Key verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Big idea: Our knowledge of God's Word gives us hope.
A lot of people think about theology as something boring and irrelevant. They see it as a list of abstract facts like mathematics or geography and their eyes glaze over at the thought. Give us something practical, they say, thinking that theology is an old man wondering how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But actually, the truths which are taught to us in the Scripture are infinitely important. The things that we know and the things that we believe shape the way that we can respond to the events of our everyday lives.
This is no more true than in the face of death. In many situations which we face we have experience to go on. Even if we haven't dealt with something personally, we may have friends or family who can tell us how they got through it. There's a certain kind of worldly wisdom which allows us to at least partially face many of the struggles of life. But there's one conflict which everyone must face which we have and can have no experience with. No psychologists or scientists can tell us about the secrets of life beyond life. No friend or loved one can tell us how they were able to conquer death and there is no book of the 5 Habits of Highly Effective Zombies. So in the face of this, the one great equalizer of the human condition, we all are ignorant. And that ignorance can lead to denial or it can lead to despair. But the Bible offers us a better way.
Paul says that he does not want us to be ignorant. Not because he wants us to pass the great pop quiz in the sky, but he wants us to not be ignorant so that we will not sorrow like those who have no hope. And Paul's solution to keep us from being among the hopeless is theology. The assurance of God's Word is the only thing which matters because Jesus alone has walked through all the horror of death and come again a conqueror. When we sorrow we don't sorrow hopelessly because we have the word of God.
He tells us, by the authority of the Lord, that as surely as Jesus conquered death so "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." That same Jesus who died in our place and ascended up to heaven is coming again and when He comes again, He will bring our saved loved ones with Him. Of course, if God is bringing them with Him, He must have them already. There is no reason to sorrow hopelessly because they are not lost but safe in the arms of God. There is no reason to sorrow hopelessly because our separation from them is not final because we will be reunited.
So Paul's ultimate answer to the pain of ignorance is Scripture. He says in the face of death what we need is not a stiff upper lip or a science experiment, but he tells us, "Comfort one another with these words." It is the Bible! It is theology! When there can be no other knowledge we can hope in the face of the last enemy because God Himself tells us how He has conquered.
Discussion idea: If God's Word is the only source for the ultimate questions, how should we think about the areas where the world and God both offer counsel?
Possible discussion for older kids: How can someone be comforted when their loved one was unsaved?
Prayer focus: Pray that those who grieve would be comforted by the hope in Jesus.