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Posted: January 31, 2013 10:11 p.m.

Grace notes: Knowledge of God is power

They say knowledge is power. That’s true, isn’t it? Knowledge is a powerful thing. It can prevent all sorts of problems and can provide all sorts of solutions, saving time, money...even your life. For instance, when you know not to use water on a grease fire, you avert disaster.


When you know not to feed the bears, you protect yourself. If you know there is danger, you can be prepared and defend against it. If you know it is going to be cold outside, you can get bundled up. If you know it is going to rain, you can bring an umbrella. Whatever it is, you can be ready so that you don’t get caught off guard and suffer the consequences.


On the other hand, not knowing what to expect brings fear, and fear can so easily take over and compromise your ability to handle whatever it is that is going on. But knowledge has a way of driving out fear. With knowledge, you can prevent all sorts of worry and stress and grief. Today, God’s word applies that general truth to something that probably causes more fear than anything else — death.


Now, I suppose, the argument could be made that knowledge doesn’t really help when it comes to death. After all, everybody knows they are going to die, and yet that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. It seems to always catch us off guard. Just last week, a 92-year-old member of our congregation died. We knew her health wasn’t great. We knew she would die soon. We knew 92 years is a really full life. Yet, somehow, it caught me off guard when I got that phone call. So when Paul applies the truth of God’s word today, he is really clear about his goal. He wants to help us through a time like that, by giving a little knowledge.


Our text is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, starts, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant.” Now, ignorance is never good, but the knowledge he doesn’t want us to miss here is infinitely important. In this letter of Paul’s, it appears the people he was writing to were a little confused about what happens at the end, what happens when we die. You might say they were ignorant. And death has a way of raising the stakes, so Satan loves ignorance on this matter. Satan wants us to be a little confused and forget what death really is. So Paul clears it up and tells us that in the face of death, we don’t have to “grieve like the rest of people who have no hope.”


You don’t have to grieve, not without hope. And in the very next verse, God’s word says why: “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.”
If death were what it appears, we would have reason to grieve endlessly. Because deep down we know that death is exactly what we deserve. The wages of sin is death and we’ve sinned. So when we see death, we have reason to fear. We have reason to grieve. That’s where this knowledge makes all the difference. Jesus died for our sins and rose to prove it. That means we will rise too. That means we will live forever. See what a difference that one simple truth makes?


Like knowing to use baking powder on a grease fire, it extinguishes fear and grief and replaces them with solutions, with joy. This week, as I was getting ready for our funeral, a very compassionate woman said to me, “I’m so sorry you have to go through that.” But I told her that actually, as odd as it might sound, for a pastor, the funeral for a Christian is fun. It’s a highlight of my work. Because this is what it is all about. This is when we see the goal of all that we do accomplished.


For those who have that knowledge, for those for whom God has shattered the ignorance, a funeral is a celebration. How awesome it is when we can break through the grief of the death of a loved one with this powerful knowledge. In the funeral we had on Wednesday, I was able to tell everyone there about a conversation I had had with the deceased just a short time ago where she confessed the knowledge of Jesus’ work for her just as clearly as Paul does in our text here. You don’t know how comforting that was for the family.
So do your loved ones a favor today. Give them the comfort and peace of knowledge. Tell them where your trust is. Tell them that you believe that Jesus died and rose again and so you believe that God will raise you from the dead and take you to be with him in heaven on the last day. They’ll thank you for it, and God will be glorified. After all, it’s not so much what you know, it’s who you know. And you know your Savior. Let everyone know that.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.

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