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Memorial Service for Bea Campbell


Joseph Bayly, delightful, personal friend now in heaven, was flying from Chicago to the city of Los Angeles. He engaged the woman sitting next to him in conversation. She was a little over 40, well dressed, and quite articulate. He asked, "Where are you from?"

She said, "From Palm Springs."

Knowing Palm Springs to be a city of the rich and famous, he asked, "What's Palm Springs like?"

Being perceptive, she answered, "Palm Springs is a beautiful place filled with unhappy people."

Taking advantage of the occasion, he pressed the question, "Are you unhappy?"

She said, "Yes, I certainly am."

'Why?" he asked.

She said, "I can answer it in one word, and that word is mortality. Until I was 40, I had perfect eyesight. Shortly after, I went to the doctor because I couldn't see as well as I could before. Ever since that time, these corrective glasses have been a sign to me that not only are my eyes wearing out, but I'm wearing out. Some day I'm going to die. I really haven't been happy since that time."

Ladies and gentlemen, these words summarize the feelings of millions of Americans today. We don't want to lose what we have or be reminded that death is coming to us as it is for everyone else in the human race. As someone has said, "The only certainty in life is death."

There are only three things you can do about death. You can accept it and prepare for it by receiving Jesus Christ as your only Savior. You can fear it and spend all of your money and all of your time and resources running to escape it. Or you can ignore it and subscribe to the words of H. L. Mencken, who said, "Death is a universal conspiracy not to be mentioned."

This forces a question: How do the Scriptures view death for the believer? What does a spiritual, eternal perspective look like? In Psalm 116:15, the psalmist says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." What is it about death for the Christian that constitutes it precious to God and, therefore, to the believer? The Scriptures use three graphic, compelling pictures for the death of a believer.

Death is going to sleep

First, it's going to sleep. Let me read some words familiar to most of you. Underscore in your mind the repeated statement falling asleep.

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thess. 4:13-15).

"... with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ, will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thess. 4:16b-17).

Dr. Luke, in penning that account of the martyrdom of Stephen, informs us that his last words were, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them," a reflection of his Savior's words. Then he adds, "When he had said this, he fell asleep."

In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul, on two occasions, refers to the death of the believer as falling asleep.

Where do these New Testament writers get that concept? I would like to submit they got it from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

In Mark, chapter 5, you have a page out of the life of our Lord. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, was a desperate man. He ran into the presence of the Savior, prostrated himself on the ground before him, and pleaded earnestly that he would come and put his hand upon his little girl, who was at the point of death, and Jesus responded.

En route, they encountered a woman with an illness of 38 years' duration. You can almost identify with Jairus as the Lord stops to heal her: "Lord, we're running out of time."

And while the Lord is speaking, the men come and say, "She's dead. Why bother the teacher any more?" That's a human reaction—as long as there's life, there's hope.

On more than one occasion, I have been in a desperate situation: A man just pulled from a lake who had drowned; a woman who dropped to the floor with a massive heart attack at the Chicago airport. The paramedics were called, and they worked feverishly in both cases to revive the individual only to have a physician say, "He's gone. She's dead." Jesus is in this kind of a situation, and he says in the midst of that crisis, "Don't be afraid. Just believe."

When Jesus arrives at the home, the professional mourners had gathered and were doing their thing. They were ripping their garments, tearing their hair, and crying with loud shrieks. Jesus comes in and says, 'What's all the commotion about? She's not dead. She's asleep."

They roared at the funeral. After all, they are the professionals. They know what death is. She's not asleep. She's dead. Who has the right view of death? Jesus or man?

To most people, death is permanent; sleep is temporary. Death is the end of life; sleep is the continuation of a life. Sleep is the recouping of strength and energy so that a person might go on in life.

Jesus said, "She's asleep." So is Bea. Death is going to sleep, and we are forced to ask, "Who's afraid to go to sleep?"

Some of us were when we were small children. I remember begging my father, "Daddy, leave the light on."

Jesus understands. That's why he said, "He that walks with me does not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life."

Bea fell asleep on Friday, June 21, only to awaken to see the face of her Savior.

Death is a journey

Death is not only going to sleep. The Scripture says death is going on a journey. In 2 Timothy 4:6 we read Paul at the end of his life: "I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure."

Paul uses two graphic figures—one to express the end of his life. He has spent the bulk of his life pouring it out like a drink offering for others. Now, the time of his departure has arrived. That's the beginning of another life.

The word departure is a fascinating one. It's used of the striking of a tent. We're planning to move our location, so we loosen the ropes and take the tent down. Departure was used for the untying of a boat from its mooring. The anchor is weighed. The ropes are loosened. We put out to sea, and we head for a distant shore.

Before the great adventure of his new voyage, Paul looks back over his ministry of thirty years and says, "I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith."

The Christian life is viewed realistically. It's a battle and the opposition is relentless. The bullets are real; the casualties are high. It's not a piece of cake; it wasn't for Bea; it isn't for us. Paul finished the race.

In Acts chapter 20, with the Ephesian elders, Paul said that was the goal of his life—to finish the race and complete the work that God has given him to do. May I remind you that a race is only won at the end. That's why I have a new appreciation for older men and women who have been walking with Jesus Christ for many years and who finish well.

Finally Paul speaks of those who have kept the faith. They guarded the treasure even though it meant pain and suffering. In each there's labor, sacrifice, and danger. But now Paul says nothing remains but the prize, the crown.

And I cannot think of a better epitaph for Bea than those three expressions. She fought the good fight; she finished the race; she kept the faith.

I hold in my hand a little card that I, knowing her heart, know must have meant worlds to Bea.

"P.S. Thank you very much for being my Sunday school teacher, teaching me how to accept Jesus Christ into my life. You are a great example of a godly women in his grip. Dan Lemon." Isn't that neat?

Bea was unable, because of the ravaging of her pain, to attend the last wives' appreciation occasion at the seminary. She sent her husband as her personal representative and told him what to say. "I've been telling him that for years," she said.

Her prayer was this. "Dear Lord, we claim your power to remain free from pain, to balance medication, to continue studying just how to live one moment at a time. Don repeatedly advises me, 'Only does God reveal his treasures when we need them.' " Don, she did listen to you.

There's one tribute that's beautiful to me because it's my daughter's. She was very close to the woman she called affectionately "Aunt Bea." My daughter wrote, "I think of you often, mostly of the continuing contribution you have made to my own life, especially as a child. You were always one of my favorite "mothers," mostly because of your bright and cheerful disposition. I got to see you in a lot of different situations—church, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and the times our families got together. You were always so kind and had a thoughtful word for everyone. You are a great example to me. Maybe that is what Paul had in mind in Titus when he called the older women to be examples in their lives to train the younger women. You certainly have been that to me, and I do appreciate that input in my own life."

Bea's gone on a journey only to have arrived at the celestial city. Death is going on a journey. Who's afraid to go on a journey, especially that one?

Death is going home

Finally, the Scriptures teach us that death is going home. In John 14, our Lord was involved with the disciples. He had informed them repeatedly that he was soon to die. He was going to leave them, and that prospect threw them into a panic. That's why Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back to take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

Jesus said to the disciples and to us, "I want you to know that the destination has been determined."

It involves two things. It involves, first of all, a place. What kind of a place? One that Jesus is preparing for us—completely ready, completely perfect, completely mine. And I think if I were to interview Bea, she would say in her characteristically precise manner, "Howie, you wouldn't believe it." And she is right.

It fascinates me that invariably in the New Testament, when the scriptural writers want to describe heaven, they have to implore the negative. They have to say it's not like it is here. For instance, in Peter, it's the inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and never fades. My friends, how do you describe an infinite place to a finite person?

Students at the seminary will often ask me questions. I'll do my best to answer them. Often they will say, "Is that the best you can do?"

"That's the best I can do," I'll say.

"Well, how come you're teaching in a seminary?"

To which I respond, "I don't know. Maybe that's why they don't pay me more." And then I jar them by saying, "Does it really bother you that I, as a finite person, cannot fully comprehend an infinite God? Does that really bother you?"

Men and women, the only way we will ever be able to explain heaven is seeing it first hand and experiencing it in reality.

I want you not to miss the second. Heaven is much more than a place. This text informs me heaven is a Person. Jesus will be there. The thing that makes heaven heaven is the presence of the Savior. And the thing that makes hell hell is the absence of the Savior. It's the presence of Christ that makes the place glorious. And that's why Paul says in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." How so? More Christ.

In a number of places in the New Testament, Paul says, "I'm struggling. It's far better to go home, but it's necessary for me to remain."

Do we want Bea back? Well, for our sakes, of course. But for her sake, never. How selfish we would be. Death is going home, and who's afraid to go home? No matter how exciting the trip, I can assure you there is nothing as exciting as going home.

Elly Singer wrote the lyrics to the chorus, and Don Wyrtzen put it to music: "Just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven, / of touching a hand and finding it God's, / of breathing new air and finding it celestial, / of waking up in glory and finding it home."


What is death for the believer? It's going to sleep in the arms of Jesus. It's going on a journey to the celestial city. It's going home to a place specifically prepared for you.

When I saw Bea for the last time, shortly after she had passed away, Don and I went into the room together. And her body was wasted discolored, drawn, and, as I felt it, cold. Standing by that body, I understood in a new way that never was Bea more alive than she was at that moment.

May I ask you a question? What's the most exciting experience of your life? If the only answer you can give to that question lies in the past, then you are either a hopelessly uninformed Christian or you are a lost person. You need to understand that all of us have sinned. There is none righteous, not one. The wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life, a life that begins not at death but at the new birth and reaches its culmination in glory with the Savior. The greatest experience of every Christian is yet ahead.

Bea has experienced it. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.

for Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

Dr. Howard Hendricks is chairman of the Center for Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also involved in ministry through books, publications, radio, and video.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Death is going to sleep

II. Death is a journey

III. Death is going home