SAMUEL WILLIAM "Bill" LANGSTON
I knew Brother Bill Langston for 51 years so it’s my opinion that if he could get permission to leave heaven for an hour or two, he’d be here and would want to say a few things. And I strongly suspect he’d first want to tell us a little about heaven. 2 Cor. 5:8 reminds us that for the Christian, (and we’re talking now about one who has truly trusted in Christ for cleansing and eternal life), that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” That’s what it says, folks, (and I didn’t write it) “absent from the body…present with the Lord.”
I’m sure Bill would also want to tell us what it was like to leave his sorry body of pain and suffering and come immediately into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ who would embrace him and welcome him home. I’m sure Bill would tell us that it was heaven enough just to be with Him and to actually see the scars in His hands and feet, and the wound in his side, and to hear Him speak words of love and comfort. I’m sure Bill would tell us that if he had nothing else to look forward to except that, it would be more than enough. But of course there’s more, much, much more.
For example, Bill would share with us the wonder of being taken over to meet family members who had gone ahead, and the shouts of joy and gladness that followed their reunion. And not only with members of his family but Christians he had known for so many years right here in Texas, people like Roy and Velma Tadlock, (who lived across the street from Bill and Ruth) and Dalford Todd, Buddy Inman, W.O. and Drusella Lankford, Raymond and Katy Morrow, Maurice and Florence Johnson, Charlie Robshaw, Dwight and Eric Thompson, Dr. and Mrs. Maddox. These were people that Bill and Ruth knew well for many years. And now Bill is with them, and is waiting for all of us to join them.
If Bill could be with us for this graveside service, I don’t doubt that he would tell us of the delight he felt of meeting believers all the way back to Adam and Eve. Imagine Adam and Eve describing life in the garden of Eden before the fall. Imagine Bill talking to Abel, 2nd son of Adam, who according to Luke 11, was God’s first prophet to first point people to Christ as being the One through whom the humble and contrite in heart could find forgiveness of sins.
And then there’s Noah. Imagine this mighty man of God describing for Bill how he built the ark so that he and his family could be saved from the coming flood, and the laughter and ridicule that was hurled at him and his family for years by the unbelieving, sin-ridden antediluvians of his day!
And Abraham, the father of the faithful, who obeyed the voice of God and left Ur of the Chaldees to start a new life. And such valiant men as David and Joseph, and Jehosophat and Daniel, so many men whose exploits are recorded in the Word of God. And here’s our own Bill Langston now exchanging testimonies with each of them and thousands of others, and every single testimony revolving around the Person and glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. What indescribable joy this must be for each of them.
If Bill were here, not only would he likely share such things as we’ve been talking about, but he would remind those of us who know Christ in the forgiveness of sins, that our own day of departure is not far off. Consider the brevity of life. “No matter how many years we have left to live, folks,” Bill might say, “according to Scripture, our days are like a tale told, (how long does it take to tell a story?) and like a blade of grass that is soon cut down, and like a vapor that appears for a moment and then vanishes away. Here today…gone tomorrow.
Then I believe Bill would close his part of the service by reminding those of you who are unsaved, those of you who are without God and without hope in the world, that the way of the cross leads home, there’s no other way but this, and that even though our sins, past, present and future sins, have already been paid for by the finished work of Christ at Calvary’s cross, it will do you absolutely no good unless you, by faith, accept that finished work for yourself, And let me add that once you leave this life the door of mercy and eternal life will be forever closed. Listen carefully, friends, God says that for those who die in their sins there is nothing ahead for them except eternal torment, and weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Is that the future you want?
Thank God, friends, the door of mercy and eternal life is still open. Christ says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Let me put it this way: and I want to say this very slowly so you’ll hear every word. The gospel is your passport to heaven. And the gospel, as defined in 1 Cor. 15:3-5, says, and I’m quoting now, (Listen!) ”Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and was seen of above 500 brethren at once.” That’s the record, folks, and it was done for you and for me, and I repeat, it’s your passport to heaven if you’ll simply turn to God and by faith receive what has already been done for you. As you can see, folks, it is you, not God (get this) it’s you who determines your eternal destiny. In other words, God the Son has done His part…the rest is up to you!
In closing, I’d like to take just a few moments to tell how Bill and I met. It was back in the spring of ‘52.
One Sunday in July, after my usual half hour broadcast at eight o’clock Sunday morning, on radio KJIM, I received a call at the station from a man who said his name was Bill Langston. He said he’d been having trouble understanding the Baptist point of view regarding the church Christ is building. He didn’t agree with them, and he wondered if I could send him some literature to clear things up.
There was an urgency in Bill’s voice that prompted me to say, “Look, Bill, I’ll do better than that, I’ll come over to your house this afternoon - that is, if you’re going to be home. Bill replied, “Are you serious? You mean you’ll come over to our house?” “Sure,” I said, “ why not?” So, at 2:00 o’clock that Sunday afternoon, I was on Bill’s front porch ringing the doorbell.
Well, the door opened and here was this tall, lanky, rawboned Texan staring down at me. After I introduced myself, he said with a grin, “Well, what do you know, a preacher. Come right on in, Bob Thompson, and let’s talk!!”
I found out later, from Bill’s wife, Ruth, that he was prepared to set the record straight if I was wrong. She still tells the story about how she later peered in the front room to see how things were going and she couldn’t believe her eyes! There they were, Bill and Bob, with their shoes off, their feet propped up on the coffee table, Bibles in hand, talking, and laughing and carrying on as if they’d known each other for years. And that’s true!
Friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ, I’ve just shared with you the first of several precious memories that I have of this man. I really think the thing that attracted me most to Bill was the fact that he was his own man. He was a man who read and studied the Bible for himself, who thought things through for himself, and who made up his own mind about what was right and what was wrong.
To put it briefly, Bill didn’t allow anyone carrying a Bible to bully him or intimidate him into accepting something he didn’t think squared with the Word of God. Believe me, folks, that’s rare these day, but that’s what I valued most about our brother in Christ, Bill Langston.
IN MEMORY OF SAMUEL WILLIAM LANGSTON
You know, if Bill Langston were to suddenly appear on the scene and if he could speak for himself at his own graveside, I believe his one, big concern would be the matter of salvation. And, I think he would say something like this, “Friends and loved ones, there are only two questions that matter at a time like this, and those two questions are: # 1, Are you born again? And, #2, Have you made your reservation for a place in heaven after you die?
Well, since Bill’s not here to speak for himself, I’d like to speak for him and touch on a few things. The things I have in mind can be summed up in six stages, so let’s get into them.
Stage number one: God says in Romans 3:23 that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In other words, you and I are sinners by nature. This is pretty self evident, isn’t it? No one had to teach us how to be selfish, or how to steal, or how to lie, or cheat, or entertain evil thoughts - we’ve all be guilty of that. Those things just came naturally. I don’t know about you but I found out early in life that sinning was as easy as breathing; In fact, I could do it without half trying.
Stage number two: One day, when I was about 15 and a half, an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher down the road from where we lived in the country, took an interest in me and began to invite me to eat with them from time to time. And you know what? After every meal, without exception, Mr. Fisher would open his Bible to read and comment on what he read. You know, coming from an infidel home where we didn’t even have a Bible, I found this really fascinating – that is, UNTIL Mr. Fisher began commenting on what sinners all of us were. That made me squirm and fidget and feel uncomfortable. From that time on I began to try to convince myself that though I wasn’t perfect, I sure knew my good deeds would outweigh the bad.
I had just about convinced myself of all my wonderful goodness when, one day, Mr. Fisher surprised me by pointing out from the Bible that my good deeds and my bad deeds had nothing to do with whether I’d go to heaven or not. That really floored me. Instead, he said, it depended entirely on my relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. In two minutes flat the old man had pulled the rug of self-righteousness out from under me and ruined my self image. While I was really upset by the whole thing, it did get me to thinking. It also got me to running in the opposite direction. But…we’ll, I’ll have to admit it, the Fisher couple did have my curiosity up…so, I kept coming back for more – besides, Mrs. Fisher was – well - a really great cook!
Stage number three: One day the Fishers presented me with a New Testament Bible, and I began to read it. Little by little, over a period of many weeks, I began to piece things together. Finally it dawned on me that the Lord Jesus, who was called Emmanuel, meaning God with us, had ministered the Word for three and a half years and then allowed brutal men under Roman law to take and crucify Him. It was my understanding that He allowed Himself to be crucified because He was dying for my sins and for the sins of the whole world, in order that those who believed on Him might be saved and have everlasting life.
Stage number four: After that, it wasn’t long before I realized the absolute futility of trying to live a life that I thought would reward me with heaven. It simply wasn’t working for me. I still had no peace like the Fishers had, nor was I happy, like they were. So, that finally brought me to the crossroads of decision. I could either take God at His Word, or I could do it my way and hope for the best. You know, it was easy for me to believe that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, no problem, but because of pride I just couldn’t believe He died for me. So I put it off and began making excuses for not eating with the Fishers any more. Finally I got so miserable I knew I had to do something – to either take it or leave it.
So, that very afternoon, alone in my bedroom, just one day before my 16th birthday, I knelt by my bed. There on my knees, I turned in my Bible to John 3:16 and read it slowly, drinking in every word. Then I read it again and again. Finally, with a broken heart and tears running down my cheeks, I turned and called on the Lord the best I knew how, and was saved.
When I rose to my feet, though tears still flowed, they were now tears of joy. Instinctively I knew I had settled the most important question in my life. I knew Christ had cleansed me and changed my life from the inside out. Weaknesses, faults, and failures? Yes, I still have them, as does every child of God, but I also had the unspeakable joy of knowing that I had passed from death unto life, and I had the absolute certainty of going to heaven after this life. Folks, this double assurance, I’m glad to say, has been mine for 71 long years.
Stage number five: I think we can safely say that probably most everybody wants to go to heaven. In fact, the main reason Iraqian suicide bombers kill themselves these days is because they think that heaven is going to be their reward for killing themselves and a lot of other people. 9/11 is a vivid, example of what we’re talking about.
BUT, the problem is, (and I hope you’ll get this), though sinners want to inherit heaven, they also want to take their pride with them when they go, they want to take their self-righteousness with them, and their filthy mouth, and their stubbornness and their immorality, and evil thoughts - they want all that moral garbage to go with them. In other words, they want to enjoy the treasures of heaven but they don’t want to let go of the cesspool of sin. And that keeps a lot of people from being saved. They don’t realize is that there is no more joyous, carefree, contented life than the new life we have in Christ, and that new life that is in me will never end.
Now let’s sum all this up, and we’ll call this Stage number six. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, if you haven’t made your reservation for heaven, yet, then it’s not because you haven’t lived right or because you lived wrong. That has nothing to do with it, because Christ has already paid for all our sins. So, if you’re not on your way to heaven then it’s because you haven’t accepted the gift of eternal life. But, a gift has to be received or it does you no good.
Let me illustrate it this way. Let’s suppose I want to give this watch to someone here. What would that individual have to do to own it? Pay for it? No, because I’ve already done that. Can he work for it? No, because if he worked for it, it would no longer be a gift. Then what can this person do to own this watch? Only one thing, folks - reach out and take it.
That’s pretty elementary, but so is salvation. All that any of us can do, to be heaven bound, is to take God at His word, and accept, take, receive, the gift of eternal life, That’s it.
In closing, let me say that in my mind’s eye I can see Bill, leaning over the ramparts of heaven, and saying to all of us, “Friends and loved ones, this is Bill Langston. I’m living proof that the way of the cross leads Home and that there’s no other way but this. I’m not in that box down there, that’s just my body. So don’t feel sorry for me. I’m more alive than ever and I definitely wouldn’t trade places with anyone on earth.
“Brother Bob has told you that Eternal life is yours for the taking, and that’s true. I do long to see all of you again. Will you join me, and this happy throng of redeemed ones when your time comes? That depends on you. I do hope you make the right decision. Your eternal destiny rests on it. Goodbye for now.”
Dear brother Skip, I’ve personally found that the best way to handle a military funeral is for attendees to understand that as soon as the closing prayer is over, everyone is to immediately leave the area in order to make room for the next service. Then you can either convene back in the house or move far enough away from the area so as to be out of hearing distance)
I’m sure an hour is all the time you’ll need if those talking will keep it short (like I didn’t, sorry)
It’s customary to read the obituary first, then have some Scripture verses, followed by a word of prayer. Then the meeting can be opened for those who wish to speak. After all have spoken, you might want to add a few closing words, then close in prayer, after which the group is dismissed.
Here are verses I generally use: Psa. 116:15; Psa. 73:24; Job 19:25-27; Phil. 1:21; Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58. Select two or three - and read slowly, thoughtfully.
A thought: You may want to write out the verses you’re going to read, so as to save time by not having to look them up. We’ll be in prayer for you, Skipper. We love you! Bob (and Sylvia)
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