Hope Even At The End
The loss of a love one is never an easy thing. Although I never had the pleasure of knowing Reynolds Martin Scollard on a personal level before he passed, Renny asked if I would speak to you today from God’s word. For many of you his passing, while anticipated, was unexpected. Whenever we lose a loved one we will say things “like I wish I had more time” or “he was gone too soon”. With Renny or Papa Ren as some of you affectionately called him, this is not simply a truism, but is reality. When the doctors told him he had 6 months to live, he nor any of you expected less than that. We never expect less. We always hope for more.
In the Bible, God’s word, it tells us that
1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. 2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Why would God speak this way? Why would it say that it is better to mourn than to celebrate? It says this because grief and mourning act like a mirror. They cause us to consider our own life. They cause us to contemplate our own existence and our own mortality. Grief indeed can serve a purpose. It is not something to be avoided or ignored. In fact we are told that Jesus himself experienced grief at the loss of his good friend Lazarus. It says that he wept.
But grief doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It certainly wasn’t for Renny. There is also hope.
Since I did not know Renny I won’t share any stories or tell any tales from his life. You know them all far better than I. You can tell them better too, as you’ve already heard from some others. I do want to share something specific with you that came at the end of his life. Several months ago Renny put his faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ as his savior. He had a friend who faithfully shared over many years his need to turn to Jesus in faith. Thankfully Renny did this and reaffirmed that he had indeed placed his hope in Christ just a few days before his passing.
This is wonderful news. Renny placed his hope for eternal life in the only sufficient place, in Jesus Christ. This truth calls us to remember a particular story from the life of Jesus. It is a short interaction that occurs while Jesus is on the cross hours before his death. When he was crucified Jesus was hung between two criminals and we see a beautiful interaction between Jesus and one of the condemned men. This is what God’s word says.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This is a beautiful exchange between a condemned man and the savior Jesus Christ at the end of his life. Renny and this thief have a lot in common. No I’m not suggesting that Renny is a thief. Although I’m sure some of you might have said he stole a round of golf from you from time to time. Or perhaps you might say he stole your heart because of how dearly you loved him. But that’s not what I have in mind.
I’m referring to Renny putting his faith in Christ at the end of his life. For this thief who was crucified with Christ it was too late to change course. There wasn’t anything he could do to correct his problems. In the same way for Renny, at the end of his life, it was too late to make any major course corrections. He couldn’t go work in an orphanage. He couldn’t foster a child. He couldn’t save the rain forest. Or any other number of things we tend to attach moral significance to.
The thief had to turn to someone else. He had to turn to Christ. Hear what he says “we are receiving the due reward of our deeds....Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. The thief realized he needed someone else. In the same way Renny realized he needed someone else. He needed Jesus.
The beauty of this exchange is that it shows when we turn to Christ we will receive the greatest gift, eternal life. This thief, when he turned to Christ, received the gift of eternal life. Now you might be saying to yourself “but that’s not fair that this man who’s life was categorized as a criminal would receive such a wonderful gift.” The reality of the matter is that none of us deserve this gift. None of us could store up enough good deeds to deserve paradise. Yet God offers us eternal life if we will turn from our ways to him in faith.
Like the thief Renny could do nothing to change the course of his eternal destiny. Like the thief it was too late for Renny to change the general course of his life. Like the thief Renny had to depend on someone else. Like the thief Renny had to turn to Christ. Like the thief Renny needed to call upon Christ. And like the thief when Renny put his faith in Christ, Christ’s response was “you will be with me in paradise.” This is wonderful news. Like the thief Renny is with Christ now. Like the thief Renny has entered into eternal rest with his savior Jesus Christ.
Friends and family it is never too late to turn to Christ. None of you are ever too far from Christ to turn to him. He does not discriminate who can come to him. He accepts all those who call upon him freely, regardless of how they’ve lived their lives. The thief reminds us that it is not based upon our own deeds, but upon the deeds of Christ that we are accepted by God. The thief reminds us that it is never too late. It is only too late when we breath our last.
If this day the Lord has awakened you to your need for him I encourage you to turn to him like Renny did. Turn to Christ like the thief. Renny and the thief entered permanent eternal rest because of their faith in Christ. If you have this day realized your great need for Christ I implore you to turn away from your sins, to turn to Christ and believe in him. Call upon the Lord and you will be saved. If that is you this day I would love to speak with you. Let us pray.