Message for the Service of
James Larry Pitt

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Pastor Jeff Tague
February 23, 1999


Prelude - tape of Larry Pitt playing his guitar and singing:

Larry34c.jpg (4363 bytes) Mansion Over The Hilltop
I Saw The Light
Bye Bye Blues
How Long Has It Been
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
When The Saints Go Marching In
Just A Closer Walk With Thee
I Am A Pilgrim
In The Sweet Bye & Bye
Precious Memories
Amazing Grace
The Old Rugged Cross
I’ll Fly Away

Pastor Tague:

For those of you who didn’t know, Larry left a letter requesting certain songs to be played at his funeral, and he was playing those songs we just heard. I think he would get a kick out of getting to play the music for his own funeral. We are glad to honor that request.

I want to start the service with some scriptures Laura had mentioned to me that were special to her and Larry and, especially now in light of his passing, I hope will be an encouragement to us as we start.

John 16:33, Jesus speaking:

"These things I have spoken to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world."

Romans 8:18 says:

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

…and, I might add, which has been revealed in Larry.

2 Corinthians 4:17 says:

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

Larry’s faith has already become sight. Now we can only sing about and hope for what he knows first hand. In fact I was thinking of another song, "It Will Be Worth It All When We See Jesus". I kind of wonder if Larry is playing that right now. He knows first hand what that’s all about. Let’s have a word of prayer, as we begin our time.

Father, we thank you for taking care of Larry. Now our prayers are not for him, because he doesn’t need them anymore. Our prayers are for those he has left behind. While his death is what brings us together this afternoon, I ask that you help us, instead, to focus on life. Help us to focus on his life. Help us as we remember.

Father, I pray that you help us focus on the lives of those he touched, obviously a great number, as is evident by the size of the crowd here today. I pray that you help me to offer words of comfort. Father, we look to you in your Word and for your Holy Spirit of comfort to minister, and we thank you that you are the God of all comfort today.

Father, as we consider focusing on life in this service, I pray that you help us to go on with our lives. Help us to live, though, in the light of the fact that your Word says our life is just a vapor that appears for a time and vanishes away. None of us are assured of tomorrow. So I ask as we open your Book of Life, and we consider the truths about eternal life, that you guide and direct and use this time to minister to people beyond what I can. We commit this to you now, in Christ’s name. Amen.

It is customary at a funeral to read the obituary, and what was printed in the paper gave some of the basic facts. I don’t know if you have read this, but sometimes you learn a little bit. The paper said that Larry Pitt, 55, of Danville, died February 19. He was a manufacturing engineer for United Technologies, Carrier Corporation, for 26 years, and he was a member of Calvary Baptist Church, our church, in Plainfield. He is survived by his wife, Laura, his children Holly and Derek, his mother, Ruth Pitt, his sister, Jane Harrison, and his brother, Earl Ray Pitt.

Those seem like some cold, hard facts about his life, but there is much more to Larry’s life. I had the opportunity last night, and for the last couple of weeks, to talk and hear stories. I think everybody has a favorite ‘Larry’ story that they like to tell and remember him by. You probably can tell them better than I could, so I’m not going to try to tell anybody else’s stories this afternoon. A couple of scriptures come to mind as I think about Larry:

Psalm 116:15 says:

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

Revelation 14:13 says:

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."

That is what we do when we remember. Though Larry has passed on, his works follow and they remain. The results of them are still here. As I consider Larry’s life, I think his life preaches better than I could, and we can learn some things and follow his example. I want to remember with you for a few minutes. I want to encourage you to remember your own ‘Larry’ stories as I relate some of mine, as we learn from him and remember him together.

I guess there are four things that stand out to me about Larry’s life that I remember. First of all, Larry loved laughter. That was very, very obvious to anybody who knew him or spent any time at all with him. He loved to laugh. He would like to get you every now and then, if he could. He liked to get a "gotcha" in there.

I think of one time when Laura had been sick and missed church. Larry walked into the service and I walked up and said, "Is Laura here?" Larry got this hurt look on his face and he said, "Why is that the first question you always ask me. I know that she looks better than I do, but…," and I started back-pedaling and tripping over myself to explain - and then I saw that twinkle in his eye, and that grin came over his face and he said, "I’m just kiddin’ you." He got me.

He loved to laugh, he loved to make other people laugh, and Larry and Laura laughed at themselves. One time they had been gone out of town. We had our calling on Tuesday nights, and they returned from their trip that evening and showed up. I was getting other people sent out on calls, and finally Larry and Laura walked up and said, "We’re kind of tired, in fact we’re so tired we forgot what day it is. We thought it was Wednesday, and we’re here for prayer meeting. I said, "Well you go home and catch up, then." Larry got a kick out of that too - he loved to laugh whether it was at himself or with other people.

Some of you may have been his email friends. I got email from him at least once a day, a joke or story or something else that he wrote down for us. I couldn’t even begin to tell all the stories he told, but there was one I thought would be appropriate for us this morning. He sent me one titled "Kids Advice on Life". I won’t go through all of them, but the last one on the list was from an eight-year-old little girl who said, "Forget the cake, go for the icing." The reason I share that is because that leads me to the second thing that I think about Larry. He loved laughter, but he also loved life. I think that might be a good epitaph for Larry, "Forget the cake and go for the icing."

I was going through some of my old notes this morning. I had preached a sermon series called "With All Your Heart", and it just struck me - you know what? That fits Larry. Larry was a guy who lived life until he died. He enjoyed every minute of it and whatever he did, Larry did it with all his heart. Larry just loved life. Laura shared with me that with all of the physical problems they faced, Larry would say, "I’m not going to let this affect my life, it’s just another ripple in our pond."

Larry had been having trouble with his knees and with walking. Sometimes he’d use a walker or a cane - he was just going back and forth on things. One time Larry came into church and I asked, "Larry, how are you doing? Really, how are you doing?" Larry said, "I’ll tell you something, if I can’t run anymore, I’m going to walk, and if I can’t walk anymore, I’m going to crawl." He was not going to let anything stop him, and he was not going to let anything slow him down. He was just going to keep going.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a man with a better attitude about things in my life, and I appreciate that about Larry, and it’s something that still speaks to me. As a matter of fact, I thought of the verse in Proverbs that says, "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Medicine can’t explain what’s happened to Larry and how he’s bounced back so many times. Of course, God can, and God knows, but I think also there’s something to that about his attitude, about his merry heart, that did good for him like a medicine.

The next thing I think of when I consider Larry’s life and how it speaks to me - he loved laughter, and he loved life, but he also loved Laura. We could talk about how he loved his family, and I know he did. He would call me and say, "Hey, do you have lunch plans? Let’s go to Laughner’s." And we would go and talk and pray about his family.

Something that never struck me before until I talked to some of you was how much he loved his church family, how much our church meant to him. I always thought about it the other way, of how much he meant to us, and he did. I have said before to our church family, God is doing wonderful things in bringing us special people with unique contributions. I know Larry meant a lot to us, but I guess I just never took the time to think about the other side of it, that we meant a lot to him, too.

I know he loved his family, and I know he loved his church family, but I also know there was something special, there was something extra special, as there should be, in his love for Laura. There is a lot to be said for that, today. Especially in a day and age when I’m afraid men are not living up to their commitments and their responsibilities to their home and to their wife. Larry was a man who was deeply in love with, and committed to his wife, and that’s just a wonderful testimony and a wonderful example.

I’ve said to a few of you as I’ve had opportunity to speak with you, I don’t know that I’ve ever known any two people as much in love as Larry and Laura. It was obvious when you saw them together. One of the things I loved doing, actually, was watching Laura. Whether Larry was talking to her or somebody else, her face just glows, just beams. While I’m sure that says an awful lot about Laura, I’m equally sure that says as much about Larry and how well he treated her and how much he loved her.

I have heard it said before that for a while a woman has the face God gave her, and then for a while a woman has the face that cosmetics can give her, but after a while a woman has the face her husband gives her. When you look at Laura’s face, her countenance just beams, and I think that’s a wonderful testament also to Larry and his love and his commitment to her as a husband.

The fourth and the most important thing I think of - Larry loved laughter, he loved life, he loved Laura - and Larry loved his Lord. He was deeply committed to Jesus Christ, and I appreciate that about Larry, too. That’s something we can learn from him. I know that Larry was a man who was still growing and still learning, and still hungry to learn, asking questions, and growing in his relationship with Jesus Christ. That is something I deeply appreciate and something wonderful that we can all learn about.

In the hospital I had an opportunity to talk with Laura and she gave me one of the most precious, wonderful testimonies I have heard in a long time. We don’t know why God does everything he does, but Laura told me, "I think I know at least one reason why God has kept Larry alive this long through all of the health problems. I can see how He’s grown us together in our relationship with Jesus Christ and brought us to where we are right now."

Of course, none of us were hoping God was done with Larry here. None of us wanted that, but she said, "I know that he’s ready." We were hoping God wasn’t ready for Larry, but we knew Larry was ready to meet his God. That’s a wonderful testimony and a testament to Larry, and something we can all learn from.

Laura has also given me a letter that she asked me to read: Letter from Laura

I want to share a few closing thoughts to encourage and offer comfort and hope to the family from God’s word. As I considered all the prayers and all the time and all the energy that has been spent during Larry’s sickness, it struck me that I think God has already given us the opportunity to learn to trust more and more in His power. Many of us were hoping for and praying for God to heal Larry’s body, and of course we know that He is able to do that, but the verse that came to my mind is Ephesians 3:20:

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever, Amen."

God is able to do far beyond what we asked or thought, and He did. You see, God not only healed Larry’s body - make no mistake, Larry is better now than he’s ever been. No more pain, no more aches, no more suffering - none of that. The former things passed away. Larry is better than he’s ever been, but God not only healed him physically, God did one of the most amazing and powerful acts that He ever does - when He makes somebody’s salvation complete and final.

You see, the Bible says that right now it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know this, when we see Him, we shall be like Him. God not only healed and changed Larry physically, but there is now a spiritual wholeness for Larry. Not only is there no more pain, for Larry there is no more sin. He is glorified. The most amazing act of God’s power has been performed in Larry’s life. We have been trusting in God’s power to touch his body, but now we have an opportunity and a stretching, growing experience of our faith to say, "God, you knew better than we knew. We asked you to leave him here, but you knew better.

And so we have an opportunity to trust God’s wisdom, and that is a stretching, growing faith that we have to have. And by the way, a strong faith doesn’t mean that we don’t ask the questions. Even John the Baptist, who Jesus said was the greatest man who ever lived, asked questions. But his faith remained solid. So it’s okay to wonder and to ask, but that faith remains steadfast in the person of God, and in His wisdom. The scripture says this about the wisdom of God:

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out."

Isaiah 55 says that His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts - they’re higher, they’re greater, they’re better. In that infinite higher wisdom, God has done what was good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

It’s easy for us to see how this is good for Larry. He’s okay now. It’s a little more difficult for us to see how this is good for us who are left behind. That’s why we have to trust His wisdom to know what’s best, not only for Larry, but for us. God is giving us an opportunity to stretch and grow in our faith so that we are not only trusting His power, and we are not only trusting His wisdom to know what’s best, but we’re also trusting His righteousness to do what’s right.

Abraham asked the question in Genesis 18, "Shall not the judge of the whole earth do right?" The answer to that question is a resounding and unequivocal, "Yes!" God will do what’s right, though we may not understand it, and it may not make sense to us. We have opportunity to trust that God always does what is right according to that perfect wisdom that He has.

And then we have opportunity to trust God’s love. Listen to the words of Romans 8:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword? Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, angels nor principalities nor powers, not things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."

We can rest certain that Larry’s death has not separated him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. And we can rest certain that Larry’s death has not separated us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. We just have a greater opportunity, though we may not understand it, to trust. Trust His power, trust His wisdom, trust His righteousness, trust His love.

You see, biblical faith, trust in God, does not mean we just get to pick and choose which attributes we like. All of God’s attributes always work together in perfect harmony. His love never operates apart from His wisdom, His wisdom never operates apart from His righteousness, and none of these operate apart from His power. Trusting God does not mean we just trust His power to heal, it means we trust Him in all of who He is. That’s what God is stretching us, and growing us, and teaching us through Larry’s death.

Laura made a special request and I know if Larry were here, he would make the same request. That is to encourage you not only to trust God when it comes to this specific situation of Larry’s death - and certainly we need to exercise faith when it comes to trusting in God that He knew what He was doing in taking Larry home. But there’s a much bigger picture, a much more important issue to be confronted.

As I said in my prayer, we ought to be confronted with the recognition that Larry was only 55 years old, and - we never know. We are not certain of tomorrow. My question is not just, "Do you trust God in what He’s done with Larry and with Laura and with this family?" Laura asked me to encourage you also to trust God when it comes to your eternal destiny. I know that would be Larry’s heart. I know what he would say if he were here. He would want us all to be ready.

You see, when it comes to our eternal destiny, and our salvation, those very same things that I just mentioned about Larry’s death come into play. Do you trust the power of God? I can tell you this, He alone is able, is powerful to save you.

Do you trust in the wisdom of God? In God’s incredible wisdom He devised a way, through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for us to go to Heaven. It’s the only way, in the infinite wisdom of God. That’s why the Bible says, "nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved." In the wisdom of God, it’s only through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." The reason I have confidence that Larry is in Heaven right now is not because he was a good guy. He was. But that’s not why I know he’s in Heaven. He’s in Heaven because of Jesus Christ, and that’s the only reason.

For salvation we trust His wisdom, we trust His power to save, we trust His righteousness. He is righteous to save. We trust His love. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. I know that would be Larry’s desire. Laura told me that’s her desire for everyone here.

God is giving us the opportunity to stretch and grow in our faith, to trust Him in all areas. Not just when it comes to these temporal issues, the passing of a loved one, but when it comes to our eternal lives, our eternal souls, are we trusting in Him? Would you join me right now as I close in prayer.

Father, I do thank you again for Larry’s life. I thank you for the impact it has had on so many people. Lord, I pray now, even in his death, that Christ will be magnified. Lord, we are mindful of Paul’s words. He said, "Whether by life or by death, Christ shall be magnified in my body, for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Lord, we rejoice that for Larry, to live was Christ, but now death is a wonderful gain for him.

Father, I pray for those here. I pray, God, for two things. I pray first of all that you give us strength to go on living. I pray especially for Laura, for Larry’s children, for Larry’s Mom, his brother and sister, and all of his loved ones. Lord I pray you would help us to move forward from here, not forgetting Larry of course but, Lord, going on now. Lord I pray also that you give us the wisdom to prepare for dying. We ask these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I don’t have the opportunity to do the committal at the graveside since that’s going to be in Tennessee. There is something I often do and I have decided to do it here. I want to offer these three flowers as a reminder and a committal right now. With Larry I want to commit, first of all, this red flower to represent the blood of Jesus Christ. The Bible says the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses us from all sin. And then I want to offer this white flower, because the Bible says, "wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow". The blood of Jesus Christ is what cleansed Larry and made him righteous in the eyes of God and saved his soul. Larry was whiter than snow. And then, lastly, this yellow flower to represent the streets of gold on which Larry now walks. God invites everybody to receive Christ so that we may one day walk there, too.