You’ll find below my sermon notes from the eulogy delivered at my grandfather’s funeral on May 9, 2014. I share them for posterity, to let people know more about the greatest man I ever knew, and in hopes that one day my children can look back at this report and learn more about a man who loved them to the moon and back.
In my mind, James Ingram was the personification of the fruit of the spirit. Each word penned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian church describes him so well.
Galatians 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
I can only testify about my grandfather from my own perspective with the knowledge that grandchildren have a special vantage point. By the time we meet our grandparents, they’ve made most of their mistakes and learned most of their life lessons. I never knew the soldier. I never knew the medic. I never knew the constructions worker. I just knew him as Grandaddy.
Some of my earliest childhood memories come from spending time with my Grandaddy. He was my ride to school in the mornings when my sister and I were in elementary school at Pisgah. Then he would pick me up on Saturday mornings and we would go up to Ford’s restaurant in Henagar for breakfast.
Grandaddy served faithfully at Happy Home Baptist Church as a treasurer and deacon for fifty-five years. He would always let me tag along to fill up the baptistry or put out the new Sunday School literature once a quarter. After church on Sunday afternoons he went to his study to add up the morning offering using his old manual adding machine. He would type in the numbers and let me pull the big lever to produce a total. Grandaddy was great with money and I would always ask for pennies for my birthday or Christmas so we could spend time counting them all out and rolling them (it was only later than I learned that 1,000 pennies wasn’t that much money).
He was so good with numbers and puzzles and counting. If you ever played cards with you him you knew that. Grandmother would pretend to drop something so she could look at your hand, but Grandaddy knew exactly which cards had been played and which cards were still in the deck. They’d never let him play in Vegas.
In the past few days many people have remarked how quiet my grandfather was, and that’s true, but when he did talk people listened. There were a few occasions when he would get a far away look in his eye and start talking, recalling his childhood or his time in the Army serving in Korea. We learned to just drop everything that we were doing and listen.
Just a few weeks ago after lunch one Sunday he started telling us about riding his bike all over Dutton, Alabama when he was a boy. He told us about cruising off the mountain on Hwy 35 to Scottsboro and trying to get all the way to the bottom without pedaling. After his first time riding back up the mountain he figured out that you better catch a ride back up in a pickup truck or you’d be so sore you couldn’t ride your bike for a week.
That same day Grandaddy told us about getting a little older and riding a horse. He loved his horse because you could stay at a friend’s house till after dark and when it was time to go home, the horse knew how to get there by himself. Grandaddy could just hop on and get the horse started and he would go all the way to his stall in the barn.
I loved hearing him tell stories about serving in the Army; stories of God’s faithfulness and protection. Many of you have heard my grandfather share his testimony about being wounded in battle during the Korean War and missing his chance to go on leave for a week. He was stuck in a military hospital, but God used those circumstances to spare his life. The flight he missed went down on it’s way to Japan. Ninety-nine soldiers died that day, but his life was spared. He carried those battle scars for the rest of his life as a reminder of God’s grace and mercy.
God has also spared Grandaddy’s life several times in the past few years. He has been been on dialysis and oxygen for the last four years, but his health really began to deteriorate about ten years ago. At that time Grandaddy told us that he just wanted to live long enough to see my oldest son, Titus, turn five years old. Not only did God grant that request, but He gave him a double portion. Titus turned ten years old this January. Grandaddy was also able to spend time with three more great-grand children: Solomon York, Evelyn Reed, and Matthew James Reed, who bears his name.
Now, I would do you a disservice this morning if I stood before you without sharing the source of Grandaddy’s peace and faithfulness. Your life may not look like his. Your life may look like the verses in Galatians just before the fruit of the spirit.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Examine your own life this morning. Does your life look like the first list? Or the second? James Ingram is in heaven today, not because he strived to attain the Fruit of the Spirit, but because of his relationship with Jesus Christ. Those attributes (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are evidence of his salvation, placed there by God. He didn’t work to earn his place in heaven; it was a free gift.
My Grandaddy loved to give gifts. I’m 33 years old and that means I have at least 66 pocket knives because he gave me one for every birthday and every year at Christmas. If he gave me a knife and I never took it, never opened the wrapping paper, never accepted it, was it ever really mine? No! I would have to receive it before I could really say that it was mine.
Likewise, salvation is a free gift from God, but we have to receive it! We are all sinners that owed a debt that we could not pay on our own, but Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross and defeated death to pay OUR debt for us!
Sometimes I find it difficult to share the Gospel in the area where we live. So many of us have heard stories from the Bible for so long that we’ve forgotten how amazing God’s grace really is. People justify their actions by placing their security in walking an aisle as a child, even though they haven’t been to church or read their Bible in years. There is no evidence of salvation and the Fruit of the Spirit is not evident in their lives. Their life looks alot more like the deeds of the flesh.
My words don’t mean much this morning, but allow me to share with you the very words of God concerning salvation. Listen to me! God’s Words are quick and powerful and able to convict hearts and change lives this morning. In the book of Romans we read:
Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
We’re all sinners; all of us ungodly, even my grandfather. The Bible goes on to say:
Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The wages of sin is death. That’s what we earn by our sin, but eternal life is a free gift!! So what do we have to do?
Romans 10:9-10 “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
Today is the day of salvation. If you can’t see the Fruit of the Spirit in your life that was so evident in the life of James Ingram, something is missing and that something is Jesus. If your life looks more like that second list, seek after the Lord and receive that free gift of salvation. Come find me after the service today and I’d love to talk with you or pray with you.
In closing I want to share a quote by Charles Spurgeon that I came across a few weeks ago. I read it again this week and found it so fitting for this occasion.
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” -Spurgeon
I believe James Ingram carved his name on the hearts of everyone here today. We will continue to remember him long after all of these flowers have faded. I’d like to leave you with a few words of comfort from the Scriptures:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”