Death Be Not Proud

21 10 2009

My friend Lewis died this month. Early in the morning, while studying, I received one of those dreaded phone calls telling me that Lewis had died in the early morning hours. As I drove to his home, I found myself praying for the extended family, for the girls (two precious girls of 11 and 18), and for his steadfast and unwavering wife of twenty years.  I asked the Lord for grace, peace, and faith over each person.  I asked the Lord for wisdom in what to say and how to say it.  None of us knows the right way to discuss death. 

Death, whenever it comes up in a conversation, is the show stopper.  No one wants to talk about death.  The topic has a unique way of sneaking up and surprising you.  Just when everyone is enjoying each other, someone mentions that that person just died or this person was killed in a car accident, whatever it might be, and no one can talk after that. From that point, everything else is, might I say, trivial. The jokes aren’t as funny, the story about the trip, not as interesting.  Death trumps everyone, everything, everytime.  It’s the grim reaper in the room.

Death is the specter in the night, dressed up as a kind of dark hooded medieval monk, appearing and then disappearing in the dark trees of our mind.  It is often the dreaded nightmare of fear, darkness, and aloneness.  We fear death don’t we?  Admit it.  We all have a deep dark secret…we fear dying.  We fear our loved one’s dying even more.

Death seems to be the end of everything, so conclusive, so, so, final.  Because of our finiteness and our own mental limitations we just can’t fully grasp death.  All we know is what we’ve experienced here on earth.  All we understand is what we’ve been taught, here in the three dimensional world.  Comparisons and abstract thoughts blend into the stories we’ve heard about death and dying.  What will it feel like?  Who will be there?  Is it true that there are angels in heaven? Is St. Peter really the main greeter at those pearly gates?  Are there really gates?

There is the story of Billy Graham, standing by the bedside of his maternal grandmother, who had been in and out of consciousness, when suddenly in a surprising moment of clarity, sat up and exclaimed, “I see them, they’re all there, and the angels, so beautiful…” and then she died.  What was that?  Was it one of those many supernatural moments that God gives to remind us that everything he’s been saying about eternity is true?  Could it be that God cares enough that he would want Billy Graham, arguably the greatest evangelist of the 20th century, to have a firsthand witness of the eternity he so boldly preached about? 

I think God knows that we can’t fully grasp death.  We can feel love, feel friendship, feel forgiveness, but whoever heard of feeling death? Death is not easy to understand.  It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  I believe that God in His created order, never intended death for His creation.  Death wasn’t the perfect plan in the creation of Adam and Eve.  Death is not natural. Our hearts and minds were never created to fully comprehend death.

Life was the original purpose and plan. We get life.  Our minds and hearts enjoy thinking about life.  We love talking about it, experiencing it, reveling in it.  Life is cool to talk about.  Life is all about running, laughing, joking, falling in love, and friendships.  Life is three dimensional and fun.

Jesus taught us about life.  He even said, “I came that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b)  Jesus, with consummate insight, is offering wild possibilities in His invitation.  Jesus wants to give us life, His brand of life, His way of living.  He wants us to really live.  Jesus is all about living.

On another occasion Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus seems to be saying that “the way,” and “the truth,” and “the life” are all somehow wrapped in the same package.  Could it be that Jesus has given us a “way” of living?  Could it be that Jesus has given us the “truth” about life?

Jesus understands our questions, our false hopes, our fears about death.  And he has placed himself as the ultimate anecdote for fear.  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (John 11:25)  No grand teaching on fear.  No expansive sermon on dying.  Just a simple statement about faith and trust.  Jesus is placing himself as the answer to the sum of all our fears.  Not a theory, not an explanation, not a formula.  Jesus wants us to know that He is the resurrection from death.  He is the life. 

Do you see it?  Death has nothing to be proud of.  Death has no sting, no power, and no allure (1 Cor 15:55).  Jesus has conquered death with life (Romans 6:9-10).  Jesus is the life and he has defeated death on his terms. Jesus died on the cross, went down into hell, took the keys of death and the fear of death away from satan and has secured life (Hebrews 2:15; Ephesians 4:9).  Life is secure because Jesus secured it.

For the Jesus follower, death is now swallowed up with life!  Death means life.  Death cannot be proud for life has overtaken it.  We have nothing to fear.  Fear is ravaged by the hope of life.  Life rules in our minds if Jesus reigns in our hearts.

My friend Lewis isn’t dead.  Lewis is alive.  Lewis passed from the three dimensional world into the fourth dimension of life the way I want to pass someday.  He passed from this life in his sleep, in his bedroom, with his family nearby. Lewis passed with faith, with joy, with a purpose.  Lewis is healed of his brain tumor.  Right now Lewis is living the most active, joyful, productive life he has ever lived.  C.S. Lewis once said that death is just passing from one room to the next; from one reality to another.  My good friend Lewis got up out of his bed at 4am yesterday and walked into another room and met Jesus face to face.  Now that’s a great life!



5 responses

22 10 2009
Jan Inman

Thank you for that encouraging but sobering email. It does seem like alot in the body are going to be with the Lord earlier than most of us want. But we know the scriptures say that our “days are numbered”. God has preordained them. It is hard for us to phathom the joys and LIFE of heaven. I think if any of us really had a inking of how wonderful heaven will be, we wouldn’t want to stay here on earth! How can it be that a thousand years is like one day with the LORD. Wow!!!
We will be praying for Lewis’s family and you as you minister to the family.

23 10 2009

Seems to me that much of the fear around death pertains to our lack of control over faith. Let’s not pretend here, we all doubt, we struggle with faith during the fluctuations of our lives. As an example: If I have a moment of weakness and fight with trusting God and I hold on to my tithe money because I really need every cent to financially stimulate some “great plan” I have for my future. In spite of my lacking faith, in spite of “robbing the lord”, he’ll forgive me as I glance back upon my wavering selfish distrust. Death however, does not offer the “convenience” of time. Your time is up; do you really have faith in Him? Of course thinking about that, seems to strike my heart with a jolt of energy. I want to be stronger NOW, I want to be able to ‘know my date’ and still revel in the joy of faith in the Lord who is in control. I pray for that kind of faith.

28 10 2009
Dorinda Jacksch

I lost my brother at the very young and totally unexpected age of 44; just four years ago. I truly struggled with the concept of death. In my minute human brain, I tried to make reason and comprehesion work for me. It was only through the clear answer to many many prayers that I found His true answer. I stood before a window late at night looking at my reflection and begging for the heartache to end. He so clearly told me in my heart that the day my brother died here on earth, was the day that my brother was truly born to his Father. Death is our birthday when we are living in faith and grace by His Word and in His Glory. I now know that His love and compassion brought me knowledge and peace that late evening in 2005. Thank you Father.

29 10 2009
Desiree' Lechner

Pastor Steve,

I love this..death is hard to deal with but I have embraced the idea of being with the Lord. On some rough days in my recent past I have commented to non-christian friends that I really wish I could just die tommorrow…..they obviously took this as a morbid comment and was concerned about my mental health! But I then had the opportunity to explained I was not giving up or wanting to leave my family and friends. Simply that I knew that upon my death I would be in the Lords presence…where else would anyone want to be. This gave me an opportunity to share my faith and get them thinking about where they will go when they die. I was then uplifted from sharing my faith! Again the Lord uses the weakest to show His strength! Bless you, I really miss your sermons.

5 11 2009
Cavalene Regan

When my daughter was murdered I couldn’t cry and people asked me why and kept telling me I needed to cry and let it out. In my heart I knew Heidi was struggeling in this world and I knew she went to be with the Lord. She was raised with faith so I was sure she was in the right place. Months later I started to doubt what I knew should be right. It was years before I found my way back – in reading Pastor Steve’s blog today it was just another reminder that I am with a good support and family at Mountain Springs – everyone has helped me find my way back and I am greatful –

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