“The sting of death is sin,…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” —I Corinthians 15:56-57
Yesterday at a funeral service on Yang Ming Mountain in Taiwan, our Calvary Church Family bid farewell to one unforgettable man. Mr. Dawson Kwauk was a kind of larger-than-life, Spiritual Grandfather to us all. He was a marvel of timeless sophistication; entirely ancient, yet completely modern, all at once. A tall and stately gentlemen, he served in the Chinese Army during the late 1930’s, fought against Japan in WWII, referred to Pearl Harbor as the day that saved his life, was educated in England, Captain of a British Shipping Company, rubbed shoulders with the first Taiwan President’s son, later employed another President (helping to launch his political career), and was a virtual encyclopedia on everything under the sun! And he was wise; a careful sage who never wasted a single word, yet risked it regularly for the sake of sharing generous compliments and loving encouragements to his church family. My friend Matt and I often referred to Mr. Dawson as truly, “The World’s Most Interesting Man.”
Above all, Mr. Dawson loved and revered Jesus deeply. I hope I never forget the countless times I sat across the table from him, or gazed out at him from the pulpit, and witnessed his eyes burning with insight, his hand hiding his mouth agape, as he weighed the profoundness of some scriptural truth. He showed me a secret window into his robust vitality, in his capacity, day in and day out, to be utterly wrecked anew by encountering God, in his Holy Word. Mr. Dawson was 95, but we honestly, selfishly hoped to keep him here so much longer! We will, and do, miss him terribly!
As my dear brother Johnny Tsai reminded me recently, “Death feels so wrong!” This is true, no matter what age a person dies, but all the more when they’re stolen from us, as we sometimes say, “before their time.” This is a sentiment that Johnny and I have discussed often in recent years; since the passing of his own Father, along with several other precious members of our Calvary church family.
This week my church family in Kennard, Tx is also grieving the untimely death of one of our own precious saints, Bro. John Pilkington. The following is an excerpt from my funeral notes for Mr. Robert Tsai (of Taipei), which I’ve adapted to help us grieve, with hope, at the passing of Mr. Dawson. I’d like to share this with our Calvary Church family, as well as with anyone else grieving the loss of a loved one:
“…we do not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” —1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
“Contrary to what we sometimes hear, DEATH is NOT natural. We were never intended, by God, to experience death. The Bible says that God has written eternity upon our hearts. Death comes, not as part of God’s good design, but as the devastating consequence of our sin. Because of this tragic reality, WE MUST MOURN, (grieve) as death steals away, if only for a moment, something, someone who is most precious to us. We must allow ourselves permission to feel deeply, the searing loss of a dearly loved man; (Mr. Dawson), husband, father, son, friend, member of our Calvary family. It is good, and it is right, for us to feel the intense ache of sorrow, and to mourn the irreplaceable loss of Mr. Dawson, indeed, to even feel anger at death for wounding so deeply. We must mourn. But we do not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope! In the gospel, OUR GOD BEATS SIN & DEATH! The Bible says in Romans 10:13 that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved from sin & death. (Today), I want to give you three words of encouragement to help you know where to look in the days ahead:
#1 LOOK BACK—Remember often, with thanksgiving, the precious memories you have of Mr. Dawson. Cherish them. Talk about them. Dive deep into them. These memories are a gift. Let them always be a cause for expressing heart-felt thanks and worship to God.
# 2 LOOK UP—See that you are not alone—Romans 12:15 teaches us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” Today you are surrounded by a family. And we are here to mourn together in the days ahead. Jesus said, in the Gospel of John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This harsh world quickly exposes our weaknesses, quickly brings us to our knees. But take heart, when we are weak, He is strong. In the days ahead, look up, and see the one who has overcome the world. We rejoice together that Mr. Dawson is now home free from suffering. In Christ, he too, at last, has overcome the world. And so shall we.
#3 LOOK FORWARD—For those who refuse to HOPE in Christ—when death comes, it is final, it is crushing. It falls upon unrepentant sinners, with all the horrors of hell, as the last heavy unchanging word. BUT NOT SO WITH US—by faith, in the promise of God, in his Word, we look forward to yet again embracing our loved one, and this time, it will be for all eternity. There are no final good byes In Christ!
So remember, as you grieve, in the days ahead, look back, look up, look forward, and see the crushing weight of death give way to the healing power of heaven’s hope. May the Holy Spirit, our great comforter, come even now, and minister to our hearts.”