This historic sermon was delivered by Pastor Marvin Winans at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey on February 18, 2011 at the Homegoing Service of Whitney Houston. It has been transcribed as faithfully as possible below:
The Eulogy of Whitney Houston by Pastor Marvin Winans
Marvin Winans: Let\’s go to the word of the Lord. I can assure you that this is not a speech. I\’m getting ready to preach. Someone â€“ lawyer called my office to see if I wanted the property rights on what I\’m going to say. I don\’t know how I could do that because all I\’m going to preach is the word today.
Marvin Winans: The word of the Lord from Matthew the 6th chapter, the 25th verse. Jesus says these words, â€œTherefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment?â€
So far are the scriptures. I want to concentrate our thought on the B clause of this text. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment? In order for us to expedite this process, I am looking for my amen corner. Sounds like it may be coming from over here somewhere and I try to tell folks in the little church where I pastor that if you say amen I\’ll get through this sooner. If you don\’t, I\’ll feel like you don\’t understand what I\’m saying and I\’ll have to reiterate some things. But if you want to leave here with a subject, everyone repeat after me. Prioritize.
Marvin Winans: Now that\’s what we want to talk about today. Somebody lied on Jesus and I just want to set the record straight. There is this untrue, this misrepresentation, that living for the Lord is somehow boring, dull, ho-hum, unfulfilling, second rate, un-impactful, dissatisfying, wait until you have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel sort of existence when nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus said in John 10:10, â€œThe thief cometh not, but for to steal, to kill, and to destroy.â€ But he speaks of himself and said, â€œI am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.â€ The apostle Peter speaks out of his experience in 2nd Peter 1 and 3 and says, â€œAccording as his divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.â€ Prioritize.
Prioritize simply means to arrange in order of importance. In other words, setting up your life based on things that really matter. And in this discourse, that\’s exactly what Jesus was trying to teach. This is the Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes. And it starts, according to Mark\’s account, in the 5th chapter and ends in the 8th.
So I would suggest you read it and pay specific attention to the 6th chapter. But at the end of the 8th chapter, it says that the people were astonished at his doctrine because he spoke with such authority. In other words, he talked as if he knew God. And it amazes me â€“ see, I\’m getting loud. I\’m starting â€¦
Marvin Winans: It amazes me how ambiguous the believer is about God, when in fact we ought to know him. I\’m going to preach in a moment.Â Just stay with me. And the only way to know him is to have him included in what you do, not excluded. And Jesus says here, â€œTake no thought.â€ That word in the Greek, it\’s a verb which simply means don\’t be careful or don\’t be anxious. Don\’t get nervous about life. â€œPsucheâ€ which simply means to breathe or to have the psyche or mind of an individual. Don\’t get nervous about life because the life, the breath, is more important than what you eat. What you put on cannot equate to life itself.
And so Jesus says, â€œTake no thought for your life.â€ In no way is he suggesting that one lives a life aimlessly without dreams or aspirations. He is not saying, â€œLet life happen and just accept what comes your way.â€ He\’s actually saying the opposite.
I want you to understand that our salvation was not given to Christ. He had to buy it. And Jesus came with purpose and fought to obtain our deliverance. Salvation is free, but it isn\’t cheap.
One of the qualities of faith is expectation. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. So if you find someone without expectation or hope, that individual is void of faith because faith always expects and faith always moves towards its goal.
So don\’t think that the church is for somebody that doesn\’t want anything. Don\’t think that the church is for somebody that can\’t get a gig anywhere else.
Marvin Winans: Don\’t think that the church is for people that do not have hope or cannot make impact. As a matter of fact, that is the opposite. It diametrically opposes what Jesus is about. John writes and says, â€œBut I would above all things, that thou mightiest prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.â€
But what we\’re dealing with is the misappropriation of what\’s important. And the devil wants you â€“ and I said the devil. The devil wants to use your circumstance against you by making you become anxious when things don\’t happen on your timetable. He wants you to assume responsibility in that you become the master of your own fate and trust in your abilities to make things happen and thereby abdicating your faith in Jesus.
But Jesus is saying, â€œI don\’t want you to become anxious about life. I don\’t want you to feel as if life happens without purpose. For I want you to understand according to Ephesians the first chapter that God works all things after the council of his own will. To understand that you are not a mistake, that you are not a mishap. But God had a purpose before he ever created a person. And that your existence on Earth has significance.â€
You all got to help me preach here. Look at somebody and say, â€œI\’m significant.â€
Marvin Winans: So, when you recognize that you did not just show up, but that God had purpose for you. I like to use this analogy, that everyone buys a new car; and when you buy that car, there is an owner\’s manual in the glove compartment.
Now most of us because we have our license and have had it for some time, we do not even go through the owner\’s manual because it tells us how often we should take it in for a tune-up and the oil we should use and the gas we should use. I had a car that I used to put just mobile premium in, but these gas prices ran me to regular right quick fast and, you know, everything gets regular now.
But the owner\’s manual for the car doesn\’t tell you where to drive. It doesn\’t tell you who to let in your car. But it tells you how to get the best performance and when people look at the Bible, they look at it from the wrong perspective. Because this is the owner\’s manual, and the things that God has set up is so that you can get the best performance out of â€“ I don\’t hear nobody talking but me. So that you can get the best performance out of your life. So let\’s take another look at what Jesus said. And I\’m finished.
If we read this text in its entirety, Jesus says some wonderful things. He says no man can serve two masters. In other words, somebody has to be in control. Someone has to be subservient to the other. Either you love God or you will serve money. But you can\’t serve money and God. Somebody holler back at me, â€œPrioritize.â€
Marvin Winans: I don\’t want anybody to leave here thinking that God wants anybody here broke. And I just need to say this since I have your attention. We have a lot of folks that say, â€œWell, you know, I don\’t agree with the prosperity gospel.â€ I don\’t know what other gospel there is. And if God wants somebody to be broke, would you tell me who that is? Who\’s volunteering?
I can\’t get no hands here. Please, I just believe the Bible. You have to understand that this manual gave us examples and testimonies of how we should live and when God brought Israel out of Egypt, everybody came out with something. I don\’t hear nobody talking to me.
Marvin Winans: For you to believe that somebody has to be broke is to say that God doesn\’t have enough sufficiency to supply it for everybody. I\’ll talk about that on another day.Â I\’ll be â€“ you know, folks have been coming to the church and wanting to hear me. What are you going to say? What are you going to â€“ I\’ll be there Sunday. Come Sunday, all the people that was trying to hear me preach today. Come Sunday. I\’ll be there.
All the news agencies, you know, what are you going to â€“ just come Sunday. I do this every Sunday.
So I want you to understand that what God desires for everyone is that everyone would be healthy and prosperous.
And so he says, you don\’t have to worry about it because I â€“ I want to say it in the vernacular of todayâ€”He says, â€œI got you.â€
Marvin Winans: I know that may not be proper English but certainly the text seems to emphasize the fact that if I\’m not going to worry, Bishop Jakes, about what\’s going to become of me, then God says, â€œI got you.â€
So He says, â€œHere\’s the priority for the believer,â€ because sometimes the world is afraid of church folk. As one Muslim said, he wished he had met Christ before he met the Christian, because sometimes we are believers behaving badly.
But Jesus, Jesus says that, â€œI\’m going to give you the order of how this should go.â€ And in that same text he says, â€œSeek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.â€ Now you got to put that in there before we go to the all.
Seek ye first the kingdom. In other words, the first thing that comes to our mind when we begin to do things would be, â€œIs this consistent with kingdom living?â€ We want to get the proverbial cart before the horse, and we start seeking things before we seek the kingdom.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In other words, with everything I do, I want to remain in right standing with God. I\’m getting ready to preach now. I want to remain in right standing with God. In other words, I want my life to please Him. The gifts that we have are God\’s gift to us but the life that we live is our gift to God.
And God says, â€œI got you.â€ So if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all these things shall be added. See, that\’s the part that allows you to work the foundation of your faith, to allow God to take you through a wilderness area knowing that He\’s going to make you the better for it.
And that when I get in the middle of the valley, that is not a time for me to leave my faith but to trust that God is still with me. And that if He has me in the middle of a sunny afternoon, then He has to have me in the middle of a dark night. Look at somebody and say, â€œHe got you. He got you.â€
Marvin Winans: I want us to recognize that our faith in God must not be something that we attach to the end of our lives, but that we must prioritize. That you make your decision based on your faith. That you walk according to what you believe. Knowing that you can never say yes to God and God make you ashamed. That you can never put God first and God forget and leave you. I\’m finished. Thank you.
Marvin Winans: C sharp. Every head bowed. Father, we thank you for this life of Whitney Elizabeth â€œNippyâ€ Houston. We thank you that she was a dear friend and we echo the sentiments of all that have come to show their love. But Father, I pray, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you would give all that are under the sound of my voice the thought to prioritize, to make you first, for us not to talk about you but for us to live for you.
Let us leave here, recognizing that Whitney left too soon. Let us leave here impacted by her life, saying that I want to finish what God has started. Let us make You first. I pray that you would lift up Mike and Gary and Pat and Bobbi Kristina. Lift up Cissy. Lift up Aunt Bay. Lift up Dionne. All of those that are touched, all of us that are hurting, that you would lift us up. And Father, we will not leave here bitter or upset.
[sings] But let the church say amen. Let the church say amen. God has spoken so let the church say amenâ€¦