“We must die continually if we would bring life to others.”
Those words were written in the margin of my mother’s bible.
My name is Tom Osterhus, I am Ruth’s youngest son. On behalf of my family, thank you all for joining us today as we mourn the passing of my mom. As mourners who have encountered God and been adopted into his family, we do not mourn like those who have no hope. For us, our grief is mitigated by the fact that we also celebrate a life so well lived, and rejoice that she is now with her Lord.
As II Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
In the busyness of our times, we often focus exclusively on the here and now. At rare times, such as memorial services, we may pause to reflect on the life of the one we memorialize. My prayer is that through this service we see Ruth’s life and our lives in the context of what God is doing in the long-run… in the big picture.
When I think of my mother’s life, many things come to mind. I think of her kindness, her unconditional love to her family, and her love for the Lord. I think of what she inherited from her parents, and the inheritance and legacy that she has left behind. Being aware of what we have inherited is so important. It gives us reference points to understand where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going. Inheritance connects us with our past. Just as when we said the Apostle’s creed earlier in the service we were connecting with believers who’ve recited that creed in some form since the second century.
My grand-parents, David and Mary Laskey, gave my mother a rich spiritual inheritance. These Polish immigrants to Canada put their faith in Jesus Christ as their hope for salvation and they had a deep, rich, and intimate relationship with God. Granny regularly spent hours in prayer and intercession.
My mom carried on this legacy of walking closely with the Lord.
As a young boy, I observed that Mom’s devotional times were powerful, regular and consistent but never routine or religious. God used her times of meditation and study of the word of God, prayer, intercession, and fasting to affect the lives of others for the Kingdom of God. Sharing the good news was something she was passionate about. She wanted everyone to know Christ. Not just know about Him, but to know Him personally.
She was committed to see her children have that same relationship with the Lord. I’ll never forget that night almost 38 years ago, when she led me to go beyond just believing that God is real to having a personal relationship with Jesus.
She read the Romans Road with me teaching me the truths that “No one is righteous, not even one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us on the cross and that if I would confess my sin with my mouth and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I would be saved.”
Because of Mom, I came to know Jesus and the power of the gospel.
As I continue this message, it is my joy to impart to you some of the insights into walking with God that mom shared with us through her life over the years. Her legacy is actually a tribute to the God she served and worshiped with her whole being. So much of what made her tick cannot be separated from her experience with Jesus.
More than anyone I know, her life has been to me an example of abiding in Christ. I thank God for this heritage and pray that I will in some way pass on a similar legacy to my children and grandchildren.
I want to focus on this idea of Abiding in Christ. At times I want to quote directly insights that Mom wrote down in the blank pages of her Bible.
Let me describe briefly what it looked like for my mom to Abide in Christ. The word “Abide” – means to live or to dwell. Mom wrote in her Bible what “abiding in Christ” meant to her:
“Abiding in him is a consenting to let Him do all for us, in us, and through us.”
Quite simply, her whole life, every aspect of it, was centered around her relationship with God. Her desire was to be completely surrendered to the Lord. In her bible, she wrote down what this meant to her:
“To live a surrendered life means a definite, deliberate, voluntary transfer of undivided possession, control and use of my total being, spirit, soul & body to the Lord Jesus Christ to whom I rightfully belong by right of creation & redemption.”
If we were to break this down and dwell on each phrase, we could easily make a sermon out of it.
A key dynamic of this was that she abided in the Word of God. She dwelt in the pages of the Bible. As our family looked through her Bible, we found that it is all marked up in various colors and underlined. It is sort of testimony to her journey with God. Key moments in her walk with God and insights into His truth are written down.
When she read the Bible, mom wasn’t only reading it for knowledge or ritual sake. Rather, she sought the Lord in the Word until she heard. She read it expecting to find Him there. Then she would bask in the deeper understanding and nearness to God that she received. Many of the passages that especially moved her, she wrote out by hand in the empty spaces in her bible or in notebooks.
This abiding in Christ and His Word was apparent in her commitment to God, her obedience to God, and her trust in God.
On the inside cover of her Bible she wrote Psalm 118:12 which captures her sense of commitment,
I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end.
Her commitment to Obey God and His word was declared in these words she wrote in the front of her bible:
“Even as I want to believe with all my heart every promise of God found within this book, I want also to carry out every command of God found in this book.”
This obedience to God follows trusting in God. It is difficult to obey Him if you don’t trust Him. Trusting Him means Trusting His character, His judgments, His ways.
Mom struggled for most of her life with physical pain and discomfort. Frequent headaches and back pain were the result of a car accident she’d been in. (The same car accident that led to her meeting my dad.)
In the midst of pain and discomfort, I never saw her give in to the natural impulse to blame God. Perhaps she worked through that before I came along.
She had a perspective that put her on the lookout for how God could redeem bad situations. In her Bible she wrote this insight,
“Very often a complete submission to the will of God – in a fiery furnace, if needs be – is the quickest way to deliverance.”
Her response to most everything was to take it back to the Lord, to trust and submit to Him.
One time, when her pain was more profound, she quoted the scripture that expressed her heart on her situation. Quoting Job with deep conviction, she said,
“Thou he slay me, yet will I trust him.” – Job 13:15
I never forgot that. What she imparted to us was that even if we don’t understand why bad things happen, we can trust God because we know that His character is Good.
Her mindset on what is often called the problem of evil stayed with me and help me when I struggled with seeing her fall victim to alzheimer’s. We may not understand our circumstances and our trials, but we can trust in Him.
Another aspect that characterized her abiding in Christ was that she felt God’s heart for people through her intercessory prayer. In her prayers for people, she would often ask God to give her a promise from the scriptures that she could claim and pray out on behalf of those she prayed for.
I recall one Psalm in particular that she found great hope in praying for others. In her Bible, Psalm 107 is all marked up in various colors and underlinings. From this passage, she found hope to pray for those who were bound by sin or who were distracted by the cares of this world. Perhaps she prayed some of things over some of you.
Vs. 1-2 “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;”
Vs. 8 is the first of 4 times that this cry is expressed: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.
13 Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
15 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.”
These references to braking bars in sunder became her claim of faith that God would deliver those who were bound to sin and to deceptions of the enemy.
Vs. 20 – “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
She likely viewed vs. 20 as a prophetic reference to the coming of Christ, the Living Word, who is our healer and deliverer.
Vs. 22 – “And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.”
The chapter ends with this admonition in vs. 43 – “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”
As we celebrate Mom’s going home to be with the Lord today, keep in mind the importance of our heritage and the legacy that God wants to impart to us.
It starts somewhere. Some of you have been given a spiritual heritage in the Kingdom of God through the generations that have come before. Some of you may have received it and are currently parents or grand-parents and passing it on. For others of you, this spiritual legacy is starting with you.
In the big picture, our lives can be a testimony to the faithfulness of God.
The Hope of the gospel is that death is not the end for those who have entrusted themselves to Christ. In speaking of the resurrection from the dead, Jesus says in John 14:19,
“Because I live, you also shall live.”
If my mom was still here, she would say to you that if you don’t know Jesus personally, that He is worthy of your trust and complete surrender to Him. For those who already know the Lord, she would say that He is worthy of your trust and complete surrender to Him. She would urge you to make Him the center of your life.
A final quote from the notes in Mom’s Bible puts our momentary afflictions in perspective of the big picture,
“Now comes the weeping, then the glad reaping. Now comes the labor hard. Then the reward.”
May God grant you a renewed sense of His reality, His Love, His hope, and His faithfulness.