Don Nickel Message
Memorial Service • Sermon • Submitted
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To the family, I express my sincere condolences for the sadness and loss you are each experiencing. You have lost your husband, dad and grandpa. No words can remove that reality or lessen its sting. Death is hard.
In the weeks and months and even years to come, you will face situation that will remind you of him, memories that will make you smile or memories that will make you cry.
As a family you, you’ll need each other more in the future than ever before. You will need to listen to each other. You will need to love the grandkids more than ever because the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is special. You must all give each other the freedom to “lost it” from time to time. It’s ok to cry for no reason at all and to feel sad.
No service could possibly do justice to the entire life of Don Nickel. Every person who interacted with him carries with him or her memories, or an imprint, of what he was like. From the stories that family has told me he sounds like a care, kind, fun loving genuine person.
I never really had the opportunity to meet Don. Yet through my friendship with those close to him, I’ve begun to see the person they loved. In recent years Audi shared how he and his dad would drive around and check on the crops. Don was always concerned about the weather; whether we were getting enough rain or not Audi shared with me.
If grandchildren are in some ways a reflection of their grandparents I would have met someone who is outgoing, kind, athletic, trustworthy, caring, genuine, hardworking and fun. Don was a farmer and as many of you know there is a significant amount of faith and trust needed to prepare the ground, seed the ground, tend the ground so that weeds don’t suffocate the seed and it will grow. Farmers need to trust that rain will come and the sun will shine so that the work done will produce a fruitful plant to harvest.
This service is sacred not simply because we honor the life of Don. It is sacred because we pause to recognize the temporary nature of life here on earth. Even though as a family you had known this day was coming for some time, none of us are fully prepared to say “good bye”.
But, I need to remind every person here that you can be prepared for eternity.
Romans 8:17-24 give us a picture of what future glory looks like for those who have put there faith in Jesus Christ.
And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.
Over the years, society has become increasingly uncomfortable with the subject of death. It has been ignored or its implication carefully avoided. For many people, death is seen as just the final chapter. Nothing happens after death. It’s just over. For others, heaven is seen as a catchall for just about everyone who is a good person.
The reality of life after death must be considered very carefully. We are more than just a complex arrangement of physical systems. We are not simply the by-products of the physical mechanisms of evolution. People have souls, something above and beyond this body. The soul was created by God and designed to have a relationship with Him.
Jesus, facing one of the more difficult situations in His life, came to the funeral of His good friend Lazarus. As He came to console the family, Mary, Lazarus sister, came to Jesus, saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).
Jesus responded, “Your brother shall rise again” (vs. 23). It was then that Jesus made it very clear to all people at all times when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (vv25-26).
What was Jesus saying? He promised people the opportunity to live even if they die physically. If we don’t have souls, that sentence doesn’t make sense at all. How can you live if you die? What Jesus said make sense only if you and I have souls that last beyond this life in our bodies.
My belief in the God of the Bible tells me that every person is ultimately accountable to God for his or her life. People don’t just die and that’s it. Our souls live. When you and I die, we must eventually give account of our selves before a perfect and holy God.
Listen once more to Jesus’ response. Jesus came upon another of Lazarus’s sisters, who immediately fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (vv. 32). And when Jesus saw all of the people weeping and heard Mary’s comment, the Bible tells us that Jesus wept. In that moment Jesus felt the pain and lose.
Similarly, This past week Jesus has felt deeply your pain as a family.
But I believe the bigger reason why Jesus wept is that, for a brief moment, Mary had seen things from a purely physical level – “Jesus you could have prevented my brother from dying”- instead of seeing that ultimately the far more pressing question is that belief in Christ could guarantee an eternal relationship with the God of this whole world.
In painful moments, life actually gives each of us the opportunity to understand and evaluate our relationship with God. There is a world beyond this one. After a person dies, their soul lives on either with God or apart from God.
For all the advances of science and technology, people still wonder why we haven’t solved our deepest problems. With all of the information and education, our society is struggling more than ever. We have more material possessions than ever, but we have less true happiness than ever.
Here’s how C.S. Lewis put it:
“If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”.
If there is a life after this one, you must ask one simple question: Are you good enough to meet God’s standard? The Bible says that none of us can meet God’s perfect standard. Our sin needs to be dealt with. The Bible says that we’ve all sinned and we’ve all fallen short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23). God can’t simply ignore our sins. Although He loves us, it is his justice that requires that He do something about our sin.
Jesus Christ came and died in your place to provide you the solution. As God, Jesus Christ could offer the one sacrifice able to meet God’s perfect standard. As man, Jesus Christ could stand in your place and my place and make repayment for our lives.
So, “What will it take to prepare you for eternity?” It’s a simple matter of refusing to trust in your own goodness and to trust only in what Christ did on the Cross. You can’t trust in your attendance in church, or your better than average morality, or the good deeds done in your life. None of those things can ever be good enough to meet the perfect standard of a Holy God.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
If anything, other than trusting that what Jesus did on the Cross to save you, would mean that Christ died for nothing. It is not Jesus and being good that saves you. It is Jesus alone.
In one of Jesus clearest statements about the way to heaven Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
Romans 8:24 ends with “we were given this hope when we were saved”. The hope that we have been offered is Jesus.
There is a an internal action which Acts16:31 calls each one of us to do, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”.
Many of you have heard this truth before. However, it does you no good unless the truth is united with faith.
What is faith?
The faith that is need is not simply a belief but it is a belief that leads to action. Even though farmers can believe they will get a harvest because of the seed they bought and the equipment they own; until they act by putting the seed in the ground they really aren't stepping out in faith.
Maybe you have tried to ignore the reality of death, or you see to many obstacle with this Jesus stuff. Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician and physicist in the 1600s, said i this way:
“God has given evidence sufficiently clear for those with an open heart, but sufficiently vague so as not to compel those whose hearts are closed.”
If your heart is open, and you have never put your faith in Jesus Christ please don’t miss this moment.
I hold this hope which I believe is rooted in scripture and the only hope that makes sense out of life. It’s the hope that, at any time in this life, we can place our trust in what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. It’s only by trusting what He did that we can prepare our souls for the finality of death.
In this sacred moment I invite you to put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins