For those who might be interested, here is a transcript of the sermon I preached at my brother Jimmy’s funeral.

Funeral Message for Jimmy Stallard
by Mike Stallard
Calvary Baptist Church, Smyrna, Georgia
March 16, 2018

Note: I preached this sermon from an outline except for the opening statement. I have written it here from memory the best I could trying to fill in the details and smoothing things over with a few additions. It was by far the hardest sermon I ever preached. But a young girl raised her hand at the end saying that she had prayed to receive Christ. I know Jimmy is happy about that right now. I am grateful for the large crowd that filled the church that day. The congregation ministered to my family more than they know.

They say that I look like Jimmy. Even my mannerisms and voice are like Jimmy’s. I’ll try not to spook you out. I wish I could be anywhere but here. I wish I did not have to do this message. If I could, I would give a kidney and a lung to my brother if only he could be the one standing here instead of me.

Death is obscene. It is a great enemy. Unless the Lord comes back, death will take us all down. BUT, death is a defeated enemy, a defeated foe because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. If you know Christ, you will hug Jimmy’s neck again. So many suggest that the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity are irrelevant for our modern times. They are wrong. At this moment, our faith is the most relevant in this cruel world.

Memories of Jimmy
Stephen, you did a good job of talking about your Dad. I’ll say a few words about Jimmy and then share some Scripture.

As the family was waiting to come in, my Mom reminded me of her Facebook post: “Mike and Jimmy are in a relationship with gravy and biscuits.”

When Jimmy and I were saved at West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, we began to notice a young girl named Eileen. We actually talked to each other about which one of us would ask her out for a date. After things were serious between Jimmy and Eileen (who became his wife), Jimmy and I concocted a humorous story to tell her which we used for a few years from time to time. We told her that Jimmy and I flipped a coin — and Jimmy lost!

I remember a time in Eufaula, Alabama along about the second grade. Jimmy and I played our guitars in front of a filled high-school gym in an elementary school program. Together we sang the old Burl Ives sad love song “A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down.” The applause was so long that we did not get to do the second song we were scheduled to play and sing. Mom and Dad were proud of their boys that day.

I remember the Stallard Fantasy Baseball League from 1966 to 1970. Jimmy was the American League. I was the National League. We used Strato-Matic Baseball as Stephen mentioned. We played whiffle ball in the driveway and yard to do the league games. We kept meticulous and complete statistics. Hank Aaron led in homeruns in our league as he should have as we tried to make things realistic.

We also loved bowling. What many of you may not know is that Jimmy represented the state of Alabama in 1971 in a bowling for college scholarships in Washington, D. C. I was proud of him and bowling was one of the great joys of our youth.

But not all memories are good. The only person I ever had a fist fight with in the world was my brother Jimmy. One time – I think I was around 11 years old – I got so mad at him that I picked up a pencil to stab him. But in my haste and anger, I picked up the wrong end of the pencil! I stabbed him with the eraser. It did not have the desired effect. I was holding the lead end in my hand. When I stabbed Jimmy, it drove the lead end of the pencil into the palm of my hand. To this day, I have a lead coloration mark in the palm of my hand that reminds me of the dangers of arguing. It also reminds me of Jimmy.

But the greatest memory you already know at this church. We shared the walk on the road to salvation. I have told this story almost every week since August of 1974. All over the world I have shared this marvelous testimony. Jimmy and I were impacted by the television ministry of Billy Graham when we were teenagers. He was about the only preacher we would listen to. After our junior year of college at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, sometime probably late May 1974, we began to search for a church that sounded like Billy Graham. That is the best way we could describe it. It was probably Jimmy’s idea that we do this. We had started reading the Bible and I was hungry to understand it but felt like it was a closed book to me. So we began to visit different churches (not many). One church we went to had fine people. But when the preacher said, “Let’s pray,” they all did. Everyone in the church prayed out loud their own prayer. Jimmy and I, of course, were not used to this, so we looked up at each other and whispered, “This isn’t Billy Graham.” We eventually ended up at the West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. We sat on the back row. We didn’t know we were Baptists already! The preacher Sam Wolfe was going verse by verse in the book of Exodus. The music, Eileen you remember Brother Lloyd, was wonderful! I was ecstatic. Felt like I had arrived at the right place. On the way home after church, Jimmy and I talked things over. We came back the next week and sat on the next to last row. For most of the summer, we came back and moved up in the rows of the church as we searched and talked about what we were hearing. Finally, we were on the right side of the auditorium on the third row. Pastor Wolfe lingered that day with a come forward Billy Graham-like invitation. He talked to us directly from the pulpit around the eighth stanza of “Out of my sorrow, bondage and strife, Jesus I come, Jesus I come.” I trusted Christ right there on the third row. I wanted to go forward and tell them, but I did not want to go alone. I reached out to get Jimmy to go with me, but as I did, I bumped into his arm – he was at the same time reaching out to get me to go with him. So having trusted Christ on the third row, we walked down the aisle twins in the Lord! The day was August 18, 1974. It changed our lives – both the direction of this life and our eternal destiny. Walking down an aisle does not save. It was trusting Christ that saved. It is a day I will never forget.

As the Lord worked in our lives, we went into ministry, Jimmy a little before me. We studied in seminary, pastored churches, and taught classes at the seminary level. In fact, Jimmy was such a good evangelist and a trainer of others in evangelism. Noticing that, when I was dean of Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, I asked him to teach a class on personal evangelism in the postmodern age. The student reviews were overwhelmingly positive and he impacted the thinking of young men for evangelistic ministry.

That is why Jimmy would want me to share the gospel with you today. If I did not share the gospel of eternal life, Jimmy would step out onto the balcony of heaven and throw some sharp pencils down at me!

Gospel Message
I have a simple three point message. I’ll try to do like Jimmy. When he spoke there was great clarity and simplicity. In speaking here, I am using the Bible (KJV) that my parents gave me in December 1960 when I was seven years old. Jimmy was given one just like it.

1. You are saved by the gospel of eternal life (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
By the word saved, we mean delivered or rescued from the penalty for our sin. By the word gospel, we mean the good news that Jesus came to die in our place so that we could have eternal, forever life. In 1 Cor. 15:1-2, the Apostle Paul taught that “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved.” It is the gospel which saves. Nothing else saves the soul from the penalty upon sin. But what is the content of the gospel? Later in verses 3-4, the Bible tells us: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (think Isaiah 53), and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (think Psalm 16).” The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us. But the passage here does not tell us how this wonderful truth is applied to us although faith is hinted at in the context. We certainly know from earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that baptism is not the way to get saved. Paul told the Corinthians that God sent him “not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” He separated water baptism from the gospel. And it is the gospel that saves the soul. But how is this gospel applied to our souls?

2. There are no braggers in heaven (Rom. 4:1-5)
The second point I believe was also argued strongly by my brother Jimmy. When Jimmy’s spirit last Monday stepped into eternity, he did not go through the gates of heaven and announce that he deserved to be there. Far from it! There are no braggers in heaven. There is no human being there who can say I’m here in heaven because I deserve to be, because I’m good enough. In fact, I often say it for shock value: “If you believe you deserve to go to heaven, you’re not going there.” The only people in heaven are those who have admitted to God they aren’t good enough and have cast themselves at his feet for mercy. Romans 4 gives us the truth: “What shall we say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.” The word justified means declared innocent or not guilty of your sins. In other words, if Abraham could be justified by works, he could glory or brag about himself. But the text is clear: “but not before God.” The next verse (v. 3) says that Abraham was saved or justified by faith: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” [from Genesis 15:6]. A further explanation is given in verses 4-5. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” In other words, if one could be saved by good deeds, then God owes him something, but the passage says that God justifies the ungodly (without works) not the godly (with works).
There are two kinds of people who say they follow Christ: those who say you get to heaven by doing; those who say you get to heaven by believing or putting your faith in God through Christ. Most of those who believe that you get to heaven by doing usually believe that a person only needs more good than bad to be forgiven by God. They miss the passage in James 2:10 that to break the law in one point makes you guilty of all the law. When you stand before God, he is not going to ask you how many laws you have broken. He is going to ask you if you have ever broken His law. The standard to get into heaven is not more good than bad. It is perfection. We can’t have a single sin on our soul. That is why salvation is by grace through faith. You could never do enough good deeds to buy one splinter of the cross Jesus died on. But there is a Great Swap. Jesus took our sins on the Cross. If we trust Him, we get his righteousness or perfect record so we can meet God. This is a great deal and one that is free through faith in Jesus.
But some of you may still be in doubt because you are not sure that God could forgive you for all you’ve done. You feel overwhelmed by your sin. I think my brother Jimmy would say one more thing for you.

3. God loves you (John 3:16)
In the most famous verse in the entire Bible, it says “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I believe the word world means all people who have ever lived. But you might say this is a general truth like when we pray for all the missionaries and don’t really pray for individual missionaries by name in light of their needs. God is not like that. In Revelation 2:17 in the letter to the church at Pergamos, the Bible says that in his coming kingdom, he is going to give those who overcome (those who have faith) a stone with a new name only known to God and the one He gives it to. In other words, each of us has a secret for eternity, one on one with God. If I forget and tell my brother Jimmy my secret name, God will have to give me another one. The secret name is something he wants to share with you and only you forever. God loves you as an individual. He has you in mind and heart when he loves. In fact, the destiny he has laid out for all those who believe shows his great love: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). God can and will save you if you trust Him no matter what you have done.

I believe Jimmy would be pleased with an invitation. I’ll not embarrass anyone or point you out. Please bow your heads and close your eyes. But if you don’t know the Lord or are not sure of your salvation and these words have spoken to your heart and mind, would you pray this prayer: “Lord, I acknowledge to you that I am a sinner. I cannot save myself. Right now I trust Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, to save my soul. I trust Him as my Savior. Thank you for saving my soul and help me to live for you.” If you prayed that prayer, would you lift your hand so I can see it? Thank you.

One person raised their hand.

Closing Prayer