Derek was a fine husband and father, as a well as a much loved member of this community. And he was also a first class churchman, pouring his heart into serving his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ throughout most of his earthly life. As one fellow minister remarked, “You build churches on men like Derek Williams!”
He will be missed by one and all. And those of us who knew and love him look forward to seeing him again one day in a place where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and where no evil thing, including both disease and death, shall ever harm the children of God again!
I was reminded of a story that Jon Redmond tells in his book, What Happens at the Moment of Death:
When we die, we’re not just going to be leaving our bodies and departing from this world. We’re going somewhere! We’re going to the place Jesus has prepared for us. We’re going to Heaven. We’re going home.
At a funeral I spoke at recently, I was explaining to the congregation how the person who had died, because of his faith in Jesus Christ, was now in the presence of God in Heaven. I compared the person’s physical death to a bird being released from a cage. The person had been sick for a long time. He had actually become a prisoner in his own body. He had been trapped in a body that had worn down. When he died, he was mercifully released form that body.
I talked about sometimes at a graveside service there is a dove release ceremony. The doves are released from their cages as a picture of a person being released from the pains and difficulties of life. I explained how the person we had come to honor had been released from his body … just like the dove is released from a cage.
Using the dove imagery, I painted a clear word picture of what the death experience is like for a Christian. The people in attendance got the point, and I felt good about my sermon.
After the service was over, a good friend of mine said to me, “Jon, that was a nice service. But you left out the best part of the dove release illustration.” I asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, you’ve done enough graveside services to know what kind of birds are actually being released from those cages, haven’t you?” I replied, “Sure I have. They’re not really doves at all. They’re homing pigeons.” He said, “Exactly. And why are they called homing pigeons?” I said, “Because when they are released from those cages they instinctively and immediately fly to their home.”
With a smile on his face, my friend said to me, “And that’s the part of the illustration you left out. The next time you talk about those birds being released from their cages, be sure to stress to the people that at the moment of death we are not just released from our bodies. We, just like those homing pigeons, instinctively and immediately go home … to our home … in Heaven with God.”
I wanted to reassemble the congregation and re-preach my sermon. But it was too late for that. The service was over, and the people were gone. But I have used that illustration several times since then, and I wanted to include it here. My friend was right. When our bodies die, it’s not just that our souls are released form them. It is much greater than that. At the moment a Christian dies, he goes immediately home … escorted by the angels … safe in the arms of Jesus. At the moment of death, Heaven will indeed become our new home. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Well said, Jon! Derek has now been released from his worn out earthly body; and he has flown straight to be with Jesus in that wonderful place called Heaven, which will be his eternal home! May God be praised!
SOURCE: Jon Redmond, What Happens at the Moment of Death (Pasadena, Texas: First Baptist Church Publications, no date), pp. 22-24.
Jon is Assistant Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena, Texas. He has a number of publications available through the church. Among them: How to Be A Happy Christian, Riding Out the Storms of Life, Finding Freedom Through Forgiveness, Never Alone, How to Make Heaven Your Home, When God Says, “Wait”, How to Have A Peaceful Heart, In the Twinkling of an Eye, Angels Among Us, Discovering God’s Will, The Lord Is My Shepherd, Prayer and fasting, and The Bible Reading Plan.