8 September 2009 – Funeral Message for Greg Storey

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Funeral Message – Greg Storey

 

Many of you have known Greg Storey for a long time and you have loved him. The photos from before give us snapshots of a rich life in the midst of a most amazing family and a wife – Mandy – who was with him to the end. This means something in our time. Only death would separate them and that only for a while because Greg knew where he was going and one day the entire family can be and – by the grace of God – will be – united again in heaven – eternity with our God. All of us here – we are on earth only a fleeting moment which is the time where we prepare for eternity. Are you prepared?

In this message I cannot do justice to everything that happened in Greg’s life. However, I can and will focus on the last twenty months which are leaving a legacy for all of us today. I, for one, will never forget him. At the beginning of last year some branches of the extended Storey family found their way into our church – Living Grace. Greg’s brother – Bruce – was the one that told Greg to try out this Lutheran church but at the time he wasn’t interested. (Why come to a Lutheran church?) However, he and the family did not settle in any other congregation and therefore – one day – they did come to Living Grace and – according to their testimony – they just knew that they were home.

They kept coming which surprised me. Last year Living Grace was going through some internal conflict over the direction of the church. Who would want to join a community in a time of turmoil? However, a few months into the year Greg and I were both waiting for our girls in the COC carpark and we had a chat. Again – he surprised me and encouraged me. He had a handle on what was going on in the church, was secure and positive, and not going to be swayed by anything. He saw what he saw and he knew what he knew. There was leadership in him. He was a bit of a character too.

Then – later again – Bruce – the brother – came with a testimony of healing from Diabetes. He no longer needed injections. This was a wonderful testimony. There was something happening with the Storeys. Everything began to settle and in the beginning of 2009 the church was feeling like the people of Israel when they came out of the desert to enter the promised land. There was a feeling that we would step out into something new – starting to possess the fullness of God’s promises. I had just completed a series of six messages on divine healing. It took me one and a half years to preach these six sermons. I was glad when I was able to pack away the books and I thought that I was ready for what would be coming next.

What came next was that Greg was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. There was so much yellow in his eyes. This was a shock. He was too young. He had a young family. And then the question: How would we handle this as a church? Over the last one and a half years – with God clearly prompting me – I had immersed myself in the Bible promises on healing and how important healing miracles were to the proclamation of the kingdom of God. In the Bible when Jesus or the disciples were preaching, they always healed people and Jesus gave the church this simple instruction – Matthew 10:7-8: “As you go preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick … cleanse those who have leprosy … ” Jesus himself never ever said “no” to a single healing request and he promised – John 14:12: “ … anyone who has faith in me … will do even greater things … ” The Bible was clear and the challenge was not to reduce the standard of the Bible to the level of my own experience but now there was Greg and he had cancer. What were we to do?

Who is getting healed of cancer? Could we not just begin and pray for a few headaches first and stomach pains and the flu? God, did it have to be cancer? Everyone will say that we are crazy – religious nuts – extreme – unbalanced – uncaring. You do not raise the expectations of a man that suffers from cancer because you just set him up for certain failure – an even bigger disappointment – because (as everyone seems to know) the disease of cancer is terminal – this is according to medical science – and Greg was only given another three to six months to live.

Yet, God was so clear: “I made you preach on this and I made you burn for this and now will you not act on my WordI was so nervous. I didn’t need any more conflict – with anyone – but this is precisely where God used Greg – a man like him – to give leadership to his church. I talked to Greg – and Mandy – and shared what was on my heart. What did he want to do? He was prepared to have faith and to fight and to have a church rising up behind him. And over the last eight months he was remarkable. There was no wavering. In moments of extreme pain he would tell God to either take him or heal him, but he never wavered in his commitment to believe for healing. There were times when tears would come but no self-pity. There was absolute commitment to press into God – more and more.

For us – Living Grace and maybe also for others here – this was a first for us – to be so public and bold in having faith for healing. I was so anxious but Greg was strong and we needed his strength – especially towards the end. We needed him to say that there was no going back on the promises of God. [You may say that he was in denial but I do not think so. The messages from the doctors were loud and clear and the pain was also speaking a clear message. But there is a contending for the promises of God and he encouraged us – he encouraged me – not to give up. I will never forget him and the way he broke new ground for us.]

The defining moment came when we identified the battle with Greg’s cancer as our “Jericho” – the city where the people of God won their first victory in the promised land. This was our first battle in a time of new beginnings and there was this understanding that God made this strategic. On the eighth of February (2009) – again with the permission and encouragement of Greg – the entire church stepped out into some crazy behaviour of faith. Taking our lead from the way Jericho was conquered – at the end of the worship service the men of the congregation came out from their pews and circled the entire seating area of the church – with Greg and Mandy in the middle – seven times – with worship banners in the hand. This took quite some time. Just picture us. Solemn – determined – old and young – acting on the promises of God in a crazy fashion – and then – once the seven rounds were completed – we had a trumpet blast and – like the people of Israel before Jericho – we shouted at the walls of Greg’s cancer. I did not know how the congregation would take to this but the shout was long – long and loud and passionate. And the presence of God was so strong.

And God responded – almost immediately. Three weeks later Greg gave a testimony in church (available on the net: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org). He reaffirmed his whole-hearted support in believing for his healing. Jesus was his only hope. He thanked the church for being a fool for Jesus and having no fear of man when we did our Jericho march and shouted like crazy people. He confirmed that the whole affair had become rather public. He said: “Christians in town know about itGreg also shared how much he was touched by the love that was shown to him. When I was listening again to all of his testimonies, this came through so clearly. Greg felt loved by those around him and it meant so much to him.

Then he shared that last Sunday he was crook (stomach pain – lying down like a sick calf). He said to God: “I am pathetic. I don’t feel well enough to read the Bible and pray. Lord, please help meHe fell asleep. On Monday he looked forward to Jesus and the Word. He prayed for the Holy Spirit to inspire the reading of the Bible which happened because – after this time with God – Greg felt so satisfied. He said that it was like having a big meal. He felt that he was in love with Jesus – a young fresh love. He couldn’t stop smiling. It was so nice to go to bed with Jesus.

The night before – and here I am not completely sure of the sequence of events – but he read Hebrews (in the Bible), went outside, sat on a chair meditating on God, said very little, just enjoyed God, went back inside, finished reading Hebrews, sat meditating on God – the words were being absorbed in his spirit. Felt the Spirit moving. He sat outside again, looked at the stars, started to love and adore God, said to Jesus how much he loved him, heaped as much praise on him as he could with his whole heart – how God put his stars in order perfectly. He began to tremble. The whole body was shaking. He never had an experience like this. He was not afraid. God was visiting him. The bedroom light was on. He thought that he better kiss Mandy good-night but she told him that he had done this already one and a half hours ago.

Greg had a bath, sat in the bath, put his head down and then started crying like a child. Suddenly – he repented (never bothered spending time asking and receiving) and spent time asking for all the riches and glorious inheritance that is made available to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Greg repented of so much – lack of love, no compassion, no mercy, no forgiveness, no time, no healing. The list went on and on. He said to God that he had missed out on so much because of laziness but he would make up for that. He promised to search God with a whole heart. There was weeping before God. Why was I crying like this? God told him: “All the people that are praying. No wonder can I work with you like this

After reading a couple of things in James he kept repenting. He had wasted money on the pleasures of the world and went after the world but God spoke to him from the Bible: “If you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of mineGreg repented of that. When he went outside, God revealed to him that he had healed his inner man – his spirit man – which released Greg in giving him all the glory and praise. God was worthy and lifted him. Then – as early as he could – Greg rang me and shared the whole experience with me – and then (more importantly) his family (there is a journal for the family) and the church. At that time he passed on what God had told him: “First the healing of the spiritual man and then the physical man

One week later Greg gave us another update and he spoke of an almost continual love-affair which he had with Jesus. He was so hungry to be filled with all the fullness of God and God filled him – to the brim. He asked for all of the spiritual gifts and began receiving some of them. At the same time God had led the congregation into something else that was new to us – fasting. We prayed and also fasted for the healing of Greg. Again – he and the family felt loved.

More good news was coming. The cancerous lesions to the kidneys and livers disappeared. The tumor on the pancreas shrunk by half and then also disappeared. God was on the move and after the healing of the inner man we were now excited about the healing of the physical man.

The good news defied any medical expectations but – in the long run – the good news would turn into bad news and there would be a prolonged downward spiral of much pain, infections, blood poisoning, more pain, a wasting away and then – finally – the end of his life on earth at St Vincent’s hospital.

Last week – seeing him in hospital – with pain – just skin and bones – crushed me. You just feel like crying and I began to have a few issues with God. “Why did he not heal Greg? Why did you take Greg from his young family? Where is the healing of the physical man? God, look at the children. God, you made us step out in believing for his healing. We looked like fools back then and we look like even bigger fools now[And by the way only a few weeks ago this worship building was packed for the funeral of Lewis Moss – a sixteen-year-old student of the Christian Outreach College. So many of us had also prayed for his healing and in the very same week of his funeral I was teaching six nights on healing at Toowoomba City Church. How foolish did this look – Christians believing in a healing God and then thousands of prayers remain unanswered in the case of Lewis.] In Greg’s own experience even Christians (his words now) would go strangely quiet when he told them that it was God’s will to heal him. “God, why did you not keep your word.”

For the first few days I could not be comforted. A fellow pastor tried but I told him: “I know all the things to say to let God off the hook but I am not readyAn important breakthrough for me came (and I pray that sharing from my perspective will also help you) when I talked with Mandy on the night before Greg died. We happened to be on our own in the hospital corridor and Mandy was sharing more of what happened in Greg’s and her life. I began to understand more fully how much God had poured out his love on Greg and Mandy over the last eight months. So much had changed in Greg. The healing of the inner man was something deep and beautiful and life transforming.

Mandy also told me that right from the beginning God revealed to her that Greg would not make it. He would die. At the same time she said that we – the church – I – Greg – had to be obedient to what God was telling us and she kept this to herself. I believed her – that God spoke to her about Greg’s dying and in this way prepared her for this time because God is giving her so much strength right now.

From that night I gave up being offended with God. I did not understand what was going on but the goodness of God is not dependent on my level of understanding. He had loved Greg and loves him still. Greg had talked about and experienced a continuous love-affair with Jesus. Right to the end he was filled with hope and a certain knowledge of God who was his friend and Saviour. I gave up doubting the goodness of God. God who did not spare his Son but gave him for us all on the cross, he would never disappoint us.

Then – slowly – I could see that God did a lasting work here. 1. (And this is probably closest to Greg’s heart and so important today.) God made Greg finish well and thus allowed him to leave a rich legacy for his children. God healed Greg’s inner man – also for his sons and daughters. There is an inheritance of faith and glory which you – David & Karen, Jess & Lachlan, Chloe, Alana, Cassandra, Robertson and William – can step into. God made your dad show you the way and he wants to be reunited with you one day in heaven – so that you can be as happy as he is right now.

2. God used Greg to lead our church into believing for the healing of cancer. God set the bar high – the word “cancer” strikes fear into any healing ministry – but Greg never wavered in his commitment to have complete faith in God. There was no self-pity, no regrets, no wishing that we had kept quiet, no embarrassment in the end and therefore we may have lost this round with the disease but we will keep going – we will keep aiming high – all the while growing in spiritual authority, faith and the power of holiness. We will keep closing the gap between what people received when they came to Jesus and what people will receive when they come to us.

Earlier in the year I also read the biography of Rees Howells – which our leadership board is reading at the moment – and even last Friday – independent from this – another church member drew my attention to his stepping out in faith for a consumptive woman. She also died but then God revealed why: “’It was after that the Holy Ghost revealed why it had been necessary to take this case – that no flesh should glory in his presence. In a great position like this, God would not be free to use it through a person who had not first ‘died’ to it. It is death first and then resurrection. As the first-born and the first-fruits were to be given back to the Lord, so the first case of healing, the first-fruits of this intercession, belonged to the Lord and had to go to the altar” (Norman Grubb: Rees Howells Intercessor, Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press 1952, p84-85). God is testing us – humbling us – building perseverance into us – so that we would operate in healing to his glory – and not ours.

3. Greg died but we pray for a ten-fold return of blessings for his passing. At the hospital I mentioned to Mandy – and I don’t know why this went through my head – that the missionary Reinhard Bonnke was kept out of Nigeria for ten years. After ten years of banishment from this country he was allowed back in and then he prayed: “Devil, you kept me out of Nigeria for ten years and I demand an interest payment for every year that I was kept out – a tenfold return of blessingsGod listened and the first meeting in Nigeria broke all previous attendance records. 1,7 million people came. 1,1 million people filled out commitment cards to Jesus Christ. Our prayer is now that the same ten-fold increase of blessings – for his family – (for the church) – will come out of Greg’s obedience and sacrifice. May there be financial provisions. May the business sell for a good price. May the family prosper in every respect.

I close with the Bible reading which Greg chose two days before he died – for his last celebration of Holy Communion – Romans 8:18-21: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God

In the end Greg knew that he would die but he would be more than okay. I repeat one Bible verse – what Greg knew in his heart: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in usGreg is in glory now. He is continuing his love-affair with Jesus (who died for him on the cross) – with no pain – and so much joy. If you are here and you are not yet a Christian, may you – one day – know the truth as surely as he did. This is for all of us: “ … our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in usAmen.