“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 15:54-57, NLT

There are two different kinds of funerals: services for people who have lived for God, and for people who have lived for themselves. At the second, a lot is said about the person’s accomplishments, their wealth, their travels, their wild and crazy sports adventures. Some are even philanthropists who have given to others beyond their own small sphere, but somehow it all comes back to honoring them, rather than God.

Everyone tries to be upbeat at these gatherings. Many times people talk about heaven, but it’s a general, wistful, “everyone goes there” tale. It feels hollow, plastic, and dreadfully sad.

On the other hand, funerals for people who had a personal walk with God focus on relationships. A lot is said about their love for God, His Word, their family, and other people, and how their faith affected others. People tell how this person blessed their life. There’s laughter, happy memories, funny stories. The focus is on the heart of the individual and the legacy of love they have left behind.

When I leave funerals like this I’m inspired to live a life that reaches others for Christ. The stories reverberate in my head like a satisfying movie. I know I will miss them, but only for a while. I know I will see them again in heaven, where there are no more goodbyes.

There’s even a wistful jealousy of all they are now enjoying – they are with God, looking at His face, hearing His voice, out of pain, at rest, enjoying delights we can only imagine. That’s how I felt after the funeral of my young friend and her daughter, who died in a car accident a couple years ago. The school auditorium was packed, there wasn’t a dry eye. We were in shock at how suddenly it had happened. And yet, the music, slide show, and testimonies were filled with joy and wonder at the lives they had lived for God. It doesn’t wipe away our grief, but it takes the sting out of death.

Death holds no power over such a life, because what comes next is more glorious than anything we experience here. Those who seek a relationship with Jesus Christ in this life are victors over the fear of what comes after death. They can look beyond the grave to a life with God for which He created us.

In the last year I’ve read two accounts, and heard another man in person who were clinically dead and came back to life on earth. They attempt to describe what they saw and felt by comparing it to what we experience on earth, but admitted it can’t do it justice. They were understandably sad to find themselves back on earth in their mortal bodies, but their stories fill us with wonder and anticipation. They further verify the truth of what the Bible tells us – death has no power over those who are forgiven.