Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Date With Death

I'm going to die. The only thing that could possibly prevent such a fate is the return of the Lord Jesus, and I have no idea if that will happen. I will have to meet death like everyone before me, and it is likely that it will test me like no other trial I have ever endured.

I firmly believe that the date, time, and means of my death are firmly fixed on God's calendar. I cannot alter it one moment, nor would I if I could. I will die precisely when God means me to, and it will be at the perfect time for me and all who love God. I believe that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, don't you?

In the meantime, I am jogging to stay healthy. In the near future, I hope to expand my exercise regiment to work on other muscle groups. I do not do this stave off the inevitable encroachment of death. I do it, to paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, "to live with all my might while I yet live." If I die skinny and otherwise healthy at 35 of a massive heart attack, it is better than dying fat and unhealthy at 35 of a massive heart attack. It is good because I will have died a good steward of the only body I've been in, and I believe that pleases the Lord. Living is not the opposite of dying; there is more to life than a pulse and brain waves and unclogged arteries.

I live every day with an eye on death, my final foe. I once had a friend who speculated on what would be the best day of his life outside of the day he was saved. He thought it might be the day he met his wife, or his wedding day, or perhaps the birth of a child. He asked me what I thought. I said, "I am living so that the day that I die will be the greatest day of my life." He looked puzzled. I said, "In that moment when death comes, if life truly flashes before our eyes, then I want to look back and remember the day that I met my wife and remember that I treated her with integrity. I want to remember my wedding day and every day after and know that I loved her as closely as I could to how Christ loves His church. I want to remember my children and that I raised them to know Christ, and that I shared my joy in His love at their rising up and when we walked in the way and when they went to bed. I want to know, as I lay dying, that nothing I did in my life ever contradicted my love for the Savior. If that is the case, then that will truly be the greatest day of my life."

Death is an enemy and an old foe. I believe it was John Piper who said that the power of death lies in his ability to take away all that we hold dear. He steals our dreams, our loved ones, and all our hopes in this life. So we recoil at him and hate him because he would rob us of all earthly treasure. The way to conquer is to know all the threats and power of the enemy, Certainly, he is coming to take all that we hold dear in this life, and he is an unstoppable foe. He cannot be beaten by diet and exercise, nor can he be bribed by riches. He will not spare the young or the old or the innocent. Yet, the Christian may triumph because when he comes, we hold one thing to be more dear than anything this world holds, something so precious that when death comes, we count that day gain. In that moment, our enemy will usher us into the presence of the King. It is gain to be with the King! That is where are heart is and that is where our true treasure lies. Death has lost his sting and the grave has no victory, for in Christ is eternal life, and in His presence is the fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. John Piper helped me see this, as have many of God's other magnificent conquerors.

I am resolved with Jonathan Edwards to live with all of my might while I yet live. I am resolved to meet death with a clear conscience and with an eye that looks over his shoulder to see a risen Lord. Death has a destiny as well. His cruelty is coming to an end. "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive...Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:22, 24-26). May the grant us the faith to overcome this last and great foe, and may we so train ourselves in God's Word and be so entranced with His gospel that even our dying will be full of grace and utterly victorious.