One year ago, this Christmas, my dear friend and spiritual father went to be with the Lord. His name was C. Sumner Wemp. He had such a powerful impact on my life and my family and our church that it doesn’t seem real to speak about him in the past tense. My own father died when I was ten years old. Eight years later God brought this man into my life when I was a student at Liberty Baptist College. He later became a dear friend, a mentor, and a spiritual father. My kids grew up calling him Grandpa and did not realize that he was not their real grandfather until they were college age.
One morning this week, while I was in prayer, I thought of him and felt led of God to write this short blog. What should the death of a loved one teach us?
1. Death is not death for the child of God.
2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Two and a half years before Dr. Wemp went to be with the Lord, his wife, Celeste, went home to be with Jesus. I can remember calling him on July 9th of that year. He said,
The truth of the matter is, when Dr. Wemp left his earthly body, he was immediately in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Often times he told me how he would lay on the ground and worship at the feet of the “Dear Lord Jesus.” He loved the Lord. When he closed his eyes in physical death, he became more alive than he had ever been since his birth.
In John 10:10 b, Jesus said, “ . . .I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Dr. Wemp lived an abundant life on this earth, and when he closed his eyes physically, he opened his eyes to a new reality that he had only known by faith. Death is not death to the believer. Physical death is the passage from the confines of this physical world into a heavenly home that God has prepared for us.
2. Death teaches us that our physical life is short and that we need to live by principles and priorities.
Dr. Wemp was, by far, the greatest soulwinner that I have ever known. I remember making that statement to Mom Wemp one time. She said, “Well, I don’t
know about that, but he’s the most consistent one you’ll ever meet.”
Dr. Wemp lived to tell people about Jesus. If we could open up the windows of heaven and hear a message from him today, I know what he would be saying. I heard him enough while he was on this planet – He said:
Though he was a consistent soulwinner in his life, he can’t win people to Christ today, but you and I still can. We need to make soulwinning a priority. Anyone living in heaven today would want you to know that their prayer for you is that you’ll be faithful to do the work of God. The Bible teaches us that even those that are lost – that are in hell today, want those that are alive to tell others about Jesus Christ. That is evident in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16).
3. Death should teach us how important it is to love those that are still here.
Every time I would ever get together with Dr. and Mrs. Wemp, we would hug them and say, “I love you.” I watched as they would hug each of their grandchildren and express their love to them. He is not here for me to hold, but there are many that are here who need my love as much as I needed his. The mantle has been passed to me. I need to be the loving father; I need to be the loving husband; I need to be the loving grandfather; and, Lord willing, the loving great-grandfather that he was to me and my children.
On my desk at home, I have one of the last letters that he wrote to me. At the end of the letter, he says, “Give your wonderful children a hug from their grandfather.” I can still do that. God has surrounded you with some wonderful, precious people. Love them; hug them; be the example of Christ to them. Those that have gone to heaven do not want me to mourn, but rejoice at their memory and live my life with the reality that I will see them again. Dr. Wemp would want me to take the truth that he taught me and pass it on. He taught me to pray Jabez’s prayer, that God would increase my coast. He prayed it every day. I used to call him when we had a big day at our church or I preached one of his messages at a conference and tell him, “Hey, God answered your prayer. I preached your message to a thousand people today. God’s increasing your coast.” He would just laugh and say, “Oh praise the Lord.” Then he would say, “Tell me about it.”
The fact is that the greatest way that I can honor someone who loved me and who loved the Lord is by continuing to live the principles they taught me. Dr. Wemp would want me to take the truths he taught me and pass them on to others, so that when I get to heaven, we can rejoice together that those principles are being taught to the next generation.
4. I need to love those that are closest to me now, because I won’t always have them with me.
This may be a repeat of number 2, but I think it’s important we thank God for those we have and that we pour our lives into them as long as we have life to do that.
5. We need to be very careful about how we use our time.
Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”
Someone has said,
6. There can be peace in the midst of the death of someone we love.
Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of God rule in your heart to which also ye are called in one body and be ye thankful.”
I love Dr. and Mrs. Wemp; but for me to wish them to be back here is nothing but selfishness on my part. They truly are at peace with God; they truly are in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are happy and they are loving their fellowship with Him in heaven. They do not want me to mourn, they want me to live my life rejoicing in my salvation and telling other people about Him. Knowing that, I can have peace, because I know that they have peace. When each of my children went off to college, my heart ached for them, because, though I knew they were going to good colleges where there were great professors, I knew they were in the midst of the crowd, alone. I knew there was always an anxiety at school because though they were surrounded by people, they were not settled in a permanent love relationship. However, when my children got married and went to their new homes with their new spouses, my wife and I always had a peace that everything was going to be okay, because though they were not in our homes to hold anymore, they had someone holding them. Our loved ones are with someone who loves them more than we can ever love them and I can live with total peace knowing that is true.
Let’s continue to move forward loving Jesus, looking forward to the day that we will see our loved ones again – doing as much for the Lord Jesus as we can right now because truly, we only have one life.
If you’ve lost a loved one in recent years, I hope these points will be an encouragement to you.
Has the Lord encouraged you lately concerning the death of a loved one? Feel free to share or comment below.