Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Clarity that Only Death Can Bring

Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not...Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass (Job 14:1-2, 5).

Death is just around the bend for all of us. Perhaps today, I will meet my appointed time to stand before my Maker. Perhaps, even as I write this, a cancer is growing inside of me that will claim my life, or maybe an artery in my heart has ballooned in an aneurysm to burst at any moment. Maybe, as I sit and sip my coffee, and mad man is on his way to this very store to send me to the judgment seat in a hail of gunfire. One thing is certain, whether it is today, tomorrow, or many years from now, a course of events is shaping up to send me to my long home. I am a dying man in a decaying world.

Do you think it morbid to think such thoughts? I do not. I think, in some ways, that they are very healthy. Death, my final foe, is circling me even now, threatening to take away all that I hold dear in this world. He is stalking my children, my wife, and my friends. And he will have them, one by one, until they are no more on this earth. He is brutal, thorough, and relentless. I will face him, as will you, and you must be ready for the battle of your life.

Does this certainty make you despair? Will you say with MacBeth:

Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing..

Is that all life is? A tale told by an idiot? A raving, maniacal thing that ends in vain? When MacBeth looked into the eyes of death he saw only the vanity of life. He saw no hope. No meaning. Only despair.

Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should not have such a bleak outlook. We are called to consider ourselves dead to ourselves (Rom. 6:11). Jesus taught that only by dying to ourselves will we ever truly live (Luke 9:24). So death, in some form, is an ever present reality to Christians that we must embrace in order to live. Death, then, in all of its wrongness, becomes a servant to usher us into eternal life.

Each day, a follower of the Lord Jesus should face death. In so doing, we receive greater clarity about what it is to live, about what is important. First, we must die today by putting to death sin in the form of selfish, godless desires. We do this by valuing Christ Jesus more than life and sin. Secondly, we are to consider our days and that death is stalking us. By so doing, we will be able to disarm his threatenings by letting go of all that we cannot keep in order to hold the things we cannot lose. What can death not steal? Our standing in Christ, our love for the world by the Holy Spirit, and our works which are sown in righteousness. We should concentrate on these things and thinking on death helps us to keep them in perspective. Perhaps, if we fight well, we will meet death with hope, knowing that a better ressurection is coming, and that all loss for Christ's sake is gain.

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