The revelation by Rev Jeffrey Blue was made to mourners for John Finlay during his funeral today at Ballyweany Presbyterian Church, located between Ballymoney and Ballymena. He previously said that he had terminal cancer.
A family notice said Mr Finlay, 62, passed away peacefully at his Cloughmills home on Monday. He is survived by his wife Linda and daughters Naomi and Rebekah.
Rev Jeffrey Blue said in his address: “If there is one thing that John would have wanted from today it is that the focus of this service wouldn’t be on him; but it would be on his Saviour and all glory would be to Christ. It’s why John wanted the burial to take place beforehand.
“To know John was to know someone who was trusting in Christ alone for salvation. John knew that he was a sinner; he knew that he did not deserve salvation but that it was by the grace of God alone.
“John loved serving his constituency; he worked tirelessly for everyone within the area and went above and beyond. But John wasn’t doing it so that people would think he was great; he was doing it to serve his Saviour and bring glory to his name.”
He was “a faithful and diligent elder” within the congregation of Rasharkin who supported many missionary organisations and missionaries. He was very encouraging, the cleric said, and would often call on Monday mornings to say “that sermon was good for my heart yesterday”.
“Anyone who was with John since he received his diagnosis and he knew that he had a terminal cancer could not have been struck at just how strong he was in the face of this awful disease,” he said.
“That wasn’t stiff upper lip, that wasn’t foolhardy, or devil-may-care attitude. No, that came from a deep personal faith that he did not fear death.”
He added: “John Finlay was my friend. He was amongst two or three people who were in my closest circle. He had my back. He was utterly dependable. He was direct, nothing was ever not said between us.”
Mr Finlay was “steadfast” and faithful to his parents, sister, wife and children, he said.
Mr Finlay was first elected to Down District Council in 1993 and in 1998 was elected to Ballymoney council, where he served people across the community for over 30 years, he said.
He was twice mayor of Ballymoney, shadow presiding officer of the new council that became Causeway Coast and Glens Council, a long-time member of the Northern Ireland Housing Council and a former member of the Policing Partnership, as well as chairman of the North Antrim DUP Association for almost 20 years.
As the MP’s senior case worker he “thrived” in helping people, specialising in tribunal advocacy. “He has left a massive gap in community politics,” Mr Paisley added.