Mourning Death and Other Reasons for Apostasy - Why Not to Give Up!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 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.

The passage above does not imply that it is wrong to mourn for the loss of friends and loved ones. The issue is how we grieve and why we do so. If we know the person was a believer, we are aware that they are in perfect bliss with their heavenly Father. The pain and suffering of life are over for them, and their journey and mission for Christ are now complete. We may not know as much as we may like why they passed away when they did, but the Word assures us that they are in a better place. It is more understandable when our elderly brothers and sisters go home to be with their Savior because they have lived a longer and fuller life. Their bodies broke down due to their age, and death is more likely for those more advanced in years. Also, they have used their spiritual gifts in the service God has called them to carry out.

But what should a believer think, and how should they react when a younger family member in Christ passes away? After all, they were so young and didn’t live out their years to accomplish as much as they could have? If we knew they were genuine believers, we have confidence that they are safe and sound in the Father’s arms. It is ok to grieve and mourn, but not in a style that bespeaks unbelief as if their loved one (whether a family member or a close friend) has gone into oblivion or to eternal torment. No believer who dies physically will end up in hell. So why should we ever act like any of those things are the reality when they aren’t?

The funeral celebrating the life of an unbeliever is most depressing and sad indeed. Not only does the person now deceased not have any hope of escaping their horrific eternal fate, but those who mourn for them have nothing to hope for, whether for that person or themselves, if they too remain in a state of unbelief. Since that is the case, we may end up grieving as the unbelievers do if the deceased individual was never saved. That is why it is so sad when unbelievers die because they have nothing going for them at all. As believers, we love them but understand that their fate is justified. They deserve to be where they are, a future we too would have shared had our Lord not loved us as much as He did by giving His One and only Son as a payment for our sins. So we should not feel sorry for anyone who dies as an unbeliever. They chose their destiny as the place they wanted to spend eternity forever. The free will that God gives every human being is an act of graciousness on His part that allows us to decide which path we want to take. Love is not selfish and does not seek its own. But, of course, our Lord seeks His own glory and has every right to do so. He didn’t need the angels or us, nor did He have to rescue us from the eternal nightmare that would have been the lot of all humanity had He not intervened through His atoning blood. Yet, our Savior provided us a way anyway because He loved us enough to sacrifice everything. To this we must ask, “What more could He give?” And because our Lord is gracious, He desires to see people choose to return the love, something God does not force anyone to do. Faith would no longer be faith if that were the case because true belief is a decision that must always stem from free will.

So believers may grieve at a funeral, but in a way that expresses their faith in God by acknowledging His power and control. The truth contained in this last sentence is not something unbelievers do because they have no faith. No “faith” a person may claim means anything to God if the object of it is not the person and work of Jesus Christ. And many people say they are Christians who are not.

The other popular beliefs of complete oblivion or an afterlife are so far off the mark and satanically inspired that it takes more faith to believe in those false teachings than it does to believe in Jesus Christ. All things had to have had a beginning, as God decreed time and created all there is in that sphere. What makes anyone believe that nothing awaits after death if we all came from something/someone? A little common sense will tell us we were put on this earth for a reason and that our choice therein will determine where we go after departing from this world. There is no oblivion after death but an eternity spent in either the new heaven and earth or the lake of fire. The destiny of every person depends on who they choose to follow while still alive, God or Satan. That is a choice all people must make.

To continue our discussion, the issue for some people (believers in this case) is not always how to mourn and grieve a person’s death, but why would God allowed it to happen in the first place. There are many reasons believers commit apostasy, and the loss of a loved one is one of the leading causes, among others. The person in question may know that their brother or sister is now with the Lord. Or perhaps they lost an unbelieving friend or relative and believe God should have given them more time to come around. Whatever the case may be, the believer may become tempted to blame God and react out of anger for allowing such a loss to occur. But we must keep in mind that everything God does is for a purpose. So if we lose someone who was close to us and they were saved, we need to remember that God took them home for a reason (discipline is a strong possibility here). Yes, it is almost always more difficult when those lost are younger people because they still had so many years left to do things. However, God knows whether they would have been productive or not and does not base His timetable on the desires and hopes of His creatures. Our Lord will not cater to us when it is not His plan or will to do so, and that is a good thing! Everything He does is the very best thing that could result! The Lord always has a reason for everything He carries out, and the purpose behind them is to create the best results for all those involved. So if a young Christian dies prematurely, we know that this was the best for them because God decreed it for their very own good. We may not and often can’t understand everything about why God does what He does because He is sovereign and mysterious, whose ways are far greater and higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We just need to accept what happens by knowing that it is the best that could happen. If God did something a certain way, then there was no better alternative.

So when we view the death of a loved one from this lens, we can lay the matter to rest, knowing it is in God’s hands. We have no right to become upset at God by accusing Him as if He has done things incorrectly (Isaiah 45:9-12) and wronged us by taking someone out of our lives so suddenly. Did we ever think that maybe this was for our benefit and that the trials and difficulties of this life are/were meant for our own good? Chances are, the Lord is testing our faith so that it can grow and thrive in an increasingly hostile world. Is that not love? Since we often do not know why God allows so many things to occur as they do, what makes us feel justified in running to conclusions by answering back to Him when we don’t even understand the situation?

If Scripture tells us something, then we are meant to understand it. But we will encounter many occurrences and events in life that we may never be able to figure out this side of eternity due to their difficult nature. But that is all part of the test of life meant to grow and refine our faith. That is the whole point of God dealing with us as He does, and that is to get us to grow and walk in faith (not sight), for He has said, “my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” If we believe in Christ only to desert Him in the future, then we have believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:2), and our present and future lives will be more miserable than they would have been had we never believed at all (2 Peter 2:20-22). It makes no sense to initially believe in Christ for salvation only to disbelieve Him later on over something so much smaller and less significant than salvation itself (the death of a loved one or any other catastrophe or spiritual challenge).

Either we believe in Christ because of who He is and what He has promised, or we believe in a life that always presents pleasant circumstances. But the Bible tells us to count the cost of discipleship, a life filled with trials and suffering (Luke 14:28). Is our faith even in God at all or in our hopes and expectations? This question doesn’t just apply to those who experience a sudden and unexpected death of a loved one. It applies to all those who have or are thinking about giving up on their faith in Jesus for whatever reasons. Perhaps we were led astray by some because others let us down. Have we come to believe that true biblical Christianity is a joke because so many people fail to live the Christian life properly as a bunch of hypocrites? The result of so many people (especially those among the younger generation) departing from the faith is often because their family and those close to them have not raised them properly because they have not made the truth the priority themselves (Proverbs 22:6) (although this is not always the case). Those who don’t love the truth will not create zealous believers. It is no small wonder why so many young people (and even older individuals) have given up on church and then their faith later on. This phenomenon explains why so many younger Christians are unprepared to face the world when challenges to their faith arise, whether it be atheism or anything else that could become a stumbling block. So many very conservative parents of families will do everything in their power to legalistically and hypocritically shelter their children by keeping them away from things that are often of little consequence. Yet they ignore the more important internal matters such as prioritizing the truth and ensuring that their children receive and orientate themselves to it as they should.

The truth is the issue, not the more minor matters that mean far less (especially when those things entail things that aren’t even wrong). We must not forget what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23-24, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Spiritual change has to begin inwardly before it manifests itself outwardly, not the other way around!

We do not mean to insult other genuine believers as if to harm them by stating all the above. But spiritually weak brothers and sisters will make very poor guides despite being genuinely saved. This fact applies to all individuals not well-grounded in the Word period, regardless of how liberal or conservative they are. The real issue is not whether a young wavering believer thinks God is real or whether He is fair and just. The problem is whether they are truly learning the truth about who He is, understanding it, believing it, and applying it. If this process doesn’t occur, then they will never gain any spiritual ground False information about God will lead to misunderstanding and knowing Him less! That is why the truth is so important! The more we know Jesus, the more we can trust Him. You can never become an actual or closer friend with someone if you never persevere to get to know them better. It is unfair for so many within and outside the church to misrepresent God by believing and teaching so many false and unbiblical things about Him. We must let the Lord and His Word speak for themselves, not allow misguided people to do the talking for us!

There is no excuse for giving up on God at all! The problem with so many is that their faith was in people, events, circumstances, feelings, and emotions. The truth is the issue, not people. Did they fail us in whatever ways? That is on them, but that is not God’s fault. God is not for sin, nor did He create it. Instead, we human beings have brought the mess we are currently in on ourselves. We only have us to blame for that. Yet despite disturbing the natural way God intended things to be through our sinful conduct, our Savior has provided us a way out of it. He will not fail to bring our faith to completion if only we are willing to follow Him faithfully to the very end no matter what betides. No matter what challenges attack our faith, God is greater than all of them. Do we not think He can’t help us make it through safe and sound? He would never have allowed us to face any difficulty if He knew we couldn’t handle it (1 Corinthians 10:13) (we are all tougher than we think). Nothing we endure in this life takes God by surprise, and we should never allow any of it to shock us. He knew about everything that has and will occur before He laid the earth’s foundations. Instead, we should expect and embrace all that God allows to come our way and see it all as it really is, a test meant to grow our faith. And if that is not the case, then we are under Satanic attack and must bear up under it as we would any other episode.

2 Timothy 4:18 (NIV)

18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

No two temptations and tests are the same. And, of course, we know that legitimate tests come from the Lord and temptations from the evil one because God does not tempt anyone to sin. Has someone persuaded us that to reject Christ based on the latest teachings and arguments? The truth never changes based on argumentation, whether it is recent or the type people have been spewing out for years. The truth, like God Himself, is unchangeable and therefore consistent and trustworthy in that it remains forever faithful to those who heed it. There is only one answer in the discussion, and that answer is that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He does exist, always has, always will. And His sacrifice on the cross was for all time for everyone who would ever yearn to receive His grace.

1 Corinthians 1:20-31 (NIV)

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

James 1:13-17 (NIV)

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

The greatest advice to those who are fed up with Christianity is, “Don’t give up! Keep searching! Don’t leave one bad extreme only to take hold of another!” Just because most churches are in an abysmal state does not mean there aren’t other believers who are doing what they should be doing. The issue is not how everyone else lives their lives and what they believe and why they do. The real issue is, “What does the Bible REALLY say and how does the Lord want ME to conduct my life!” It is not about what people want for us but what the Lord would have us do that is the issue.

Just because people in most churches and groups have failed through misinterpretation and misapplication of the Word does not mean God advocates their behavior—He doesn’t. The problem lies with the way people have chosen to behave toward God, NOT how He decides to act toward us. Sin and disobedience are the issue, especially among poorly grounded believers who refuse to change their spiritual approach. And not only that, but the world of unbelievers is under the control of Satan so that they are only his instruments to carry out his dark deeds. Does it surprise us that so many lies (outside the church) and false teachings (within it) seek to lead the believer astray? There should be none. It is all to be expected. If we do things God’s way instead of man’s, we will succeed. Assuming we genuinely desire the truth, the Lord will lead us to individuals teaching it correctly. If we don’t get the answers, we never truly wanted them. All who seek find because God will never withhold answers to those who genuinely wish to comprehend them. The solution to the problem of wavering faith is continuous faith itself in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He will give us all we need and want and will never fail or let us down. If we believe He has, then we are only letting ourselves down by failing to trust in Him. The mistakes always come from us, not our heavenly Father, who is perfect in everything He does.

1 Peter 4:15-19

15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.