On Thursday, January 13 we held our first funeral service of the year. Many came because of their love for the one who had died. Many others wanted to be there but were unable. Every now and then you come across someone in your life who impacts you with their demeanor, their words, their kindness, and their faith. Linda Massey is one such person. Oh, she was not perfect, as she would tell you, but she was redeemed as a child of God and her faith was on full display for God's glory, not in a showy way, but as a daily act of worship.
Linda and her husband Al have been dear friends for years and members of our church. It was just over seventeen years ago when they received word that Linda had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Prayer meetings were held. Support from friends, old and new, came. Linda, as many who are given such a diagnosis, determined to be strong, fight the disease, and prayerfully lean on God as her strength.
She told me as I met with her last November that she is so thankful God gave her the many years of life following her initial diagnosis. She and Al were able to celebrate the marriage of their son Blake to Tammy (whom they adore.) She was able to see the beautiful granddaughter Everly join their family. She was able to travel, experience life, and impact so many.
From back in 2004 she began putting notes together for her funeral service. Over the years she would edit the notes, select different songs to be sung (though she picked Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons" early on and kept that on the list. She loved that song,) and even picked the scriptures to be read. I had a very clear roadmap for preaching this service yesterday. It was good. It was godly. It was worship.
One aspect of the service that was so very impactful was what she titled her "Scripture Story." From back in 2004 she had begun praying and reading the Word of God in a different way. As she was fighting cancer, getting treatments, planning for the future, and even lamenting the challenges faced, she would turn to scripture.
These are vital scriptures to Linda that she read throughout the years during her journey with cancer. She calls them her “scripture story” as she placed them in a certain order to be read today as a picture of the journey she took.
She asked a friend and sister-in-Christ from our church family, Linda Cannon, to read this journey at the service. Linda Cannon was the perfect choice to read these verses. The Holy Spirit was moving and hearts were being tugged in the most glorious way. God remained the center of our service, though it was a funeral for a dear friend. This is how it should be always.
Many have remarked about the Scripture Story, so for those who wanted to read it for themselves and for those unable to be at the service, I present it here.
Linda Massey's Scripture Story
First and most important verses. I was led straight to these verses when I was first diagnosed.
1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Deuteronomy 4:29, 30a, 31a (NIV)
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you…
For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you…
James 5:14-15 (NIV)
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
2 Chronicles 20:12 & 15a
(cancer is my “vast army”)
Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
…This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
"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."
(Praying for health for Blake and Tammy’s wedding)
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…
…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
(After a week in the hospital)
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
(Cancer verse for the end)
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
(very important for me)
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 23:1, 3, 4, 6
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. he restores my soul. I will fear no evil...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 40:2-3 (NLT)
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
I have preached many funerals for dear saints whom I miss but know where they are and will enjoy the reunion to come with those who are children of God. Linda ensured the theme of her service was on one thing - the grace of God.
Grace gives hope for those who do not deserve it. Grace offers love for the unlovable. Grace provides forgiveness through Christ for the deadly sins we commit. Grace, grace, God's grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace that is greater than all our sin.
May Linda's Scripture Story be an encouragement to us all. For those who are fighting their own battle with cancer or other physical malady, may these verses give you strength as well as you face that "vast army" that attacks.
I would like to add one more verse to Linda's Scripture Story.
Matthew 25:23 (ESV)
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’