Roland H Brown
Genesis 4: 26
2 Corinthians 4: 7–8
1 Corinthians 15: 43
Reference has already been made by our brother to the weakness and frailty of our present condition, into which the grace and power of the Spirit of God comes. He joins His strength to our weakness, and an occasion like this, I think, is to bring home to all of us the weakness of our condition. In a world where man exalts himself and his abilities, we are reminded of what we are. These passages I have read speak of weakness and they speak of God’s power too. Our sister knew weakness; she knew it for a long period of time and she was not the first in this locality to know weakness. We know well that there have been at least two sisters taken before our dear sister from this place, who knew utter weakness and were left in weakness amongst us for a considerable period of time. And the question must arise in our minds as to why that is. James speaks of “the end of the Lord” (Jas 5: 11): what He has in mind in what He allows. That would be for us to search out in our links with the Lord.
What struck me was that when this man was born early in the Scriptures he was called Enosh. The note speaks of weak mortal man, and then the passage says, “Then people began to call on the name of Jehovah”. A point was reached in the recognition of what we are, when it was recognised that there was a need for a power greater than ourselves, and God was sought and God was found. This power is proved in weakness. The apostle thrice besought the Lord that the weakness he had might be removed; but the response that he got was that “my power is perfected in weakness”; “my grace suffices thee”, 2 Cor 12: 8, 9. Then instead of asking for that to be removed, he boasted in it that the power of the Christ might dwell upon him. Our brother has referred already to his robust constitution, and we know that he was strong before his conversion, in his zeal, in self-confidence. He speaks of himself like that as “an insolent and overbearing man” (1 Tim 1: 13), but he learnt what weakness was, and he learnt what the power of Christ was and the sufficiency of the grace of Christ. Another apostle says, “of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace”, John 1: 16. It has been described as the ‘waves of the ocean’ (JT vol 89 p90), and I believe that that was seen in our dear sister, that she was receiving from that fulness. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling that I had much to learn from the way that our beloved sister accepted such affliction and such limitation. Never once did I hear a word of complaint, a word of resentment or bitterness; but an acceptance of it with a grace that I believe came from above.
So that, the apostle says, in this passage in Corinthians, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”. The treasure he is speaking about is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, v 6. What a treasure that is. I wonder if it is enshrined in every heart in this room - the knowledge of God, as it is expressed in the face of Jesus Christ. That is a treasure not simply for time, not simply for testimony, but for eternity; and it is housed now, you might say, in an incongruous place: a treasure so great but housed in an earthen vessel. But the reason is given; it is housed there, the apostle says, “that the surpassingness of the power might be of God, and not from us”. He speaks of God shining in his heart. What a testimony we had to that in the life of our sister, in her weakness. God was shining in her heart. He shone out. Not only that He had shone in; Paul does not say here that God shone into our hearts: he says He shone in our hearts. You think of God choosing to shine in human hearts, but it is through the surpassingness of the power of God which is proved as weakness is acknowledged and accepted. One feels the bearing of it. There is much weakness amongst us at present. Do we feel that? Do we feel the need for the power of God? Is the weakness resulting, as it resulted in these persons of whom we read in Genesis, in our calling upon the name of the Lord?
This final passage I think is very affecting because it speaks of a sowing. The body of our beloved sister, which our brother has reminded us belongs to the Lord and, as having been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is holy. “It is sown in weakness”; that is to come home to us. This is not now for our sister; it is for us who remain. “It is sown in weakness”; we are intended to feel that on an occasion like this. The Spirit of God would impress upon us the reality of what death is, the solemnity of it; but there is a hope that is spoken of here to which no doubt attaches. Though it be sown in weakness it is raised in power. I would like to convey an impression of that. You think of the mighty power of God that was exercised in the resurrection of Christ. It speaks of the might of His strength being exercised, Eph 1: 19. That passage in Ephesians suggests reserves of power in God Himself that were never called upon in the creation. They were exercised in the resurrection of Christ, and through His resurrection, the resurrection of all His own. Attention has been drawn to His resurrection and His glorification but God has raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together. You say, ‘Well it has not happened yet’, but the resurrection and ascension of Christ is the assurance of it. And this precious body in which the treasure has been held, in which the work of God has been formed, in the soul, is sown in weakness. There will be no weakness attached to its coming out of the grave. We shall see our dear sister again in very different circumstances from those in which we have known her. The Lord said to his own, “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice”, John 16: 22. You think of seeing our sister clothed in a body conformed to the image of God’s Son, Rom 8: 29. Could anything be more glorious to think of than that? Earthly relationships, of course, have come to an end forever. That is what death is, but we shall see our sister in glorified conditions. We shall know her in a way that we have never known her down here. “I know partially, but then … as I have been known”, 1 Cor 13: 12. You think of what has been formed down here in conditions of abject weakness but all with a view to the eternal praise of the grace of God: “the praise of the glory of His grace”, Eph 1: 6. A grace that proved its sufficiency through affliction and weakness will shine for God’s glory eternally.
May God bless the word.
19th May 2015
(Words at the meeting for the burial of Mrs Debra Barlow)