Romans 8:35–39 [The memorial service for a student is a time off deep sorrow and reflection. Young people sometimes feel immune to death and tragedy. When it strikes, they are hard hit. Emotions run high. Memories of regret and happiness comingle. In such a time, the pastor has a golden opportunity to bring comfort, hope, and the message of salvation.
In planning with the family for a memorial service, the following suggestions serve as helpful guidelines for a meaningful tribute to their deceased student. These include: music by the school choirs, an opening and closing prayer by a classmate, and remembering the student with brief testimonials by friends, classmates, or a student pastor. The testimonials should include some humorous memories, as well as those of high moments of accomplishment or service to the Lord, church, school, friends, and community. A video always carries images that bring out the best of the student’s life. Worship music should be that which speaks to eternal truths, as well as to the contemporary ear of their classmates.]
Every death reminds us that our time on earth is limited. We are never guaranteed a tomorrow. We only have today. That is a reminder to all of us to live life to the fullest, to love life, to appreciate life, and to make life count. Jesus, who lived only thirty-three years, reminds us that he came that we might have life and have it to the full.
What is a full life? What is real life? What makes a life—though short in number of years—a life that conquers? Paul, one of the most brilliant men who ever lived and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, understood that kind of life. Near the end of his own life, he wrote, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
Webster’s dictionary uses several synonyms for the word conquer. It means “to vanquish, subdue, reduce, overcome, overthrow.” These conquerors are what a football coach calls “impact players.” Impact players influence our lives. They are people who make a difference wherever they are, whatever their age. These individuals hold certain things in common.
I. Makes the Right Choice
The first thing they hold in common is that they make the right choice. Years ago, Joshua, a great soldier for God, spoke these words: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). A young man approached Jesus and asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response was, “Follow me” (Mark 10:17, 21). We are very valuable to God. So valuable that he gave his Son Jesus Christ to die in our place and granted us the privilege to choose to live with him forever. We must make that choice.
Adam Burtle, a student atheist from Woodinville, Washington, startled many eBay searchers when he ran this item: “20-year-old Seattle boy’s SOUL, hardly used. Please realize, I make no warranties as to the condition of the soul. As of now, it is near mint condition with only minor scratches. “The bidding had reached four hundred dollars when eBay officials removed the listing and suspended Burtle from the site.1
How much is our soul worth? “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). The life that conquers realizes that we are very special to God, and that we have made a personal decision to choose him to be our Savior and Lord. This is the most important choice you will ever make.
II. Fulfills God’s Purpose
The second thing that conquerors in Christ hold in common is a life that fulfills God’s purpose. God has a purpose and plan for every one of us. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer. 1:5). Every person should ask himself the questions that a teacher once asked a group of students to ponder: What do you live for? How do you get it? Is it worth it?
Dr. Seuss, whose writings have entertained children for years, spoke at a commencement at Lake Forest College, outside Chicago. He decided to make it the world’s shortest address and get it down to one minute, fourteen seconds.
Dr. Seuss talked about an uncle who placed an order for popovers at a restaurant. As he gazed at the roll of pastry lying before him, he concluded it was mostly air. He made the philosophical observation that in life a person would be very wise to do a lot of “spitting out the hot air” that passes for wisdom in a dumbed-down world.
God’s purpose for your life includes the big things and the little things. He has a plan for your education, your school activities, your involvement in his church, whom you are to marry, and what you do for a living.
Many students feel like the student who was asked by Lloyd Ogilvie, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, “What is your greatest need and your greatest fear?” To which he responded, “Sir, my greatest need is to know God’s perfect will for my life. My greatest fear is that I will miss it, or if I know it, that I will resist doing it.”2
You can be sure of knowing God’s purpose for your life through a genuine relationship with him. He is your Father, and he is the one who will communicate with you. He will communicate that purpose through his Word—the Scriptures, godly counselors, and circumstances. He will lead you as you release your will to him.
That release can be best pictured by imagining a blank piece of paper. Sign your name at the bottom, and then let God fill in the blanks. You will be in for the ride of your life, whatever its length may be.
Someone has said:
To know Him is to love Him;
to love Him is to trust Him;
to trust Him is to obey Him;
to obey Him is to be blessed.3
In the National Gallery of Art hang some of the great original masterpieces—done by the artists themselves in their own oils with their own strokes. They are masterpieces. In a little shop at the gallery you can purchase copies of the originals for a dollar. Someone has pointed out that each one of us must decide whether we will “give ourselves to Jesus Christ and become the divine original God intended or whether we will refuse Christ … and remain a cheap copy of what we might have been.”4 The life that conquers is a life that is intentional in knowing and doing God’s will.
III. Conquers with Courage
The third characteristic of a life that conquers is a life of courage. God has never promised us an easy life, but he has assured us that he will give us courage to face the difficulties, struggles, heartaches, and disappointments of life. At least sixteen times in the Bible, God encourages us to take courage. We need courage to fight prejudice, to speak up for those no one will speak up for, to keep our lives pure, to be a friend to those whom others may leave out, to face fears, to try again when we have failed, to live our convictions that come from character formed by eternal truths, and to persevere.
The movie Braveheart tells the story of William Wallace, probably the greatest hero of Scotland. His life and legend have been strong in Scotland for nearly seven hundred years. William Wallace was a committed Christian. When England tried to claim Scotland, Wallace would not surrender to the king of England. He fought and defeated the English in several key battles. The king tried to gain his cooperation by offering him position, titles, money, and land. Wallace refused.
His courage was so contagious that it rubbed off on Robert the Brave, the logical successor to become the next king of Scotland. Robert’s father was a coward who was secretly cooperating with the king of England. He persuaded his son to do the same. Disguised as a masked knight, the son was dispatched to kill Wallace. In combat, Wallace got the upper hand, unmasked Robert the Brave, and was shocked to see his betrayal. Rather than killing him, Wallace rode away to safety.
Young Robert realized he was a Judas, a betrayer. He returned to his father in anguish and confessed that his actions were tearing him apart. His father said, “All men betray. All lose heart.” The son replied, “I don’t want to lose heart. I want to believe as he [Wallace] does. I will never be on the wrong side again.”
Someone has observed that there are not many bravehearts left. “There are many faint of heart. The bravehearts have always been in the minority.”5 The life that conquers is a life of courage.
IV. Marks Life with Service
The life that conquers is a life that is marked by service. Through the centuries, God has used youth to serve him and mankind. One of Jesus’ disciples, John, was probably a teenager when he began to follow Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a young woman in her teens when she was chosen to bring God’s Son into the world.
Sometimes you may feel like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts comic strip. Charlie and his little girlfriend were looking up at the millions of stars above. Charlie said, “Space is too large.” In the next frame, Lucy said, “We don’t really need all that room … most of those planets and stars are way too big!” She continued in the next frame, “The whole solar system needs readjusting.” Charlie turned to her and said, “What can we, as individuals, do?”6
You can be different from the crowd around you. You can take God seriously and make a profound difference wherever he places you. Peter stated this plainly: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Pet. 4:10).
In Orlando, Florida, the young athlete, popular student, and active Christian Brent Bolin was killed in an automobile accident. His sudden death grieved his family and all who knew him. Months later, the weight room at his school was dedicated in his honor. Brent’s mother read these words, which speak so eloquently of dedicating what God has given you to him: “You are God’s opportunity in your day. He has waited ages for a person just like you. Go where he sends you to go. Do what he gives you to do. Do you know him? Now, go and make him known by living a noble life. Do “godly-good” for those around you
• “If he has blessed you with spiritual strength, be noble by praying for those who are weak in their faith. Remind them that they, too, are Jesus’ own.
• “If he has blessed you with physical strength, be noble by defending those who struggle each day with those who seek to harm them. Speak up and speak out against hatred, prejudice, and malice.
• “If he has blessed you with mental strength and intellectual abilities, be noble by discovering a cure for a disease, tell the gospel in a language never spoken, and find solutions to elevate your brothers and sisters out of misery.
• “If he has blessed you to be socially strong and if making friends comes easily to you, be noble by befriending those who feel that they don’t belong and struggle to be accepted … help free them from their loneliness.
• “If he has blessed you with emotional strength and you are content with who you are, be noble by ‘standing on the wall’ and encourage those who are saddened by life by building them up in Christ. You will strengthen them and help them find joy.
• “If he has blessed YOU with artistic strength in all its diversity, be noble by using these talents to show the world the divine, unlimited beauty of God.
“Do not refuse God his opportunity that he seeks through you. Remember, there is only one like you on this earth and there is no other.
“In Hebrews 12, the author says to us, ‘Run the race that is before us … never give up … never quit. Keep your eyes on Jesus who began and finished the race of life. He finished strong, so we too can finish strong’ (Heb. 12:1–3 The Message).”7
Paul’s words were autobiographical. Out of his own personal tribulations, he challenges us to “be more than conquerors.” Literally, he says, “We are super conquerors!” Not just victors, but “super victors”!8 Today we may go away with our grief, but we do not go away defeated. Because Jesus Christ conquered sin, death, and all evil powers, so do we when we choose him as Savior, fulfill his purpose in our lives, live a life of courage, and serve him and our fellow man nobly. We win! We are eternal impact players! We are super conquerors!
1 Author unknown, Orlando Sentinel, 2001.
2 Lloyd Ogilvie, Ask Him Anything (Waco: Word Books, 1981), 46.
3 Adrian Rogers, God’s Way to Health, Wealth, and Wisdom (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987), 56–57.
4 Richard Halverson, “Perspective,” a bi-weekly devotional letter, McLean, Virginia, January 25, 1989.
5 Steve Farrar, Anchor Man (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 170.
6 Charles Schultz, “Peanuts,” Winston-Salem Journal, February 23, 1962, as quoted in Jack Ricks Noffsinger, It’s Your Turn Now (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1964), 41.
7 Permission to include this charge to the other students granted by Brent’s mother, Tracy Bolin.
8 R. Kent Hughes, Romans (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 170–71.
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