scripture speaks about vessels made of precious metals, but in the things of God are not connected with the things of this earth. They are connected with something much greater.
And I weighed into their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver; and silver vessels a hundred talents, and of gold a hundred talents; and twenty basons of gold, of a thousand darics; and two vessels of shining copper, precious as gold. Ezra 8:26-27
Dear friends, our bodies are precious to God. God has had to do with the members of our body from our mothers’ wombs: He thought of us long before we were born, and every precious member of our bodies grew through God’s divine wisdom and skill. Our brother’s body was precious too. He had many physical difficulties: I speak feelingly because there have been difficulties in my family too, and we have had to learn to overcome. I did not know Mark as well as those who have spoken before me, but I knew him well enough to know of his precious faith, his heart and resolve. What an overcomer he was!
The Preciousness of Christ
First, I want to speak first of the preciousness of Christ, because that is what our brother would have wanted me to do. The occasion of Mark’s burial is to speak well of Jesus. Jesus was precious to Mark, and reciprocally Mark was precious to Jesus. Mark would want Him to be precious to you too.
You have a responsible history before God. You might say that your history is not too bad compared with others. Please don’t measure yourself against others. In your sins you are estranged from God, and many preachers warn you of the eternal consequences of being estranged. But what does your estrangement mean to God? When we were young and naughty, our feeling teachers and parents used to say, “What have you done?”. But after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, He did not say, “What have you done?” – He said, “Where are you?”, as if to say, “I’m missing you.” (See Genesis 3:9). It has been said that God felt like a bereaved parent by the loss of man[i]. God had lost man – He was bereaved. God would never give man up, he is too precious. But the message of the gospel is that where man had been lost, he has now been recovered. How? – through the work of Jesus, in His sufferings on the cross for your sins and mine. Do you accept what Jesus has done this for you, dear friend?
On the cross, Jesus was between two criminals. They both had the opportunity of accepting their Saviour: one took advantage of it. He said. ‘Remember me, Lord, when thou comest in thy kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). The Lord Jesus was indeed a King: He was the King of kings, suffering on that cross, to cleanse us from our filthy, horrible history of sin separating us from God – sins all washed away in the blood of Jesus. How will you stand before God, dear friend? If you have rejected Jesus, He will be your Judge: you will be standing in your sins and be condemned eternally. Have you accepted the Saviour? Will you accept that blessed One who was on the cross for you? Trust in His redeeming blood, as our brother Mark did.
Would I be prepared to be nailed to a cross because I loved you? My Saviour was nailed to that cross because He loved me. He bore the ignominy and the reproach. However, His greatest pain was not from the nails. It was His being forsaken by the Father when He was made sin for your sins and mine. Jesus bore our sins, died and was put in a grave. But, praise God, He came out of the grave alive. He is now in glory! How could Jesus have put our brother Mark to sleep if He were still in the grave?
David, the King of Israel, had physical ability but he still needed to depend on God. He was a type of Jesus, the Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. David, in speaking of God, starts a psalm with the words, ‘I will love thee, O Jehovah, my strength’ (Psalm 18:1) Beloved friend, do you not love Jesus? Jesus means – Jehovah the Saviour. He paid the price for your salvation and for your eternal presence with God. Later in the psalm David says, ‘By my God I have leaped over a wall’. (Psalm 18:29). That would remind us of the overcoming faith of the dear brother who is to be buried here today. Jesus appeals to us to overcome our natural instincts of disbelief, and to trust in God. Jesus says to one of the churches in Revelation, ‘He that overcomes, to him will I give to sit with me in my throne; as I also have overcome, and have sat down with my Father in his throne’ (Revelation 3:21). What did Jesus overcome? Sinners derided Him. Even His relatives said, ‘He is out of his mind’ (Mark 3:21). Of course, He wasn’t! He endured all that for God’s sake, and for your sake and mine. He is the One who would bring us together: He would unite us; He would reconcile us today. He does not want distance between families. Jesus is a Friend.
Shining, Enduring and Precious
In the scripture I read in Ezra 8:27 we have vessels of copper. They were not of gold, because gold speaks of what is divine. Copper can shine like gold, and it endures, but normally is worth a lot less. We have read, ‘The proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be proved by fire, be found to praise and glory and honour in the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:6). By that God-given faith we can endure the trials of life. So here we have ‘two vessels of shining copper precious as gold’. Shining, enduring and precious: that’s the impression I have of our dear brother now with Christ – He shone, he endured and he was precious, because of the price that was paid. We are told, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints‘ (Psalm 116:15 KJV). Mark was precious, and you will be precious too, if you would only receive Jesus today.
Jesus is coming for His saints, as we have heard already. Mark will be raised. May you have the certainty of being among those raised – whether we are alive here, or with Christ, when He comes!
May God bless this simple word for His Name’s sake!
[i] John Turner attributed this statement to J N Darby, but a reference to this cannot be found. If a reader can cite a reference it would be appreciated.