Sermon for the Funeral of Roger Boomgaarden: To Be Content
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
When death comes to one whose life was marked by pain and suffering, both believers and unbelievers can be heard to say: “His death was a blessing.” For the unbeliever this conveys the idea that it is better to be dead than to be alive. But even if death were the end, would it not still be a mockery to welcome such an event which has taken a loved one from his family and friends?
For the Christian to say: “His death was a blessing,” means something much different. Dear members of the family and friends of Roger, your hearts, which are aching at the great loss you have sustained, are now yearning for a word of comfort and contentment. Let me say unto you: “Indeed, Roger’s death was a blessing to him. He is better off now than before. Death was a great gain to him.”
Among Christians, these words are comforting. We have not lost those who died. We know exactly where they are at, and we know we’ll be with them again for eternity. And they who died have gained great things. They are delivered from all sorrow and suffering. But that perhaps is the least gain. The most precious gain is that which results from their relationship to Jesus Christ. Because of that relationship, you and I can be content—both here in time and hereafter in eternity.
God’s message to you this morning deals with such contentment in life. I invite you to listen to the words of Philippians 4:10-13 and learn how . . . “To Be Content.” “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
It is a natural human pursuit to seek contentment. We all hope to be pleased, satisfied, and happy with our lives. We spend a great deal of time and money and energy seeking contentment. Occasionally and for brief periods of time, we might even achieve a bit of contentment. But we soon realize that contentment gained through money, security, travel, and the good life is transient. The “good life” does not prevent sickness or tragedy from entering into our rapidly shifting lives. In this fickle and ever-changing world, contentment turns quickly into confusion and restlessness. And we find ourselves asking, “Where can I find contentment—contentment that last for more than a moment? More than a season? Is there such a thing as being content which applies to this life and beyond?”
Paul wrote to his Christian friends at Philippi: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Here was a man who had been imprisoned for his faith. He felt the 39 lashes of the whip on his back on no less than five occasions. He had been beaten with rods three times, stoned once, and shipwrecked three times. He had been threatened by Jews and Gentiles, endangered by rivers and robbers, and adrift at sea for a night and a day. In addition to that, Paul lived with the fact that he was personally responsible for the imprisonments and probably the deaths of many people in the Christian Church that he had persecuted before his conversion on the road to Damascus. How in the world could he say: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”?
In Roger’s life, there were many ups and downs. Perhaps more than most of us, Roger faced tremendous disappointments and tragedies—the death of his father while he was still in his teens and the death of his mother a few years ago. Certainly most trying, had to be the many years of battling his own physical ailments—two strokes and all the complications of kidney failure. Still, Roger was able to find contentment in simple things: reading, playing checkers, making donuts at Colonial Manor, and visiting with his neighbors and family.
How could he do this? How could Roger find contentment in the midst of so many struggles? It certainly wasn’t from himself. Though he was a special man, one not given to often complain, a man with a smile on his face most of the time, Roger would be the first to confess that he didn’t have that much inner strength. No, Roger’s contentment was found in his faith. So content was he as we met several times this last month, he said he was ready to go home if that was God’s will. If not exactly in his words, certainly in his actions, Roger modeled the words of Paul: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
Where in the world can one find such contentment? Certainly, and especially at times like this, you recognize it is not in money, pleasure, material possessions, family, people, or any other thing in this world. For these all too soon vanish. It is not to be found in oneself, either—for inside here, we find a guilty conscience that will not let us rest, a mind that is not always wise, a body that is getting sick and worn out. And it’s certainly not found in the future, for none of us know how much time we have left in this world. Even within this sanctuary today, how many of us are at this moment carrying around the beginnings of cancer, heart disease that is progressing, or perhaps, even like Roger, the complications of stroke? Who will be next? How long will it be before your mortal remains occupy the front of a sanctuary like this? Let’s face it, such thoughts do not make us very content!
Where can you find contentment? It can be found only where Paul and Roger found it—in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God, in His grace, looked upon mankind’s hopelessness and the eternal destruction caused by sin and intervened. The perfect Son of God was incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and lived to die on the cross that you might be content knowing that your sins have been forgiven for His sake, that His death means life for you, and that all of God’s wrath was taken by Christ on the cross so that you would be totally and completely acceptable to the Almighty.
As I reminded Roger a couple of days ago, if God allowed that to happen to His own beloved Son on the cross, if He, in fact, gave His own Son into death that you might not perish but have everlasting life, do you think for a second that He doesn’t love you and forgive you and call you His own and raise you up to everlasting life?
The resurrection of Christ gives us the guarantee that death is not the end, that this is not the end of life but rather the beginning of what real life—the life that God wants for you—is all about! This what St. Paul believed and he was (and is) content. This is what Roger believed and he was (and is) content.
This Good News is something that can make you content as well, and it doesn’t matter what your past has been like—whether you’ve been in church every Sunday or only stepped through the door on occasions such as this. It doesn’t matter if everything seems to be working out according to plan or if you don’t have any idea what might be in store for you tomorrow. It doesn’t matter about your current status—whether you live in sickness or health, are richer or poorer, old or young: Christ died and rose for you in order that you might be an heir of heaven.
Paul writes: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” (1 Philippians 4:12-13). When you believe and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you can face any situation, any tragedy, any loss of a family member, anything, because you end up a winner no matter what happens.
Earlier in his letter Paul writes: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Philippians 1:21-24). Now that’s contentment!
We know that Roger knew how to be content. We also know that now he is perfectly content. For where he is there is no sorrow, no tears, no hunger, no thirst, no pain, no suffering, no consequences of sin, for he is with his Lord, awaiting the day that he and all believers will be resurrected to life everlasting, with clean hearts, godly minds, souls unstained by sin, and new glorious bodies like Christ’s own resurrected body.
Knowing this, you are able to say that Roger’s death was a blessing—for God used this last enemy to deliver Roger from sickness and death to life and health. Knowing that, you are able to look forward to a heavenly reunion with Roger and all those who have departed this life as children of God. And knowing that, you are enabled to be content as you wait for the ultimate consummation of all God’s promises in Jesus Christ! Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.