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How Death Helps Us

10 Mar

As I approached 50 (and then hit it) this past summer, I more and more began to think about how many years I have left.  I’m not trying to be morbid, but I think this is pretty natural.  However, it is different than the way I used to think.

As a young child, I vaguely remember watching the evening news on the Vietnam War.  Back then, when I contemplated dying like all the young soldiers on the news reports, I thought maybe I would be able to escape death somehow.  First of all, I thought that maybe I wouldn’t have to go to war like them, and second, I thought some scientist might find a cure for dying by the time I got to old age.

But the years and their accumulated wisdom have shown me that death is coming, unless of course the Lord Jesus returns, which of course would be much, much better.

Now, of course, from a Christian perspective, death is the enemy. And thankfully, because of Christ, death is in its death throes; and I, like all other believers, will be very glad for the day when death finally dies.

And yet…there is something about death that I find, for lack of a better word, helpful.  Now, maybe I’m crazy, because I’m actually not sure that I’m supposed to think this way, so feel free to write me letters. And obviously, it’s not helpful to me in that I have lost loved ones, or could lose others.  For this, I hate death.

But…it is helpful to me personally in remembering who I am.  As Casting Crowns sings so wonderfully, “I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind.”

You see, without death, I think I might overestimate my own importance, like the nationally prominent pastor who was caught in sexual immorality sometime in the 80’s.  His denomination had a full, probably well-thought-through discipline and restoration process for him to go through, which through his national prominence he personally cut short after 3 months saying that his church needed him to come back, or lost people needed him to come back, or God needed him, or something.

And I thought at the time, “Nope, they actually they don’t need you.”  God didn’t need him any more than my church or the Lord needs me today. In fact, I, like everyone else, am quite expendable. And nothing teaches me this better than death.  It’s the old joke about the man who is working hard at his desk when Death with his hooded cloak and scythe shows up at the office door, and the man says, “I can’t die today; I’ve got too much on my to-do list.”  Right.  Don’t we all?

Death is the ultimate humbling experience. It speaks to the Hollywood star or the National politician or the self-important pastor: “I guess you weren’t so necessary after all.”

Paul knew this.  That’s right, even the Apostle Paul knew that he was replaceable…yes, expendable.  So when the prophet Agabus told him that he was about to be arrested and handed over to the authorities if he went to Jerusalem, and his friends subsequently urged him not to go, Paul replied…

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13 (ESV)

How about that? For all he had accomplished, the Apostle Paul still didn’t think he was…necessary. He had a perspective on himself that came from God.  The work would go on without him quite well, thank you very much; and besides this, he had another understanding about the end of life that made his perspective on death quite palatable.  It is a truth he shared with the church at Philippi that made it possible to think about the end with both humility…and expectation:

“For to me,” Paul said with confidence, “to live is Christ…and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

 

For Wednesday, March 11th: Acts 22

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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3 responses to “How Death Helps Us

  1. Mark Hron

    March 10, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Well said Brother, I hink of the times when pride crept in and I would remember a saying my Dad often told me regarding work. “You are important but expendable, and they won’t even notice when you are gone”. Then he would smile and say, “give them 110% but not more”. Paul had his life by the grace of God in order from beginning to end, he knew the good to do and then did it knowing that it would cause him physical pain and hardship. Paul was always pressing toward the victory that awaited him. Somehow I want to get right in the time I have left.

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  2. Wenda Lehman

    March 10, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Amen Roger and Mark!

    Denn für mich ist Christus das Leben, und Sterben ist mein Gwinn. Yes! I, like you Roger, in younger years, could not have looked at death in any positive light – but in growing to know and love Jesus – an ever changing viewpoint! I hear the excited prayer of anticipation of my Savior in John 17 – 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. In Psalm 116 HE says: 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. And Paul’s observation in Phil. 1 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Not necessarily looking forward to the mode . . . outside of translation – but then I ponder how I don’t remember my birth – God is my very gracious caretaker in all things!

    Cause us to redeem the time allocated to each of us to be about our kingdom assignments – to bring others along both in numbers and spiritual growth . . . So can’t wait!!!!!!!!

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    • Wenda Lehman

      March 10, 2015 at 9:50 am

      An afterthought – the results of a believers death is the ultimate fulfillment of Romans 8:28:
      And we know that ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

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