The Word of God Kept Him

Funeral Message for Sidney Boyd (1948–2023)

When a teenager (say, 14 or 15 years old) is surrounded by his best friends, living in a safe neighborhood, among happy families, rooted together in a faithful church, the last thing on his mind is that, in sixty years, one of those teenagers would be speaking at the other’s funeral.

We didn’t know it at the time because we just took it for granted that, from about 1956 to 1964, Bradley Boulevard was a kind of paradise in Greenville, South Carolina. Nobody locked the doors at night. We played games after dark, running through the backyards, with no one sounding an alarm. We actually drove go-karts on the neighborhood streets.

World of Friendship

Four blocks northeast was White Oak Baptist Church, the worshiping, relational hub of my life and my friendships. And at the center of that little group was Sidney Boyd — along with Billy Watson and Joel and Carol Reed and Nancy Ponder. Sidney lived four doors down the hill. We virtually never went to a park to play. Our yards were our kingdom, our battlefield, our Wild West canyons and prairies, our strategic rendezvous.

One of the reasons I am here this afternoon is that this little world of friendships meant more to me than most people realized. I felt very much an outlier at Wade Hampton High School. But with my circle of friends in the neighborhood and at White Oak, I was loved. We probably would not have called it love. But it was. We were at home with each other. The thought never entered our minds that one of us might need to pretend anything. Being real and relaxed was not something you did. It was just who we were.

Whether it was a ping-pong game in the garage; or swimming in the backyard pool; or wearing our green uniforms to play church softball; or eating pizza on the picnic table; or sitting in a circle on Sunday night, studying the Bible; that band of friends was a profoundly stabilizing force for me.

Kept by God’s Word

Jesus was always the greatest. We never doubted it. The Bible was always sure. Things weren’t up for grabs. In our own immature way, we saw what we could not name. Jesus and his word and his people were self-authenticating. We didn’t know that word. We couldn’t explain it, any more than we could have explained electricity or the workings of the internal combustion engine or the process of photosynthesis. But we knew that light and motors and plants were real and they worked. Jesus was real. His people were real. And his book worked.

Why did Sidney wake up a believer in Jesus for twenty-five thousand days — including days of deep sorrow and relentless disease? Why did you wake up a believer this morning? The word of God had taken root. And it did its work. “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” (John 16:1). This is what held us: the word of God. And this is what held us together, even when we did not see each other for years.

The word of God made Sidney and kept Sidney. To the end.

Unafraid to the End

So, I am deeply thankful to God and to his Son Jesus and to his word for the life and the friendship of Sidney Boyd. And I think he would be pleased if I left you with two Scriptures, one for him and one for us who still live.

God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10)

Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)

We do not need to fear death. It is our servant. Trust Jesus who died for us. Walk in fearless joy, and love the people around you.