Because He Lives
Encounters with Jesus: As we have been studying John as a congregation, we have read about Jesus' life-changing interactions with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Lazarus, and many others. Over the next few weeks, some members of our church family will be sharing about their personal encounters with Jesus here on the blog. If you'd like to contribute, contact Erika at Erika@waypointrdu.com.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time listening to old hymns. My friends’ Dads introduced their sons to 80s legends like Pat Benatar, Genesis, and Journey. However, my Dad was of a different generation. Therefore, I learned Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison. It wasn’t even until his freshman year of college that he learned of this up-and-coming group called The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. My Dad loved southern gospel, and on Sundays, we’d grab a biscuit on the way to church, while listening to Bill and Gloria Gaither. There was something simultaneously painful and glorious about those rides, yet those hymns stuck with me through the years.
The Gaithers wrote one of my favorite hymns Because He Lives. In the 1960s, they were increasingly distraught by growing racial tensions, national scandals, and social upheaval….Anyone identify with that sentiment? They were preparing for their third child and felt hopeless about the future their little boy would face. It was under those circumstances God reminded them of Christ’s words in John 14 which, oddly enough, was one of my Dad’s favorite passages.
In John 14, Jesus is with His disciples in the upper room before the Feast of Passover. He’s preparing them for His imminent death and resurrection, but they don’t realize what’s about to happen. Peter, Philip, and Thomas are all trying to figure out what’s going on, and in verse one, Jesus shares with them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” It’s here Bible Commentator Matthew Henry writes:
“Here are three words, upon any of which stress may be laid. Upon the word troubled. Be not cast down and disquieted. The word heart. Let your heart be kept with full trust in God. The word your. However, others are overwhelmed with the sorrows of this present time, be not you so. Christ’s disciples, more than others, should keep their minds quiet, when everything else is unquiet. Here is the remedy against this trouble of mind, ‘Believe.’ By believing in Christ as the Mediator between God and man, we gain comfort.”
A little later on, Jesus assures His disciples of the hope we have in Him. In verses 18-19, He says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” Back to the Gaithers, it was here God reminded them of the risen Christ’s Lordship over all things. He comforted them with the truth their little boy could face a hope-filled future, all because their Savior lives. Amidst the turmoil, He reminds us who will reign forever, and when things seem most bleak, we remember He is (Colossians 1) reconciling all things to Himself. It’s because He lives we have hope of an eternity spent in His presence, and it’s here the Spirit stirs our souls with the lyrics:
God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!
How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
In the summer of 2017, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. As he gave us the news, he told us the story of a farmer and a preacher. In the story, the farmer is grumbling over how much he hates rising early to collect eggs, milk cows, grind wheat, and churn butter. However, he finally confesses that the goodness of homemade biscuits makes the entire process worth it. My dad finished the story saying, “Romans 8 reminds us ‘…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’” He believed there was purpose in his sickness, and he prayed God would use it to glorify His own name.
My Dad died on May 22, 2018. It was his birthday. Those 10 months were overwhelming. During this time, I was simultaneously watching my father slip away while preparing for the joy that would come through my marriage to Kelly later in July 2018. However, God used this season to allow me to experience Christ like never before. He reminded me of the hope we have in Jesus and that beautiful truth carried me through my father’s death and into marriage. I can confidently say my dad has seen the lights of glory, and it’s not because he was, to borrow from Alan Jackson, a small-town southern man. Instead, it’s because God sent His son to love, heal and forgive. It’s because He lived and died to buy my pardon.
And thanks be to God, an empty grave is there to prove, my savior lives!