Evangelist Greg Laurie said he "invited himself" to speak in place of Rick Warren at Sadddleback Church's weekend worship services, because he understands the need to mourn as he has also lost his son to a car accident five years ago.
Saddleback Church is scheduled to have a list of church leaders preaching in the following weekend services, including Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, Peter Wilson, David Platt, Craig Groeschel, Wilfredo De Jesus, and Doug Fields. They will address the question, WWhat does it mean to follow Jesus?" Chan will preach next weekend to the 12,000 member church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Laurie, whose son Christopher died at age 33 in a car accident five years ago, said, “I can’t say I know what Rick and Kay are going through. The circumstances are different, but the pain is the same. I believe that Matthew Warren is in heaven now.”
“From experience in losing a child, it is your worst nightmare. To pick a funeral and a casket for your child is beyond words,” he said.
Warren’s son Matthew committed suicide at his home in Mission Viejo, Calif., from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 5. Warren and his wife, Kay, have remained out of the public spotlight since the announcement of this tragedy.
“As a pastor, I was a little bit too quick to lay out the Bible verses. When a tragedy happens, people ask the question why,” he said. “The Bible says to weep with those who weep. It doesn’t say to rejoice with those who weep. Don’t tell people don’t weep and don’t be sorrowful. The Bible says there is a time to mourn. You have to mourn in order to heal.”
Laurie continued, “Steven Curtis Chapman, who lost his daughter, said the best thing that was said to him is that ‘There are no words. I’m sorry and know that we are praying for you.’”
“Grief is like getting wiped out in a wave,” he explained. “You know how disorienting it is when you go over the fall.” Some people get so disoriented that they swim down instead of up and gets drowned, he said. The correct thing to do is to grab onto the leash that is connected to your ankle and it will lead you to the surface where the buoyant is.
“That leash is the Bible,” said Laurie. “When something tragic happens, lean onto the Lord. We will hope in God who sustains us. God can be glorified through tragedies.”
“I am here today as a grieving father encouraging another grieving father. Nobody gets a pass. Christians have things happen to them that are inexplicable,” he said. “When things happen, we ask, ‘why me?’ But the better question is ‘why not me?’ The rain falls on the just and the unjust, but God still loves you.”
Laurie preached on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. He said like Mary and Martha who cried when they found out that their brother Lazarus has died, it is hard for us to see the eternal perspective through eyes of tears when hardship hits.
“God looks at the big picture, but we look at the small picture. We’re interested in what will make us happy, but God is interested in what will make us holy,” said the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Church of Riverside. “When you are going through something heavy, God is preparing us for heaven.”
“There are some things that will happen to be bad things that will always be bad things. Here is the promise, despite this bad thing, God will do good thing. When we get to heaven, it’s all going to make sense. We’re going to see in God’s perspective,” he said.
Some people tell Laurie that they lose their faith over their marriage falling apart, losing a child, or a child going prodigal. Yet, Laurie retorted, “It is good that you lose your faith over these things, because true and genuine faith should be tested. If your faith is real and genuine, it will only get stronger.”
Laurie then said it is okay to be honest before God, brining questions and complaints. He gave examples from the book of Psalms and from the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, where Jesus called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
A while back, Laurie visited his son’s tombstone and started thinking that he is never going to see his son again despite his belief in the resurrection and faith in Jesus, but that was when he started preaching to himself, “There is going to be a reunion in heaven. God is in control.”
While it didn’t take his pain away, he said, it did help him get his eternal perspective. “I urge you to doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs.”
He continued, “God can be glorified through human suffering and can bring good out of bad.” He quoted Romans 5, verse 3. “Through hardship, we develop hope. Hope grows in the garden of adversity.”
Rick Warren said in a recent video produced after his son’s death, “I’m fearless now.” Laurie said he completely understand what he meant. After his son’s death, Laurie said he wanted to do things that he has not done before. He wanted to expand the capacity of his ministry to reach more people with the gospel. He said he is not afraid of dying.
Laurie then defined the acronym for HOPE, which means ‘Holding On with Patient Expectations.’ It is the knowledge that all things will be resolved one day, he said, and everything will make sense.
“Death is not the end, for death has been defeated when Christ rose from the grave,” he said.
Laurie said that Jesus was beside Christopher when he died, he was beside Matthew when he died, for Jesus has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He then asked the congregation, “Did you come here today feeling hopeful or hopeless?”
He then commented on the recent terrorist attack in Boston, where “two young men effectively brought one of the great American cities to a standstill," Iran threatening to use nuclear weapons against Israel and United States, and North Korea threatening to use it against the United States.” He then paused briefly and said, “Gangnam Style,” to which he received much laughter.
Laurie will be speaking in Washington D.C. during the National Day of Prayer on May 2.
“So, here’s the thing, are we going to put our hope in our politicians? [Or] are we going to put our hope into acknowledging the only place where we can legitimately place our hope and that is in God? Like never before, America needs to turn back to God,” he said.
“America needs to turn back to God and we need to pray for God’s blessing on our nation. The church needs revival and the world needs evangelism,” he said. “As we pray for our nation we can pray for those in power and we should, but let’s start by praying for ourselves.”