Nothing makes me shrink back from holy ambition and the good fight of ministry like preaching a funeral. I wrestle for days and nights on not only what to say, but also how to say it.
If I’m enjoying an encouraging season of life, I struggle to enter into the suffering of the grieving. Who am I to represent the feelings of the hurting family as they watch me attempt to honor their loved one? But much changed for me when I preached my dad’s funeral last August. God gave me the insight of not just the preacher, but also the family member.
This moment is never casual or easy. It takes much courage and help from the Holy Spirit.
As we ask for God’s help in prayer, we must not be careless with any of our words. What we say is powerful in such a vulnerable situation, and we should tread carefully.
So here are five things we must avoid when preaching a funeral.
1. Do not refer to the departed saint only in the past tense.
Part of our duty as the preacher is to honor the Lord by talking about how this child of God loved Jesus and gave his or her life for his glory.
However, too many times, we can carelessly speak of the person in past tense. If we believe the deceased is alive in Christ and in his presence, we must refer to him or her also in present and future tense.
In this way, we remind family and other listeners of the hope of the gospel.
2. Do not forget God’s perspective.
We’re taught in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” God is glorified when his children come home.
Being in the unveiled presence of God is the highest joy a believer can ever receive. It is the end of the long struggle of sanctification and the beautiful beginnings of glorification.
3. Do not ignore the lost.
The lost are always around us. They may not lie in the casket, but they are dead in their sins.
The lost need to be reminded that death is a reality of life, a transition we will all make one day. If there is any place for preaching the seriousness of sin and the grace of Christ, it is when preaching over the body of a saint into the eyes of the lost. Plead with them to repent and enjoy eternal life with the Savior.
The honored saint is more alive than anyone can ever imagine.