August 12, 2013 by piratritasavit
Preached this sermon on Sunday, August 11, 2013 at New Life Church of the Nazarene
This is the story of my daughter, Fia Jae Tritasavit.
In early March, at 20 weeks of pregnancy, we learned that the baby inside Venus was going to be a girl! We had also learned that she would have difficulty growing physically and cognitively because of a chromosomal condition called Trisomy 18.
We were surprised, and shocked, and saddened, and confused. But we knew that this life inside of Venus was our daughter. She was not just a piece of tissue, but a living soul, loved by her Heavenly Father, and as her parents we were committed to caring for her as best as we knew how.
We began to pray that God would sustain us and grant us faith.
We gave her the name FIA JAE — a combination of names suggested by our nephew and niece who thought up the names Sofia and James (our niece Chloe had thought she’d be a girl and our nephew Cameron had thought our baby would be a boy).
At first, Venus and I chuckled and thought “NO WAY” Sofia James?. A boy and girl name combined?
We later learned that Sofia the First is the name of a princess character on the Disney Channel and James is the name of Sofia’s brother (technically her step brother).
We played around with the name and it grew on us. Soon the name “Fia Jae” stuck.
In giving our daughter a name, we were able to acknowledge her personhood that much better just as we address one another in relationship by name. We kissed her and talked to her by name while she continued to be inside mommy’s belly.
Weeks went by and we learned more about Trisomy 18. Doctors told us that there was a slight chance that she would not grow to full term, that many babies with Trisomy 18 have heart defects, breathing problems, and cognitive challenges. They labeled it a “fatal condition.” So they offered us the option of “changing the course of our pregnancy”.
Regardless of the circumstances and the short amount of time we would have with her, we looked forward to meeting her and valued every moment that we might be given. We would trust God for the strength to care for her if she lived longer than the statistics told. We believed God would bring Himself glory whether we had just a few minutes, hours or days with her. We walked by faith into the unknown circumstances, fully believing that God’s goodness would comfort and carry us through.
So on Sunday June 9th right here at New Life, we dedicated our daughter together as a church family while she was still inside the womb. Later that night, some families gathered for a prayer shower to lift her up to the LORD.
We were so thankful for the fervent prayers of God’s people and it was our prayer that Fia Jae would be able to love God to the fullest capacity her little heart could muster, and that she would also know the love of God and her parents deep inside the womb.
(photo courtesy of Jana Ašenbrennerová)
Each follow-up appointment we would see her little heart beating and the doctor would give us updates on her development. Our baby wasn’t gaining weight and we weren’t feeling the normal kicking or hiccups of a typical pregnancy. But every time we saw her heart beat, we knew that Fia Jae was alive and we loved her. She was a life. She mattered to us. She was our daughter.
Just 4 days before her expected due date, Venus went into labor and our baby girl was delivered at Redwood City Kaiser at 6:08am in the morning. She weighed just 2.86 pounds and was 14 inches long. Her tiny body was delivered into the skilled hands of a physician, while her beautiful soul was delivered into the arms of THE GREAT PHYSICIAN, our Savior Jesus Christ that very morning as well.
(photo courtesy of Jana Ašenbrennerová)
The peace of the LORD comforted us as we held our daughter’s body. This was the culmination of weeks of preparing, wondering, hoping, praying, and waiting on the LORD to meet Fia Jae. And she was precious in our sight. We laughed and cried and hurt and hugged. We sang songs of worship to Jesus over her, songs like Amazing Grace, How Great is Our God, Jesus Loves Me and Because He Lives. And we prayed to God, thanking Him for taking our baby daughter home to be with Him.
(photo courtesy of Jana Ašenbrennerová)
One of our requests that day was to bring our baby into the sunlight. So we were accompanied by a friendly nurse who and let us spend a few minutes outdoors together, holding our Fia Jae in the morning sun as we prayed and sang and cried together. It was a precious moment of worship as we raised her up to heaven with grateful hearts. Even as we grieved our loss, we continued to proclaim that God is good.
(photo courtesy of Jana Ašenbrennerová)
That afternoon, we invited our family and Pastor Jeff’s family for a private memorial in our delivery room, to sing songs of worship, to read Scripture and to celebrate the birthday of our baby girl. What’s really cool is that July 10th is also our nephew Cameron’s birthday (he turned 7). Every year we Cameron’s birthday will coincide with remembering our daughter, too.
(photo courtesy of Jana Ašenbrennerová)
Zeke became a big brother that day, and he got to finally meet his little sister Fia Jae in person. This is a precious family photo we will cherish forever.
(photo courtesy of Jana Ašenbrennerová)
Earlier in the day, one of the first things Venus and I wanted to do was to read God’s word over our baby daughter. For months, Venus had been meditating on 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 and she shared deep insights with me along the way, insights that helped us walk through the difficult news with the light of hope that only comes from Jesus.
There are insights in this passage of Scripture that reminded us of how temporary our mortal lives are here on earth, and how much better it will be when we are eternally at home with our Savior. We were emboldened by portions of these verses to proclaim the glory of God — no matter how difficult the circumstances. We are comforted by these words because we are aware that God knows us deeply and longs for us to know Him deeply even in the midst of our grief.
Please turn with me to the pages of 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 together, and let’s stand in reverence for the hearing of God’s life-changing word.
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, he made sure to emphasize that whatever persecutions were happening, and whatever strides were being made in the expansion of God’s Kingdom movement around the world, the message was always going to be centered on JESUS CHRIST AS LORD.
The same God from Genesis in the OLD testament (Let there be light) was shining his glorious light even into the New Testament through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
There is something absolutely profound about v. 6 as we think about the context and pursuits of the cultures at odds in the New Testament world. The GREEKS, the ROMANS, and the HEBREWS were all part of this diverse culture of power and philosophy and religion.
Apologist and author Ravi Zacharias once explained these cultural pursuits so poignantly:
“The pursuit of the Hebrews was idealized and symbolized by light. ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation.’ ‘The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light.’ ‘This is the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world.’
“The pursuit of the Greeks was symbolized by knowledge. That’s why the Biblical writers say, ‘These things are written that you might know that you have eternal life.’ For the Hebrews, it was light. For the Greeks, it was knowledge.
“For the Romans, it was glory. The apostle Paul, a Hebrew by birth, a citizen of Rome, living in a Greek city, had to give to them the ideal of his ethic.
And he says this: ‘God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness, has caused His light to shine in our hearts, to give to us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus our Lord.’
“For the apostle Paul, the ultimate ethic was not an abstraction, not symbolized merely by light, not merely by knowledge, not merely by glory, but in the very face of our Lord.
This is an amazing truth for all of us to center our lives around because JESUS CHRIST is the central hope for our lives even today. Pursuing Jesus prepared us for the deep loss of Fia Jae, and gave us an even more profound hope in God.
Here in America, we can pursue many noble and diverse things like light or “wisdom”, glory or “fame”, knowledge or “enlightenment”, goals that in and of themselves are good. But only in the face of Jesus are we able to discover the culmination of every pursuit. Jesus transcends every culture and human pursuit.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Jars of clay? Earthenware. Paul tells his audience that the treasure of Jesus Christ is contained in ordinary vessels — jars of clay. And the reason such a priceless treasure is entrusted to such simple items like clay jars is to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that God’s all surpassing power is at work, and it is not at all the work of men. God gets the glory when his ordinary people simply trust and treasure Jesus in the midst of the hardest pressures, the most crushing circumstances, the most difficult trials. And God never abandons his faithful ones.
We have certainly felt a measure of being hard-pressed, being perplexed by life, yet God has not abandoned us. In fact, as we worship God in the darkest places, his light shines even brighter and his love is felt even deeper. It’s a strange paradox, but that is the beauty of being broken … God’s love reaches deep into our brokenness and makes us truly whole when we trust Him.
10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Life and death matter. Every life matters. And death reminds us of that. When we attend a funeral, when we open the newspaper and see the headlines, the obituaries, when we turn on the news and are upset by the crimes against human life, something deep within us knows that life matters.
But why does life matter so much? Why does my life matter, or your life matter?
DOES MY LIFE MATTER TO GOD?” – the answer to this question is a resounding YES. God cares about my life so much that He would come into this world Himself. Our lives matter to God because HE is the life-giver. Sin has marred every life and the consequence of sin is death. But God has conquered death — remember the resurrection of Jesus?
He loves every life that He is patient, not willing that any would perish but that we would come to repentance. We matter enough to him that He rescues and redeems and forgives every sinner who would trust his life to Jesus Christ.
The bigger question we ought to ask today is “DOES THE LIFE OF JESUS MATTER TO ME?”
Those who carry around the life and death of Jesus Christ are eternally minded people. We know that what we do on earth matters for eternity. We do not live simply for today; for ourselves; for our glory. We live beyond today, serving others, and for the glory of God.
Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection are the most important events in all of human history; He is the most significant person in all of human civilization and when He intersects your story, you become a part of His story.
When you trust Jesus Christ and are transformed by Him, His life becomes your life and His redeeming work begins in you and He is faithful to carry out the work to completion.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
I told you earlier the story of our daughter Fia Jae. But we are confident that her story is simply a tiny part of God’s greater story, just as your story and my story are also just tiny parts woven into His great grand story.
Honestly, we wrestled with how much we could talk about our daughter’s situation. It just felt awkward to us because while we knew about her condition early on, we didn’t know how to break the news to others. Good news and bad news, congratulations and sympathy, hugs and tears, it just all felt strange.
I’m the kind of person who would want to tell as many people as possible and just get everything out in the open, however, my wife is a very private person and prefers to keep personal matters, well, personal.
We would share the hard news with family and a few confidants, but nothing, absolutely nothing was going on Facebook.
So a few weeks before Fia Jae was born, Venus came across this verse “I believed, therefore I have spoken”. Slowly Venus had a change of heart and began to feel more ready to share God’s story through telling Fia Jae’s story.
As hard as it would be to tell others what we were going through, we knew that God’s glory was the big story at work here and if we believe Him at His word – that Jesus was raised from the death — then even the birth and death of our daughter could bring Him glory.
Shortly thereafter, we met an amazing photographer named Jana who had learned about our pregnancy and wanted to capture Fia Jae’s story even before the birth. We connected and Jana joined us for a few special events leading up to our due date. She even spent the entire 24 hours of labor, delivery and return with us. In fact, many of the photos included in the slideshow were taken by Jana. (Thanks so much Jana).
A few days after Fia Jae had passed, we begin to send emails and write blog posts about Fia Jae. We received overwhelming responses to Fia Jae’s story through cards, letters, and even Facebook…
15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
It is strange to think that God could be glorified this way or that we could benefit from such sadness, but as we have shared the story of Fia Jae with others, people have reached out to us about how they were encouraged to trust God more. Others wrote to us with kind words and sympathy. Some revealed to us that they had also lost children and struggled through their own pain, and they shared about how they held on to their faith in God.
One couple was so moved by Fia Jae’s story that they gave a $1200 contribution to Alpha Pregnancy Center’s ultrasound program in her honor. The estimated cost to save one baby from an abortion.
Even some non-believers even reached out to us and expressed that they could sense God at work in our lives because we chose to honor her life by keeping her to full term.
Talk about God getting the glory! It is truly our hearts’ desire that more and more people will come to know Jesus through everything that happens in our lives, even the hard things.
Someone once said, God never wastes a hurt. We believe that is true. So if you have a hurt in your life, know that God can heal and God can help, and if you would trust Him with your hurt, he can even turn your pain into something glorious and eternally significant.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Paul tells the Church — don’t give up! Don’t stop believing. Don’t lose heart. SURE, this life is hard, but it’s just a light and momentary trouble compared to what’s in store in eternity. Every day there are things that break us and batter us, but inside of you is the treasure of Jesus. Inside of you is the Holy Spirit who makes you a new Creation. You are being renewed daily with new mercies, new life. And the eternal glory of GOD is going to blow us away someday if we just don’t lose heart!
18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 5:1-10 1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
This is a hard but crucial statement Paul makes. Paul was a logical person, skilled in reason and educated in the law. So it is odd for him to say “fix your eyes on what is unseen”. How can you look at something that is invisible? How can we believe beyond the temporal?
It takes faith — great faith — to believe beyond what our eyes can see. Some might say it is foolish to believe that way, but Paul clearly is not a foolish man. He is banking everything on the solid promise God makes that in eternity, after everything we have known and owned in this world is destroyed, we will have a much greater dwelling place, as he writes, an ETERNAL HOUSE IN HEAVEN, NOT BUILT BY HUMAN HANDS.
This is in contrast to the earthly tent — symbolizing our bodies — and our eventual physical death. As fully grown human beings, we can understand the development and decline of our bodies as we eat, exercise, age, get injured, contract diseases and more.
Selfishly, I wish we could’ve held onto Fia Jae longer here on earth, that we could watch her grow up into a beautiful young lady, that I could take her on daddy-daughter dates and fend of pesky boys, that I teach her about God and His word, that I would get to walk her down the aisle one day and give her hand in marriage to a godly man. But our daughter did not need her earthly tent to grow into a fully developed human being on this side of eternity, because the building from God she received is far greater than the dwelling she would have had in this world.
2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
On this side of eternity, we will always be unsatisfied. We groan and long for something better. The heavenly dwelling is indeed THAT “something better” which God has intended for us to receive. This is imagery that goes back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Being clothed in God’s heavenly dwelling is what we were meant for. The idea of being naked and UNASHAMED … forgiven and free, without the shame of sin. Nothing to hide. No more running from God.
4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. That is a great way to view death as a follower of Jesus. For death is not the final word. Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of life eternal. His resurrection is the power of God that overcomes the curse of death. Death has lost its sting and LIFE from Jesus is the great and Final WORD. He conquers death once and for all! Those who have died to sin and trusted in Him are truly swallowed up by life, and it is in Jesus where we will experience the greatest life ever: eternal Life.
Oh how we want to be swallowed up by life both THEN and NOW! How we need to be consumed with an unquenchable passion for God’s glory for eternity and in the present.
5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight.
The Spirit guarantees God’s promises. This is great news for those of us who follow Jesus and have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Remember the Jars of Clay analogy from before? The treasure inside you is the deposit and guarantee that God will keep you as His. Your confidence is not in your physical shell, but in the Holy Spirit deposited inside you. So while we are here living our lives day to day, filled with trials and hardships, we remind ourselves that everything in this world will pass away. EVERYTHING. Even our bodies.
Because we live by faith, not by sight, we are hope-filled and long to be with the LORD someday. This gives us perspective for everything in life — focusing on much higher and more ultimate goals like God’s glory!
8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
We believe that our daughter Fia Jae is not only in that proverbial “better place” — we believe with everything that we’ve got that Fia Jae is at home with JESUS. Sometimes when people die, we want to imagine that they are in “a better place” but I can think of no better place than to be in the presence of the one who loves best… LOVE EMBODIED in JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF.
Do we truly prefer Jesus over everything else in this life?
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
So here we are at the end of the selected passage. Paul writes that WE MUST ALL APPEAR BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST. Not just some. Not just one. Not just us. Not just them. ALL. Are you ready for that?
Everyone will stand before Jesus Christ — the King of Eternity, the Son of God. And what will be our defense? What will we have done in this life that will have any bearing for eternity? We live in a world where we love judges and hate judges just the same; we want authority but reject it just the same. We hate being judged (or misjudged) by other people, but we are so quick to judge (and misjudge) everyone.
Just know this. God is the perfect Judge. And He will judge rightly. If this is a fearful thought, take comfort because it doesn’t have to be. Jesus Christ – the judge Himself gave His body as a sin offering on the cross to forgive and free the guilty — you and me. This is unusual justice, but the only justice we can trust for perfect forgiveness.
This is grace. This is the AMAZING GRACE of God who would love the lost and the least so that we would receive HIS LIFE and LOVE. The perfect judge will judge sin and pride with wrath and condemnation, and He will reward humility repentance and faith with glory.
We can trust JESUS to be our SAVIOR today. He will not treat us as our sins deserve but will give mercy freely and graciously. Will you trust JESUS and be swallowed up by LIFE that truly is LIFE: Life in Him?
As we close, I want to ask each of us to consider the following questions with open and honest hearts:
- Do I believe that my life matters to God?
- Does the life of Jesus Christ matter more to me than anything else?
- What would it mean for our lives to be swallowed up by life in God’s story?
For our family, we completely believe that our lives matter to Him and our children, even the most fragile life, matters to Him, too. God has gone to the greatest reaches of time and eternity to give His Son for every life who would turn and repent to receive and trust Jesus. We believe Fia Jae matters to God.
Because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, we have been able to see life AND death through a different perspective and we know that what really matters in this life is what will matter for all of eternity as well — the glory of God in the face of Jesus. This truth has carried us through pain and loss and we believe the resurrection of Jesus and the presence of God matter more now than ever before.
We trust God as the author and finisher of our faith and the story that He has written includes our stories as well. When we trust Him to weave redemption and forgiveness and faith into our lives, our stories intersect and we are swallowed up by Life and light and hope and truth and grace and goodness and faith and all the things that remind us that the troubles of this world are light and momentary in comparison with His eternal glory that is being revealed.
How about you? What do you believe? Who will you trust?