Mark Twain commented that there were only two guarantees in life – death, and taxes. Billy Graham put it this way, “From the moment we are born, we start to die. Death is the most democratic experience in life, for we all participate in it” (Decisionmagazine.org). Death is inevitable, so unless the Lord returns, we will all face it. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, death has become a present reality for some and a fear for others. The fear that if I catch the virus (or loved ones do) it will result in death. With that in mind, let us take a look at death.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
‘You Only Live Twice’ was the title of a James Bond film back in the 1960s. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.
MY OWN EXPERIENCE
I have faced many situations when I could have died or at least various critical times where death could have been the result.
- At less than 12 months old, I contracted diphtheria and was in critical condition. I was in the hospital for a month, and my parents were not able to visit me during this time.
- As a young child, I nearly drowned, except for a lady rushing into the lake in her clothes to rescue me.
- While playing with my friends, at a Sunday School Picnic, I was hit above my eye, by the seat of a swing. I ended up in the hospital with what was then called ‘blood poisoning.’ My parents were told I was in danger of dying.
- I was nearly run over by a truck, that, after hitting another car, had driven off the road and over the exact spot where I was walking. Instead of turning around when I heard the crash behind me, I had instantaneously dropped the plastic bowl I was carrying, feeling propelled forward to run. The bowl was crushed to pieces.
- On a return flight from England to Australia, a flock of birds flew into two of the engine of the 747 on take off from Dehli, India. The explosion occurred at a critical point in the takeoff. The pilot had to dump fuel as we were forced to make an emergency landing at Bombay airport, with fire trucks following us down the runway.
- Not long after moving to America, I took a trip to the Bahamas, where they drive on the left side of the road, just as they do in Australia. The day after I returned, I turned onto Hwy 95 on the wrong side of the road – the left side – right into the path on an oncoming truck. My immediate reaction was, “That stupid idiot is on the wrong side of the road.” The truck driver and I swerved, missing each other by inches. I was the idiot! I was driving a Pinto that day, which had a reputation of exploding and catching on fire in crashes.
- One morning, while feeding my daughter’s horse, for no apparent reason, he turned around and kicked, hitting me. I ended up with a small bruise right in the middle of my chest. If I had been any closer, he could have taken me out.
In each of these instances, I could have faced serious injury or even death.
DEATH FOR A CHRISTIAN
Christians face death, just like anyone else. The only difference is that as believers, we have the promise of life after death with Jesus, the risen Lord in heaven above. Jesus declared on the occasion of the death of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
Paul was able to testify that death, the last enemy, ( I Corinthians 15:26) no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:9). Death is not to be feared because Jesus is there to meet us when we enter into His presence.
No wonder Paul was faced with the dilemma he shared in his letter to the Philippians, where he declared in chapter 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (or more Christ).” “As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here” (Phillippians 1:22-25 The Message).
In other words, there were some moments when Paul wanted to go to be with Christ. He was ready to die and go to heaven.
OUR ATTITUDE TO DEATH
We are not meant to live in fear. God does not want us to live in fear, and certainly not in fear of death. Remember what Psalm 31:15 declares, “My times are in your hands.” In other words, I put my trust for life or death in the hands of the Lord. As I previously shared, although there have been seven times in my life when I could have faced death, in the midst of it all, I have realized that my life, my times, are in His hands.
Realize that death has been defeated. The writer to the Hebrews declares of Christ “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The devil and death, as well as sin, have been defeated at Calvary. So, rejoice in the victory Christ has won for us.
Be faithful unto death. Revelation 2:10 challenges us to “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” No one knows how long they will live or how soon they will die, but we can all make the decision to live our lives in a way that is faithful to fulfill God’s plan for us here on earth. We only have one life to live, so let it count for Jesus. Let us be faithful unto death!
I have seen many people die and been to many funerals in over 85 years of life and nearly 60 years in ministry. There is a difference for those that do not know Jesus. There is no confidence, no sense of hope, no assurance of eternal life. In contrast, at a Christian believer’s funeral or memorial service, there is joy, even in the midst of sadness (We do not sorrow as others that have no hope – I Thessalonians 4:13). There is an assurance, a sense of hope, a confidence that they are with Jesus and that one day we will see them again.
Knowing Jesus makes all the difference. It takes away the fear of death and gives us the assurance of Jesus and heaven above. We have the promise of God. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. . . . . Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5)
Even so, come Lord Jesus, come!