Saturday, January 12, 2008

End of the Earthly Trail

I am writing a tribute today for a dear friend, Al Wright, who went home to be with Christ on January 2, 2008. He was a member of Berean Bible Fellowship, and we had just over two years together to get acquainted. His earthly trail is finished, but he lives in eternity with Christ.

Special memories

I spent a great deal of time with Al over the few years that I knew him. It was our habit to meet for donuts every week and spend an hour together talking. I learned many things about him, some of which I will share this morning.

He respected and honored his father. His father meant a great deal to Al, and though he was gone a lot in his work as a salesman, he instilled in Al some great values of work and industry that stayed with him all of his life.

He loved his country. We would often talk of the modern political scene. He was a conservative man who supported conservative candidates and was often flabbergasted about the state of mind of those with whom he disagreed.

Al would often talk of his military service in the US Army. He recalled with great detail the scenes of battle and the incidents that he lived through. He was proud of his service and spoke of working with General Mac Arthur, of serving in the Battle of the Bulge and of enduring the hardships of a good soldier. I was always amazed at his recall. So many men have come back from military service and buried their experiences in the depths of their minds.

Al loved his family. He would often talk with me about you and keep me up to date on what was going on in the family, even though I had not met most of you at that time. I know he prayed

Al loved his Savior. He talked often of his salvation, his early years with Christ and his continued devotion to the Savior. He loved being involved in church. Every time there was a meeting scheduled, he was there if he was physically able to be there. He prayed for the church, supported the pastor, and stuck with things through thick and thin.

He loved being involved with Gideon’s International. Gideon’s around the world are actively involved in distributing copies of God’s Word to as many as possible. He often told the story of the influence of the Word of God in his life before he was saved. It seems that in one of his tours of duty, he lived in the same barracks with a believer who had an active testimony. He would read the Bible out loud while Al was in the room. Al was not interested in the Bible at that time, but after a while he listened. He stated to me that it was the continual exposure to Scripture that softened his heart for the day and time of his personal response to God. God gave Al the blessing of meeting up with his Army buddy in the mall one day after Al was saved. They had a wonderful and tearful reunion as Al told the story of his salvation experience.

We each knew Al in a different way. As you have gathered together here today, it is appropriate for you to share a memory with us that would be an encouragement to the family that is gathered at this memorial service.

Al’s favorite Scriptures

In the weeks prior to Al’s death, I had the opportunity to meet with him many times and to share the Word of God with him. Today I will share with you two passages that lifted his spirits and encouraged his heart.

John 3:16 tells us the gospel message in a simple form. Al loved this verse. It spoke to him of the fact of God’s love for him while he was a sinner. He understood that as God gave His Son, Jesus Christ to the world to pay the penalty of death for sinners, Al was included in those for whom the price was paid. Al knew that he was a sinner, but he understood that he was a sinner saved by grace. So, on a particular day in his adult life, Al came to the place where he received the gift of grace from God according to His promise and believed by faith. Al understood that his faith in Christ was a gift from God and he took no boasting in his faith. Rather, he rejoiced in the assurance that because of that faith which he exercised in Christ he would not perish, but have everlasting life.

Although Al rejoiced in his salvation, there was one thing that bothered him and he mentioned it several times. He was bothered by the fact that he received Christ so late in life. I know his exhortation to us today would be: don’t wait as long as I did to receive Christ and serve Him.

Today we are at a memorial service and Al is no longer alive . . . on this earth. He has gone into the presence of Jesus Christ, according to the promise of God, and there he is as alive and vibrant as he ever was on earth – more so even. For you see, Al no longer has the physical limitations of a body that is suffering from the effects of Adam’s sin. He is freed from those constraints and sufferings. And that brings me to the second passage that I shared with Al that he loved.

II Corinthians 5 says: 1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down – when we die and leave these bodies – we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. 4 Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. 6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies. 11 It is because we know this solemn fear of the Lord that we work so hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.

While Al was on this earth, he was a vibrant and energetic man – and I first met him when he was 87. But in his last years, you could see the reality of this passage in his life. He was slowing down and things were not as easy as before. He appreciated it when his grandson, Jason, would mow his grass for him.

But today, this promise has been fulfilled in Al’s life. He is in the presence of Christ. His body is in the grave, awaiting the day of resurrection, but He is in the presence of Christ in a glorified body that God has prepared for him.

Al would want me to personalize these verses for you today, since you have come to honor him. He wants to see each of you in the presence of Christ some day.

Now, you can only get there through faith in Christ. You must believe that there is a holy God to whom you are accountable. You must understand that you are a sinner, prevented by your sin from ever standing in the presence of a holy God. You must know that God has prepared an answer to this problem by giving His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the death penalty for sin by dying on the cross. When He arose from the dead three days later and ascended to heaven, he demonstrated that the penalty was paid and that heaven was open to all who would believe. But you must turn, with your will, from your sin and receive the One who died and rose again to pay the penalty for your sin.

If Al were standing with me today on this platform, he would be sure to make this invitation: now is the day of salvation. Do not wait any longer to respond to the message of God’s grace and to receive His eternal promises.

A final verse that I leave with you today sums up Al’s Christian walk with God on this earth. II Timothy 2: 1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

Al has finished his tour of duty on this earth for His Savior. He has appeared before him as a faithful man, completing what was entrusted to him.

As you consider the life of Al Wright with me today, I hope that you find in his testimony the challenge to be the faithful follower of Christ that he was.
The service was a moving memorial. Al's grandsons, Jason and Mitchell both spoke words from the heart that showed that Al truly was a godly influence for his family.
We were glad to have known Al and to be a part of his memorial tribute.