Death and the Gospel
“…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”
James 4:14, ESV
While enjoying my rest day at home yesterday and waiting for the lunch fellowship with my seminary classmates, I received a messenger chat from a dear Christian friend that her sister was dying and it seemed that this could be her last moment. So, she asked me if I could visit her sister and yes, I went. While I was travelling, I was praying and thinking and even asked a prayer request from one brother in the church to pray for me since this was my first time ministering to a dying person and I didn’t know how to do it. Just thinking of how awkward it will be in the presence of her family members to pray and talk about death. But I was reminded by the sermon I listened to last week that we should not be reluctant to talk about death because if there is something that we are certain in this world, it is death. No one is immortal. It might be a scary topic for some, but we have to face this truth. It is also painful since we will be permanently physically separated from the people whom we spend our time and love with.
But when we talk about death, we’re not just talking about the physical but spiritual death. Romans 6:23a says that the wages of sin is death. Death is a result of sin and it is very tragic to be eternally separated from God. That is why, not everyone will not be resting in peace because dying not in the Lord will be an eternal torment in the lake of fire. Since we are all sinners, this will be our destination. We all deserve this judgment because we have sinned against a holy and righteous Creator of the heavens and the earth. But thank God that the story does not end with this, God is gracious and merciful that He sent His only Son Jesus who took the wrath instead of us. The resurrection of Christ on the third day is a declaration of his victory over death and its sting to those who will repent and believe in Him.
Death is devastating for those who don’t have eternal security, but for those who put their hope in the Lord Jesus, death is a beautiful thing. Actually, death can be something that every Christian can look forward to. It might sound harsh but even Apostle Paul mentioned that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), and he prefers to be with Christ which means he has to die physically but he is thinking of his gospel ministry among the Philippians. The life he is living is in line with gospel purposes, but apart from it, he would certainly choose to die and be with the Lord. To die physically but eternally with God is a place where there will be no more tears, sorrows, pain, struggle, and sin. I even heard fellow Christians sometimes praying that they want to die already because they are tired of fighting sin in this hostile world. But it is the Lord who knows our days and we just have to wait until the time that He will take us into his eternal presence. Indeed, death is a beautiful thing if viewed in the lens of the gospel.
Since death is inevitable, it will surely come to any one of us, anytime, anywhere; sometimes expected for those who have sickness but might be shocking to others. The question now is how are we ready to face death. Just like how the book of James reminded his original audience, the twelve tribes in the dispersion. Citing the merchant who, being so sure of what will happen tomorrow, shows pride and it is a sin before God because even as Christians we are limited and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow for our life is even compared to a mist that disappears in few seconds. We may think that we still have a lot of time to live since we are having a healthy body or we are still young, but remember that death is no respecter of age. I am not suggesting that we should be too preoccupied with the thought of death but let us emulate the conviction of the Psalmist asking God to teach him to number his days that he may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) So, we should be trusting the God who knows the details of our days and always submitting to Gods will. It is a great reminder that as we make plans, it is resolved in our hearts that we are always subject to God, the author of our lives.
If you are not yet sure where you will go when you die, then my dear friend, this is God’s call for you to come to him in humility asking for forgiveness of your sins and putting your faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. The Bible says that when you repent and believe in Christ, you will be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 16:31). There’s no other way for you to be saved apart from Christ. No good works or traditions can equal what Christ accomplished.
If you are a Christian, then assess your heart where you are in your journey with the Lord. Are you living a compromising life as a Christian? or by His grace faithfully carrying the cross of Christ every day? Whatever your situation, my prayer is that this truth will convict you. Remember that Christ died for your salvation and may His grace enable you to walk in obedience and holy living. Enough of mediocrity and enjoy the identity that you have in Christ, a life that is blood-bought together with other saved sinners whom Christ drew to himself. Let’s lay aside every sin that clings to us closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Enough wasting of the borrowed time you have for the clock is ticking every second. Be reminded as well of your gospel commission. For sure, you still have someone in your life who is not a Christian and it is not an accident that they are part of your lives. This is a God-ordained relationship and don’t miss the great opportunity to witness the gospel to them. It might be hard and challenging but it will be God-glorifying and worth obeying for.
Last night, I received an update from that Christian friend that her sister already passed away. I was disheartened but there was this comfort knowing that I had the privilege to share the gospel to her and prayed for her, entrusting her salvation unto our sovereign Lord. Her time came already but we don’t know ours.
Friends, this is not our home, we are all just passers-by, the reality of death is a great reminder that we are to be a good steward of our mist-like life. Let’s live this life fully trusting God and obeying Him by His grace and for His glory.