Jesus Loves the Little Children

Pastor Lutzer | February 9, 2014

Scripture Reference: Deuteronomy 1:39, 2 Samuel 12:16-23, Psalms 139, Ezekiel 16:20-21, Mark 10:13-16, Romans 5:12

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Scripture Reference: Deuteronomy 1:39, 2 Samuel 12:16-23, Psalms 139, Ezekiel 16:20-21, Mark 10:13-16, Romans 5:12

Summary

God is able to heal, forgive and do all that is necessary for us to be restored to Him—no matter our journey.

Selected highlights from this sermon

In this powerful message, Pastor Lutzer tackles the often controversial topics of infant baptism and salvation, the age of accountability, the innocence of children, and life beginning at conception—all to answer the question: if a baby dies, will the child end up in heaven?

This message is not based on sentiment; it is based on God’s Holy Word. And we will see that Jesus who loves the little children also gladly, lovingly, and happily welcomes thousands of them into His glorious presence every day.

But there is a sober reminder: though we may rejoice that God welcomes infants into heaven, what about the parents? One of the saddest things will be for a child to be in heaven, but without their parents.

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My text today is found in the book of Mark – Mark, chapter   10. I’m going to read a few verses from Mark, the 10th chapter, verses 13-16, “And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”

My topic today is the salvation of infants and children, and to think it through biblically and theologically. I’m well aware of the fact that this is a sensitive message and I want to preach it as a pastor to your heart, even as I preach it to mine. I’m also aware that this is going to be for many of you a very difficult message, but a good message. My intention is to show you that God is able to heal, to forgive and to do all that is necessary for us to be restored to Him and be content with where we are, no matter our journey.

This is a very important message for all of us. Rebecca and I have eight wonderful grandchildren, but we have a ninth grandchild in heaven. In fact, our oldest grandchild, a granddaughter, Sarah, is even now before the Throne of God and beholds her Father in heaven. You see, when we held her in our arms (she was stillborn), we were reminded of the question that I’m discussing today. And then we think of all the children throughout the whole world, children who die of starvation every day, and die of disease. We think of all of the children, and we have to give an answer to this question biblically and think it through. It’s not based on sentiment. We have to find something from the Word of God that gives us the assurance that they are in God’s presence.

Throughout the history of the Church there have been various answers given to this question of infant salvation. For example, if you were brought up Catholic or Lutheran, you were probably taught that the infant had to be baptized, and then if he were baptized and died, then the infant would be in heaven.

Now I have to say a couple of things. First of all, infant baptism is not found anywhere in Scripture for openers. And secondly, it seems incredible to me that the salvation of an infant would depend on whether or not he or she was baptized. It just doesn’t seem right that salvation for a suffering infant would be jeopardized because a priest, caught in a traffic jam, was unable to get to the hospital to bless and baptize the infant. I’ve been at meetings where there were discussions about this, and for lack of time I don’t want to go into it except to say that I think that that’s a very unsatisfactory answer.

Now there’s another answer that is oftentimes given and that is by Protestants who say that only children of saved people – only children of Christians – go to heaven. Well I can’t imagine that a child is going to be penalized because his parents believed the wrong thing. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I do believe that in election they say that only the children of parents are elect, but to limit that to parents of children who are Christians, that is to say the parents are Christians, just seems to me to be incomprehensible, and contrary to the idea that a child should not be jeopardized because of what his parents believe.

Now we’re going to deal with some theological issues, and then we’re going to be answering quite a few questions on this very, very critical topic. First of all, theologically we have to answer the question of when does an infant become an infant? When does personhood begin? You know the Bible is very clear about this. For example, in Psalm 139, it says, “For you formed my inward parts. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret and (I love this) woven.” God wove you together in your mother’s womb. He was there. He was controlling and using your DNA.

Of course the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception. There are many references that we can point to that show that. Obviously a pre=born infant is an infant. And I would say that every woman, whether old or young, knows that when she is told she is pregnant, she knows at that moment that she is a mother.

Another question we have to ask is, “Do infants go to heaven because they are innocent?” No, infants aren’t innocent. You know the Bible says in Romans 5:12 that sin came by one man into the world, namely Adam, and then death passed upon all, for all have sinned.” All sinned in Adam. Babies are born under the condemnation of sin. You can prove that very easily because babies die. The very fact that they die means that they are under the condemnation of sin because through sin death came. So they are not allowed into heaven simply because they are innocent, and we’ll have to circle back on that thought in just a moment.

I’m going to give you a number of references today. I suppose we should have put them on the IMag (the screens) but I’m going to have to just read them to you and I’ll give them to you if you want to jot them down. For example, the Bible says this in Deuteronomy 1:39. “And as for your little ones whom you said would become a prey, your children who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall enter into the land.” God is saying that these children are not going to bear the responsibility of the wrong decisions made by their parents. God says, “They don’t know good and evil yet.” And it seems to me there is a reference there to the fact that children are not being held accountable at that age.

Now here’s an interesting passage way in the book of Ezekiel, one that perhaps you have never heard about. God is talking to the people about how they are sacrificing their children to pagan gods. And God says here in Ezekiel 16:20, “You took your sons and daughters whom you have borne to me. These are my sons and daughters,” God says. And then He says in verse 21, “You slaughtered My children and delivered them up as an offering to the pagan gods.”

I love that phrase, “My children.” God says, “Those children are Mine.” He doesn’t say that about adults who have grown up and have turned away from Him, but He says that about the children.

Now in the New Testament there’s one passage of Scripture that I think settles the issue in my mind if it were the only one. I think that the passage that I just read in Mark 10 is clear enough where Jesus said regarding the children, “Invite the children to come to Me, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such.” Obviously if the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to a child who dies, is it even thinkable that they wouldn’t be entering into the Kingdom of Heaven? It seems to me that of course they would.

Not to make too “heavy weather” of this, but if you read the book of Revelation you find out who it is that is in hell. It lists all kinds of sins but it’s not the sins of children. It’s the sins of adults. And by the way, many of those who have committed those sins will be in heaven if they receive God’s remedy of forgiveness. So always keep that in mind.

But you know, there’s an interesting passage of Scripture that’s frequently referred to, and it is the story of David in 2 Samuel. Now this story is important for various reasons. You remember that David has an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, and a child is born. And the child is sick. In fact, it says the Lord afflicted the child and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him. On the seventh day the child died.

The servants of David were afraid to tell him the child was dead because he’d been fasting. He didn’t wash himself, and the text says that they thought that he would do himself some harm. They thought he might commit suicide if they told him his child was dead. But finally the Bible says that David heard them whispering and then asked the question, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “Yes, the child is dead.” And then David, of all things, goes into the Temple to worship God. He washes himself. He comes back and they have food laid out for him, and he eats. So people were puzzled. They thought, “You know here you are. You were in such desperation when the child was alive. Now the child is dead and you are picking yourself up off the ground and you are actually doing much better.”

So they asked him for an explanation, and David said this. “Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” That’s why he said, “I was in fasting and mourning.” But then he said, “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him but he will not return to me.”

Now what is David saying? Some people say, “Well, he just means that he’s going to the grave too.” That’s not much comfort. David clearly here is expecting to see his child, and said, “You know he’s not coming to me, but I’m going to go to him.” I think it’s very clear that David expected to be reunited with his child. The reason that this is so important is that David actually had committed adultery, and this child was the child of an adulterous relationship.

One day a grandmother called me and she said, “You know, my unmarried daughter has a child, and she would like to have the child dedicated,” but the grandmother said, “I don’t think that the child should be because the child is actually the product of fornication.” But I said to her, “Of course this child should be dedicated to the Lord.”

Now when we dedicate here at Moody Church we are actually dedicating the parents as much as we are dedicating the child, and there’s no guarantee that the child is going to walk with God. It’s trying to help the parents to understand the great responsibility of raising a child, but why should that child be penalized because of the means of his birth?

Someday I’d just like to mention to you some people who were conceived out of wedlock whom God has been pleased to mightily use. I could begin with Erasmus, the man who indicated and gave the world a New Testament – a Greek New Testament, from which Luther made his translation. The great scholar, Erasmus!

I could talk to you about Felix Manz. When I’m there at the Limmat River in Switzerland I point out to the tour group exactly where he was drowned. We know exactly how far it was from City Hall. And he was willing to die for the faith, but he was the product of a relationship between a priest and a woman. His mother, by the way, was on the waves urging her son to remain true to the faith. He is a hero of mine.

I could talk about the woman whom I’m sure many of us have heard about, namely Ethel Waters. She was really the product of sexual assault, and yet how wonderfully she sang in those big Billy Graham Crusades “His Eye is On the Sparrow.”

Now we have a number of different questions we still need to answer in the next few moments.

“All right! You say the children are going to heaven, but you are saying they are sinners. How then are they saved?” Good question! Think back and take a deep breath of air and ask yourself how you were saved. Weren’t you saved by grace? You say, “Well, yeah, but I believed.” Yes, you believed, and where did that faith come from? Even the faith by which you believed is a gift of God – saved entirely by grace. You and I have a lot less to do with our salvation than we once thought.

A baby is saved the same way. He can’t have faith, but his or her sin is placed on Christ because there’s no way anybody gets to heaven without Jesus, and as a result of that, that child is saved because of the death of Christ. The sin of the child was laid on Christ. You and I are justified by faith. The baby is justified without faith. They also get in on the glories of the atonement.

Now there’s another question that, of course, arises, and this is the one that I’m asked most often. What about this age of accountability? That’s the question that’s in your mind. I’ve been helped here by John MacArthur who points out that we should not talk really about the age of accountability because you could have someone who is 20 years old but they may have a mental disability, and as a result of that they may indeed have only the intelligence of a 5-year old, so they are judged then as a child. So we should talk about a condition of responsibility. And John MacArthur says that a child who is not accountable has not reached sufficient maturity to comprehend issues of law, sin, grace, etc.

Now I believe that a child can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior at the age of 4 or 5, but I do believe that this (quote) age, this condition of responsibility, is older than that.

You say, “Well, if it means that a person is saved because they haven’t had sufficient understanding of law and grace(?), what about the heathen?” You can’t go there, and let me tell you why. It’s because the Bible says then that as adults certainly they will be judged on the basis of conscience and nature. And by the way, a longer story and it should be a separate message, when people stand before God, God isn’t going to say, “Well, you go to hell because you never believed on Jesus.” If you didn’t hear about Jesus, of course, that’s not the basis of judgment. God will say, “What did you do with what you knew?” He who knew his Lord’s will, will be severely judged, and for those who didn’t know God’s will, there’s a different standard of judgment.

And so you have children today, and I’m not going to give you an (quote) age because I don’t know, and I’m glad God hasn’t revealed it to me. Could you imagine? You know we’d say, “Has he reached it? Is he responsible now?” and on and on. The important thing is that children come to know Christ as Savior. But children who pass away as children I believe are going to be in glory.

Well, there’s another question on your mind, and that is this. “What about all the babies that have been aborted, and those who didn’t come to maturity? What about them? Are they going to be babies forever in heaven? Is there going to be one part of heaven where God says all of the strollers line up here – you know, the stroller crowd?”

I want to just say very bluntly, “Of course not.” They are not going to be babies.” You say, “Well how do you know?” Well look at the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is filled with people doing what? They are giving praise and honor to God. They are around the Throne. They are ruling with Christ. God, I believe, takes the DNA of that child, and the child grows as it were, and He creates for them the body as our bodies will be recreated commensurate with whatever that (quote) age, if we can even talk in those terms, we’ll be in heaven.

And so around the Throne will you be able to meet these children? Of course! Will you know who they are? Of course you’ll know who they are. You will connect with them. One of the saddest things would be for a child to be there and his mother not, because the mother has never taken advantage of the forgiveness and the grace and the mercy of God. And I want to emphasize that today, because for some of you this may be a very difficult message. And you need to understand that when Jesus died on the cross that He even died for those who murdered Him. God does not want you to be governed by your past or be controlled by the past. The past cannot be changed but thank God the past can be forgiven. (applause) God is a forgiving God, and so we offer you the forgiveness and the grace of Jesus.

There’s a story I read about a little girl who died. She was with her father. Her mother had died previously so he was alone with her, and when she died, going to the cemetery were only the minister and this man and the keeper of the cemetery, so the three of them actually. And when the man opened the little casket with the key and saw his precious girl for the last time before he closed the lid, he gave the key to the keeper of the cemetery. But the pastor said to him, “The key to your daughter’s coffin does not rest with the keeper of the cemetery. It rests with Jesus in whose hands are the keys of life and of death.”
And I believe that Jesus who loves the little children gladly welcomes thousands of them into his presence every single day.

Now for some of us, it’s somewhat theoretical, but for those who have actually experienced the grief of losing children, this message today is very, very practical.

These are very, very dear people to us.
Please turn your attention now to the screens.

[SCOTT WILLIS VIDEO]

As far as the accident is concerned I was looking at the road and was alert and thought I could not avoid hitting the object. When we hit the object, the rear exploded, taking the car out of control, and I was able to grip the wheel and take it out of the slide. The fire was around us even before the van stopped sliding, and I could see I needed to get out of the car. Janet and I had to consciously put our hands into the flames to unbuckle the seatbelts and reach for the door handles, and Ben had to unbuckle, unlock and unlatch his door, courageous and clear thinking work for a 13-year-old boy.

As for the future, we were going to laugh and smile with tremendous memories of the kids. We will try our best to acknowledge the outpouring of sympathy and encouragement from the people of Americatoward us. Also I look forward to being back at Parkwood’s pulpit, and in room 201 teaching fifth grade at Dawes School in Chicago. We are looking also for God’s leading and directing in our lives.

I must tell you that we hurt with sorrow as you parents live for your children. The pain of death is indescribable. (sighs) The Bible expresses our feelings, that we sorrow, but not as those without hope. The hardest part of all was witnessing Benny in intensive care, knowing he was alive but that he would not make it. (sigh) Around midnight his big brother, Toby, was with Ben when he died. Toby came back and said to me, “Benny’s in heaven.”

The truth of God’s word assures me that Ben, Joe, Sam, Hank, Elizabeth and Peter are in heaven with Jesus Christ. King David said upon the death of his infant son, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him. He shall not return to me.” As believers we know that one day we will be reunited.

Psalm 34 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear thereof and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Janet and I want to praise and thank God first for six precious children, four rascally boys, a sweet girl so much like her mother, and a little baby just beginning to smile and grow. We know that the fullness of life is not measured in days and years.

Secondly, I thank God for a sweet, loving and submissive wife. And thirdly, I thank God for His preparation for this trial. On February 5, 1975, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and through His Word, His testings and our failings, the testimony and fellowship of others, God taught us His love, His grace and His goodness.

The five youngest children died instantly. No sound was heard by Janet or myself as we struggled to get out of the van. Benny courageously made it out and he was conscious at the accident scene. There are so many people to thank – all the rescue workers, the ambulance crews, Flight for Life, and particularly off-duty police officer Shea, the first to reach us. Then an old man took the shirt off his back in order to soak Benny’s wounds. Another beat out the burning clothes on Janet’s back. We want to thank the nurses who have become very precious to us for their care and comfort. And we want to thank the doctors - Dr. Yusef, Dr. Wong, Dr. Kumar and Dr. Larson. We want to thank the people of Milwaukee, and the people of our beloved city of Chicago for their sympathy and their encouragement. We want to thank the people who visited us and listened as we shared about our little ones. We want to thank the generous people all over this nation (sigh) as far away as Hawaii who sent cards and flowers and gifts.

We also want to thank our brothers and sisters at Parkwood Baptist Church, and the hundreds of churches who have lifted us up in prayer before the Lord. And lastly we thank our families who were such a special blessing - our daughter, Amy and her husband, Alan; our son Toby and his wife Brenda; and our son Dan and his wife Kim. Lastly I want to thank the media for their kind and compassionate reporting of all our great loss.  Thank you!

SCOTT AND JANET WILLIS – DR. ERWIN LUTZER INTERVIEW

Lutzer: We want to tell you that we have Janet and Scott Willis with us this morning. Let’s welcome them to the Moody Church. (applause) Throughout the years Scott and Janet have become great friends of ours. Rebecca and I have traveled with them to Belarus, which is a breakaway republic of the Soviet Union. We traveled there for a pastor’s conference. More recently the four of us went to St. Petersburg about three years ago. And they’ve accompanied us on two of our tours to the Reformation sites, and the Seven Churches of Revelation, so these are very, very dear people to us. And Scott, I’m going to begin with you, and we don’t want to spend too much time here on this, but take us to the accident scene, and just help us get a little grip as to what was happening. You, of course, got out of the van. You were burning, but tell us.

Scott: Well I was furthest from where the explosion was. It actually exploded into the back. Something had gone underneath. It was cast-iron piece of a bracket (a mud-flap bracket) and it had entered the gas tank, exploding into the back of the van where four of the children were seat-belted in, and then Ben and Peter were in the middle. It was an inferno. It was just a matter of survival to get out. And my hands were burned. I was hitting the windows with my elbows realizing it was all smoky. I couldn’t see anything and I thank God for that - that I couldn’t. I knew when I was doing that, that I was helpless.

Lutzer: And Janet, you, from your standpoint, here you are. You see this van explode with your six children.

Janet: I was hysterical. I just fell to my knees and was yelling, “No, no.” And Scott came to me and grabbed my shoulders, and all of a sudden his face was in front of mine, and he said, “Janet, it was quick. They are with the Lord. God has prepared us for this.” And they were words that I needed to hear because it brought back to me, “Okay, Janet, what have you learned? God is in control, and this is not an accident, and God loves my children, and He loves me.” Those are truths that I had learned before and they were helping me.

Lutzer: How many days after the accident was the funeral?

Scott: It was about two weeks afterwards.

Lutzer: So you were in the hospital for 11 days, and then you came out and then you endured the funeral. Janet, also, as you were being taken away by the ambulance, what did Scott shout to you?

Janet: He shouted back, “Janet, Psalm 34.” We were about 30 feet apart from each other, and I remember the thought came to me, and I’ve got to be honest with you, “Not Scripture! Not now!” It just flashed through my mind for a second, and then I thought, “No, of course Scripture,” and it was a passage that we had memorized as a church for a whole year, and I started to say the verses as I got into the ambulance.

Lutzer: Wow! Psalm 34. Wow! That’s one of your favorite verses, isn’t it, Scott? Help us a little bit with the grieving process here. Scott, you can speak to this. How do you grieve for six children?

Scott: Well, first of all, I want to make sure that you understand that we had our ups and downs, and especially me with very depressing moments, and I think we both knew that we couldn’t both be down at the same time. So by God’s grace when one of us was down – usually me – the other one would be there to reassure and encourage us and remind us about God’s presence and God’s grace. But two things happened as we realized that we couldn’t grieve for six children every night, and so we would choose one each night to talk about, thank God for, and sometimes maybe even laugh on some of the memories that we had of them. I said there were two things and I can’t remember the second. (laughs) But that was how we did it. Oh, I know. The other thing was birthdays. I knew when I pastored that somebody had lost a child, and every year at that time it was a very difficult time for the mom. And she was older and every year it was difficult. And I knew we couldn’t do that because of the number. We just couldn’t have six times where we just grieved over the loss. And so we determined that that wouldn’t be the way that we would go. We wanted to remember the great memories that we had.

Lutzer: All right, and so you chose a child for each evening. “This evening we grieve for Peter, this time for Elizabeth, and so forth.” Janet, it’s 20 years now since the accident. Obviously you think about the children, needless to say, but how do you process it even now looking back? Has some of the grief, of course, subsided? Help us with that.

Janet: Someone asked me, “Does God heal?” I just kind of came up with the idea that He does in His time, and yet time helps. I still cry occasionally, but not like I did before. At the beginning I had a box of tissues in every room of the house. I had folded up tissues in my Bible. I just never knew. The song It Is Well with My Soul was like a wave, and it would come – the thought of grief. And I’ll share that one of the first people to get to us in the hospital was our son’s pastor in Wisconsin, and he said, “Janet and Scott, it’s okay to grieve because you miss the kids, but be careful that your grief doesn’t get mixed up with bitterness or self-pity. Those are the things that complicate grief.” And that was great advice for us. So when the sorrow hit it was like a wave. We’d go ahead and cry and let the tears come because we missed the kids.

Lutzer: Janet, there’s something that you used to say - “There are two things you know about your kids now.” Tell us.

Janet: Well, I know that they are happy, and they are safe and they are good. (laughter) And they have everything a mother would ever want for her kids. I remember seeing a tree house one time and I thought, “Boy, my boys never had anything that cool”. You know? And then I thought, “Wait a minute. What have they got in heaven? And they’re not arguing. They are getting along,” and those are the thoughts that really helped that focus of what they were enjoying with the Lord Jesus.

Lutzer: Now, Janet, about several months ago you and Scott came here to Chicago and we had lunch together, and you shared something that you hadn’t shared publicly for 20 years. Of course you shared it with Scott right away. But for 20 years you didn’t share this because you so feared that people would put faith in a vision. And we have all kinds of books today, you know, about “I visited heaven and I was there,” and so forth, and those books may be of varying help, and some of them might be right and some of them might be wrong. And you were so concerned that people not look at a vision, but I want you to share with the congregation today what you saw out there on the expressway when the van was burning.

Janet: I was looking at the van engulfed in flames, knowing my children were inside, and Scott had said it was quick and they were with the Lord and God has prepared us for this, and I remember I said “no” one more time. And after that I looked up and over Scott’s head I saw Joe, holding baby Peter. I saw Sam, Hank and Elizabeth, and I can’t say I saw angels but I saw a bright white… I knew they were with an escort, and it was a noble, kind escort. And I saw Joe’s face and it was like (he was 11 years old), “Oh wow!” So I didn’t see a whole lot, but Joe’s eyes I saw, and I realized that what my husband was saying was true. They were not there in the van, and it was a huge help and a huge comfort.

Lutzer: Janet, you know the amazing thing is you wondered whether or not this vision was accurate, but it really proved to be accurate as you thought about it. Right?

Janet: Right! I think being in the hospital for 11 days I didn’t think about it a whole lot after that. I think I was wrestling with maybe it was just the trauma of the accident, but after we got home, I woke up in the middle of the night one night, and I thought, “Wait a minute! Ben wasn’t with them.” And at that moment I didn’t know Ben had gotten out of the van. Someone came and yelled to us, “One of your kids got out,” and we came and we were able to talk with Ben at the scene of the accident. And it dawned on me that what I saw was real, and I was grateful for what God did.

Lutzer: So you all understand that 5 died at the scene of the accident. Ben died later. So while Janet was there seeing this vision, Ben was still alive. But you didn’t know it at the time that he had gotten out of the van. You didn’t know the whole story, but that really shows that God showed you the 5 who were going on their way to heaven at that time.

Janet: That’s when I knew my kids were about to enter the gates of heaven. They were going to enjoy everything a mother would want for her kids. They were going to be happy. They were safe and good and forever, and it was a huge help for that moment.

Lutzer: Yeah! You know, since that time God has blessed you folks. First of all, let me say this.

Scott: Pastor…

Lutzer: Yeah, go ahead.

Janet: I forgot to share a real key thing - that just in the last couple months I was reading and I came across a verse in Jeremiah in chapter 23 where he said, “If a person has a dream or a vision, let them share that, but what has straw to do with grain? Is not My Word like a fire, like a hammer that breaks the rock?” And it dawned on me that a personal experience is like straw compared to God’s Word (like grain) and so the main reason I share this is to highlight the contrast. For 20 years we had Scriptures. We were grounded in the teaching of the Word of God before the accident, and then for that moment God, in His compassion, gave me help. But for the 20 years since then, God’s Word has been my chief joy and chief comfort, and God speaking to us through His Word day by day.

Lutzer: Could I just say this? Janet has written a book on heaven, and she studied heaven for 10 years, and her view of the New Jerusalem is very different than a lot of other views, but it’s gaining, I think, some acceptance. And your book is Online free. People can go there and they can get their book. Now Janet is an artist, so the book has pictures, and you even drew a picture of the five children – the vision that you saw. This is as you remembered it as it came back to your mind. Now, in addition to this, God has given you grandchildren. I mean you have three other children, and how many grandchildren do you have, Scott? Do you know?

Scott: (Scott laughs and congregation joins in the laughter) We have 32.

Lutzer: Thirty-two grandchildren. (applause) And there you can see on the screen a picture of the family. Now I understand that their son, Dan, is here with his wife and children. Where are you sitting? What is it? Eleven children? Would you stand up and let’s give them a hand.

Scott: Amy is here.

Lutzer: Amy is here. She came today from Michigan. Where are you, Amy? Alright. There you are. God bless you. (applause) So these now are the grandchildren, and God has not only blessed you with 32 grandchildren but you have some news to share. I understand, Scott and Janet, that you are going to be great grandparents.

Scott: Pastor, we ARE great grandparents. Amy and Alan’s oldest daughter, our granddaughter, Sarah, the oldest of our grandchildren, sent us this picture. This is of her and her husband, Matt. They both play guitar, and they said they had to send something to us. And there is a little guitar in the center with Psalm 127, “Little children are a heritage of the Lord.” And Janet and I burst out crying with joy. This was just about 3 weeks ago when we found out that Sarah is pregnant, and I believe that that is an eternal soul, so we ARE grandparents. I’m married to a great grandmother and that is wonderful. What’s really scary is that my little girl, my daughter, is a grandmother.

Lutzer: You know, Horatio Spafford was a businessman in Chicago and he was an attorney, but he also had a lot of holdings in terms of real estate. Two tragedies happened to the family back in 1871. One was they lost one of their children. They had five children, and they lost their son, so you can imagine that grief. And then what happened was the Great Chicago Fire came in 1871, and all of his wealth basically went up in flames. But he was a friend of D. L. Moody’s, and two years later he was going to go to England to help Moody with his big crusades, but he couldn’t go because something came up in the business, so he let his wife and four daughters go, and they went to England. An English vessel hit them. The boat went down. The mother was spared. All four daughters drowned. As a matter of fact, I once saw a facsimile (a photocopy) of the actual telegram that she sent back, and it said, “I alone am saved.” Wow!

Later on, Spafford joined his wife in England, but when he was going across the ocean, when they got approximately to the place where the accident happened and where his daughters drowned, it was then behind that experience of grief that he wrote the song,

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
(you get the imagery),
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

I know that we have already sung it this morning, but Tim is going to lead us again, and it happens to be one of the favorite songs of Scott and Janet.

Before Tim comes, let’s give them a hand once again. Shall we? (applause)

These are very, very dear people to us.

Please turn your attention now to the screens.

 

SCOTT WILLIS VIDEO (SOUND)

 

As far as the accident is concerned I was looking at the road and was alert and thought I could not avoid hitting the object. When we hit the object, the rear exploded, taking the car out of control, and I was able to grip the wheel and take it out of the slide. The fire was around us even before the van stopped sliding, and I could see I needed to get out of the car. Janet and I had to consciously put our hands into the flames to unbuckle the seatbelts and reach for the door handles, and Ben had to unbuckle, unlock and unlatch his door, courageous and clear thinking work for a 13-year-old boy.

 

As for the future, we were going to laugh and smile with tremendous memories of the kids. We will try our best to acknowledge the outpouring of sympathy and encouragement from the people of Americatoward us. Also I look forward to being back at Parkwood’s pulpit, and in room 201 teaching fifth grade at Dawes School in Chicago. We are looking also for God’s leading and directing in our lives.

 

I must tell you that we hurt with sorrow as you parents live for your children. The pain of death is indescribable. (sighs) The Bible expresses our feelings, that we sorrow, but not as those without hope. The hardest part of all was witnessing Benny in intensive care, knowing he was alive but that he would not make it. (sigh) Around midnight his big brother, Toby, was with Ben when he died. Toby came back and said to me, “Benny’s in heaven.”

 

The truth of God’s word assures me that Ben, Joe, Sam, Hank, Elizabeth and Peter are in heaven with Jesus Christ. King David said upon the death of his infant son, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him. He shall not return to me.” As believers we know that one day we will be reunited.

 

Psalm 34 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear thereof and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

 

Janet and I want to praise and thank God first for six precious children, four rascally boys, a sweet girl so much like her mother, and a little baby just beginning to smile and grow. We know that the fullness of life is not measured in days and years.

 

Secondly, I thank God for a sweet, loving and submissive wife. And thirdly, I thank God for His preparation for this trial. On February 5, 1975, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and through His Word, His testings and our failings, the testimony and fellowship of others, God taught us His love, His grace and His goodness.

 

The five youngest children died instantly. No sound was heard by Janet or myself as we struggled to get out of the van. Benny courageously made it out and he was conscious at the accident scene. There are so many people to thank – all the rescue workers, the ambulance crews, Flight for Life, and particularly off-duty police officer Shea, the first to reach us. Then an old man took the shirt off his back in order to soak Benny’s wounds. Another beat out the burning clothes on Janet’s back. We want to thank the nurses who have become very precious to us for their care and comfort. And we want to thank the doctors - Dr. Yusef, Dr. Wong, Dr. Kumar and Dr. Larson. We want to thank the people of Milwaukee, and the people of our beloved city of Chicago for their sympathy and their encouragement. We want to thank the people who visited us and listened as we shared about our little ones. We want to thank the generous people all over this nation (sigh) as far away as Hawaii who sent cards and flowers and gifts.

 

We also want to thank our brothers and sisters at Parkwood Baptist Church, and the hundreds of churches who have lifted us up in prayer before the Lord. And lastly we thank our families who were such a special blessing - our daughter, Amy and her husband, Alan; our son Toby and his wife Brenda; and our son Dan and his wife Kim. Lastly I want to thank the media for their kind and compassionate reporting of all our great loss.  Thank you!

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