Complications developed, and Amy lost her physical life. Gene preached the funeral. This is the manuscript of that sermon. It is placed here in the hope it may be used to comfort someone walking through similar times of sorrow.
Amy (McBride) Ruth's Funeral
Let me begin by saying a word to Dan. Dan, I want to publicly thank you for the great love and commitment you gave to Amy. I could never thank you enough for the way you cared for her. I know that it has been very hard for you to be around hospitals and sickness and yet you demonstrated the character of Christ in being selfless because of your love for Amy. I know she knew you loved her and there was never any doubt in her heart of that. Although God only gave you 2 1/2 years together as husband and wife I believe you both experienced what many have not experienced in many years of marriage. Thank you!
Also, let me say a big thank you to all the Ruth family. Lynn, I thank you for your selfless sacrifice in order to care for Amy and Elisabeth during these very difficult days. I know it gave Amy a peace to know that her precious baby was cared for so well.
There were many others who could be noted. There is not enough time to express thanks to all the many people who prayed, believed, helped, and gave during these days. The hospital staff worked diligently to do all they could to bring Amy through to health. Thank you everyone who worked so hard!
Finally, to my precious wife who committed herself to stand with Amy and walk with her through this greatest of all trials of life. I thank God that she was able to dedicate her complete time to Amy. As Amy's condition became critical I thank God for a godly wife and mother who continued to point Amy to God's Word and to the living Christ. Thank you My Lady for what you did for our precious little girl.
Why did Amy die? You could put millions of other names in the place of Amy's. It is times such as this that many unanswerable questions arise. They are questions that challenge the very core of my faith. My heart aches as I think of the little girl we brought home from the hospital 21 years ago. Belinda and I stopped at the church on our way home and had prayer for Amy, acknowledging that she was a gift to us from God. Our prayer that day was that she belonged to God as long as He wanted. We prayed that God would use her for His glory. Over these last months we had very high expectations that God was going to heal Amy through the great medical technology we have today. Up until the very end we had expectations that God could and would perform a miracle for Amy to be healed, even when the medical hopes were gone. God did not do that. It has been very hard trying to bring understanding or reason to this. Amy not being healed had nothing to do with a lack of prayer or a lack of faith. Literally thousands of people were praying and believing by faith that she would make it. Our expectations were shattered.
Our enemy, Satan, would have us question the character of God. He would have us think that God is lacking in power, or uncaring, and certainly unloving. None of the above is true. All the promises of God in His Word are based on His sovereign character and His great purpose which exceeds our limited purposes. God spoke to me on last Saturday about this truth with the following illustration from His Word. 2000 years ago Jesus went to a cross. Jesus died. He had been unjustly arrested, tried, and crucified. His disciples had been following Him three years. They believed with all their hearts that He was the Messiah. Their expectations were that He would establish His earthly kingdom. When He died their expectations were shattered. However, God had a much greater picture in mind. Christ became the perfect sacrifice for a sinful world. Three days later He conquered our greatest enemy, death. God is God! His ways are far above our ways. At Calvary He demonstrated the great, great, love He has for us which can be seen in all the events of our life. When He allows something to happen He allows it for a reason. We may not understand it as the disciples did not understand the death of Jesus but we must look to the bigger picture of God's sovereign purpose. God always acts out of the over riding character of His deep, deep love for us.
Two weeks ago when things began to really look critical for Amy I began to think about Amy's funeral. At that point I felt it would be an honor to conduct her funeral. Belinda and Amy had also talked about this. When Belinda shared with me that Amy would like for me to conduct the funeral, if I felt I could, I took that as confirmation from our Lord that He would have me do it. Later, Amy looked at me and gave me one of those sweet smiles of her's and thanked me for considering doing the funeral. It has been a painful struggle this week over what God would have me share with you today. I have also attempted to understand what Amy would want me to say. I believe those two thoughts are the same as I spoke with Amy many times this past year but especially the last three months and finally the last two weeks. From the beginning of her diagnosis with leukemia she had one theme, that God would be glorified and that people would come to Jesus. She wanted people to know that God's Grace sustained her to the end. Before Amy could read she memorized Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
As we recalled this two weeks ago she laughingly said her favorite part was "my cup runneth over." In a very real sense the grace God gave her ran over onto many of us in these last days. My heart ached as I reviewed how Amy has impacted my life over the last 21 years. At the age of 7 years on July 31, 1983, Amy realized her need of Jesus as her Lord and Savior. As a preacher's kid, Amy was bounced around to many places. She always saw and accepted the moves as God using her as a missionary in different places. Many, many times she showed a selfless, caring spirit that seemed to always be concerned about the other person.
Amy, over the last three months in particular, and especially the last two weeks came to a complete unity with the purpose of God. Belinda and Amy spent much time in prayer and the Word. Philippians came alive to Amy in very real and practical ways. Philippians 1:21-23 address her heart so well.
Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
She spoke of wanting to remain here to be a wife to Dan and a mother to Elisabeth but she came to the godly point of saying her desire was Christ's will above all else. My heart was blessed as I saw her great spirit of giving and acceptance of her condition. In the last two weeks Amy sang, encouraged, and became a mighty inspiration and witness to many. I was so proud of her and knew it was only her trust in our Lord that gave her grace and strength. I realized God had made her into a giant of faith. She died with the same testimony she had lived for many years. I felt ashamed at my lack of faith and the pettiness of so much in my life and my lack of commitment in so many ways.
I truly hate death. It is not part of God's perfect world. It came as a result of sin. It breaks the circle of our relationships with our loved ones. It makes it impossible for us to express love to someone whom we love very deeply. Our confidence is in the resurrected, living Savior who conquered death and will restore us to a never to be broken circle in heaven.
What did Amy want to be said here today? She wants every one of us to know that Jesus is the Way. He is our Savior, Lord, Sustainer. He is the one who walks with us through all the valleys; the valleys of sickness, persecution, heartache, suffering, and even death. She wants you to know that Jesus is more than wonderful. When she sang this the last time she was in St. Marys it was evident that it was real to her. It was not just a song to be sung with beauty. It was a reality. The last song I heard her sing was, "Life is hard but God is good." It was hard for her to sing because she had never sung it before but it was so evident that she knew the God who is good. She wants you to know that He had a place prepared for her and that she is now at that place. She is not here. This is only the empty house she lived in for 21 years. Amy wants you to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. She wants you to know that God is faithful always and that our highest desire should be to know Him. She wants you to know that you can go through anything with Christ who gives us strength.
What is Amy's desire? What impact could and should her life and death have on our lives? Many times I have witnessed people standing in brokenness and grief over the loss of a loved one and heard them talk of changing their lives. We sometimes, out of our emotions, make resolutions and decisions to change but in just a few months, when the emotion of grief is past, we see the person return to the life they had lived before. Amy's desire would be one of transformation not just reformation. My prayer is that her selfless sacrifice of spirit out of compassion and care for others will inspire each of us to the same heart and mind she demonstrated.
Amy was throughout her life what most would call a wimp. She would virtually fall apart with a paper cut. She was fearful of just about everything, bugs, mice, heights, just about everything. Yet she wants you to know that in Christ and through His Grace she was able to face our greatest enemy, death, and that Christ carried her through. She wants us to know that this is not a time of mourning but a time of celebration over the victory she has is Jesus!
This morning I want to challenge each of us to respond. God and Amy do not want an emotional response that wears off in a few months when the grief wears off. Will you respond with a life changing response? A life long commitment to the Savior that will sustain you when the times are hard and no one understands and the suffering is unbearable?
For some this means a surrender to Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord. You do not have that personal, intimate relationship with Jesus that comes through trusting Him as the only One through whom your sins are forgiven. Amy was not perfect. She was a sinner who needed a Savior and received the Savior at the age of 7. It is by confessing our need of a Savor, repenting of our sins and trusting in the resurrected Savior we receive the wonderful gift of eternal life. How do we do this? By simply coming to God in prayer, faith and surrender.
Would you bow your heads and pray a simple prayer like this:
"Dear God, I know that Jesus is Your Son, and that He died on the cross and was raised from the dead. I know I have sinned and need forgiveness. I am willing to turn from my sins and receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for saving me. In Jesus' name. Amen."
If you prayed that prayer and meant it in your heart you can have peace and assurance that you have eternal life and you can know that one day you will see Amy in heaven. That was her desire for each of us.
For those of us who already have that relationship with Christ, may this be a life changing event that exceeds our emotions and gives us inspiration to carry on. Amy finished her course. She demonstrated in these last days her faithfulness to her Lord. None of us know what time we have remaining to serve our Lord. May Amy's death inspire each of us to discover and faithfully carry out His assignment for us to glorify our Lord and our God. I believe Amy was successful in doing this.
I challenge each of us to accept God's bigger picture, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." If for me to live is for Amy to live then for her to die would be loss. I am personally struggling with this thought. This is where my head, heart and emotions must be surrendered to our Lord. I must acknowledge the bigger picture of God's purpose. I am hurting because I cannot see or talk with Amy. I must acknowledge that God is in control and that my desire should be as Amy's, and that is, "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain." If Amy had said for me to live is to be with Dan and Elisabeth, then to die would be loss. Amy did not say, for me to live is Elisabeth, or Dan, or family, or anything else. She reached the place of saying, for me to live is Christ and if Christ wants to use all this suffering and loss of this world for His purpose then she was ready to glorify God in that way! She truly set a great example for each of us. It is my desire to respond in a way that I will never be the same again because of what I witnessed God doing in and through her. May I say as she said, "In whatever happens I want God to receive glory!"
What will your response be?
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