Faithful in His Faithfulness

Faithful in His Faithfulness

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God, our Father,
and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Fellow redeemed in Christ, who
share the faith in which Marina has closed her eyes in. The text that she
chose is her confirmation verse, from Saint John’s Revelation. “And be thou
faithful unto death and I shall give you a crown of life.”

If you know Marina, you know she had all of this planned out
to the very letter. And she gave me copies of it, and after I came back from
Iraq, I found out she gave copies to Pastor about it and she gave it to y’all
because she wanted it very, very clear. “These are the things of my faith,” and
that’s very beautiful, because she did not say, “These are the things of my
life,” but, “These are the things of my faith.”

She was almost ninety-eight, and that’s a long time, a long
time to live in this world. There are many who say, “Well, what’s the good age
to die?” When someone dies young, we say, “Oh, isn’t it a pity they died before
their time.” But when they’re ninety-eight, isn’t it interesting we don’t say,
“Oh, isn’t it a pity they lived beyond their time.”

Whether they die at twenty-five or at ninety-seven, and
almost ninety-eight, they die. Death is the reality of this life, and it
ravaged Marina’s body of which you witnessed, and all of us did, the final
years, taking its toll. It’s really sin that’s taking its toll, the reality
that we are not eternal and that the body in which we live will die.

But that’s why she wanted you to know these details of her
faith. Because her faith said otherwise, that, “In spite of what you see in my
body, in spite of what you witnessed in that open casket, in spite of what you
heard and seen in the last days, this is not the body that you will see again
when you see me again, and, by golly, you will see me again.”

Her skin will be like new, and her eyes will be true, and
her ability to walk and maneuver will be restored. Now, granted, you’re
probably all going to have to tell her, “Get out of the kitchen up there in
Heaven. This is not your job.” But it is the faith of this woman that she
wished you to know about, and you do. And she wishes to affirm and confirm in
you the hope that she died in, that you too may face your final day in the same
confidence as she.

Confidence not because she could prove it to you or anyone,
and confidence not because she could see it be some prophetic vision, but
confidence because she believed it. She was given it to her by imperfect
parents in an imperfect home. She was raised up in it by imperfect pastors and
teachers and Sunday school teachers and fellow parishioners. And she practiced
it regularly in an imperfect church with imperfect people who sat in the pews
next to her, and she gave it to you, imperfect people who will also face what
she has already faced and pray that you have that same confidence.

What a gift that God gave her, the faithfulness of God in
her life. The same apostle John, who wrote the text that Marina picked for her
funeral sermon, is the same apostle who wrote, “We love because He first loved
us.” Marina was faithful because He was faithful first to her. Before she
could ever prove herself to be faithful, He was faithful in claiming her as His
child. He was faithful in guiding her through her life and allowing you all to
be a part of it, bringing you in from different corners of the world by not
chance or happenstance but by His divine guidance.

We are all a part of that gift, because God is allowed to
move all of our lives together in His faithfulness that we may strengthen one
another in this faith in which she died. It is not happenstance and it is not
by chance or luck. It is by God’s design. He wishes us to be strengthened in
this faith that, no matter what it is we’re waiting upon, we wait in

Only those who have been bedridden as long as she has been
and only those who have wrestled so many years as she know how hard it is to
wait and to be relieved of that which this world and Satan and our own sin has
placed upon our shoulders. But it was the same loving Savior whose faithfulness
claimed her who said, “Take my yoke upon your shoulders, for my burden is
light. And give me your burdens, and let my faithful bearing of those burdens
to the cross and the redeeming cries of the crown of life be yours.”

Paul talked about that in the epistle reading, didn’t he. “I
fought the good fight. I finished the race. There is laid up for me now the
crown of righteousness which the Lord will give unto me and all who are
awaiting His appearing in faith.”

We think of crowns as being victorious and rightly so. Her
crown is victorious, but while she lived in this world, it didn’t look like it,
did it? Oh, you and I get glimpses of it in your life or in my life or in her
life or in someone else’s life of victory, but it does not last long, does it,
that glimpse, because this world is too full of sin, and so are we.

That’s how God is with us, isn’t it? He gives us that
glimpse, and then He withdraws that glimpse so that we don’t become pompous and
proud and don’t need His faithfulness for our salvation. He never removed His
faithfulness from Marina, and He carried her all the way to this point as He
will carry you to the very same point, as He will carry your children and
grandchildren and great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren, the
nieces and nephews, the friends and family members, those who were with her
throughout most of her life. His faithfulness will be that which has abided
with you and will continue to abide with you as He lays upon your head, as you
close your eyes, your crown of life and victory.

But be faithful until that day, brothers and sisters, for
there are many things that God has already laid upon you and will continue to
lay upon you, not to drive you to despair but to keep you close and faithful to
Him. And those things will always be accompanied with His faithfulness, which
begets her faithfulness in this life and yours. It is the hope in which she
died and it will be and has been yours. Don’t let anything in this world tear
that from your hands or from your heart. Be thou faithful unto death and He
shall give you the same crown as He gave your beloved Marina.

In the name of the one who bestows the crown and Him alone,
Jesus Christ, be all glory, honor, and praise.