Unfortunately many of us have been rattled by the news of death lately. Obviously the deaths of Mike and Mary Johnson hit our church family very hard ... they were charter members of CPC and did so much over the years to help build the solid foundation that we enjoy today. They both dealt with long-term illnesses and suffered much over the past few years. Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to Michael, Michelle, and their families who lost both parents / grandparents in such a short time. Those of you who grew up in the grunge rock era likely were saddened by last week's death of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden; Audioslave) who took his own life. And then the recent terrorist bombing in Manchester, England that claimed the lives of 22 people at a concert event primarily for teenagers. Death is ugly, a consequence of the fall, described as an "enemy" in 1 Cor 15:26, and certainly a fearful thing according to Robert Murray McCheyne:
Ah! It is a fearful thing to leave the company of living men, and lie down in the narrow house, with a shroud for our only clothing, a coffin for our couch, and the worm for our companion. It is humiliating, it is loathsome.
I guess most of us sometime or another wonder about death ... hoping that our own is still many, many years in the future. We've felt the pain of it, we've been angry at it as it takes our loved ones, we've seen families suffer from it's horrific impact, we've observed it taking so many from us prematurely, we've hated it. We hear various well-intentioned people (and as Christians are likely guilty ourselves) try to comfort those in grief by using certain trite and shallow comments, often even using Bible verses, that are somehow supposed to bring comfort. And while I'm most certainly not underestimating or devaluing the significance and power of God's Word, sometimes we just need to do what the Scripture says and "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (Rom 12:15). A good friend recently asked me what they should say to a young couple who was losing their baby and my advice was, "Say little, tell them you love them, and cry a lot with them."
As Christians we know we shouldn't fear death! We feel like we should be like those great saints who have gone before us and who stood strong in the face of death whether it was due to martyrdom, disease, or tragedy. It's rather easy for us Christians to say what a "blessing" it is for those suffering with a debilitating disease to now be home with the Lord! We even like to quote the Apostle Paul who said, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain ... My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." (Phil 1:21-23) But we're still afraid of death and want to avoid it at all costs, and probably not for the same reason as Paul who said he knew he should continue to live for the "progress and joy in the faith" of others (Phil 1:25). Most of us are afraid of death because deep down we're convinced that this life is to be valued and treasured above everything else. Consider these words from G.B. Caird that cut deep into our hearts:
The idea that life on earth is so infinitely precious that the death which robs us of it must be the ultimate tragedy is precisely the idolatry that [God is often trying] to combat.
I don't really want another reminder of my idolatrous heart! But that's exactly what is being exposed as we fear death because of what "precious" things we think will be taken from us.
We aren't called to love death, we mustn't do anything to hasten its arrival, and we may never make light of the pain and sorrow associated with it ... we should hate it, we should grieve and weep over it, we should stand against the unjust taking of life, we must fight for the sanctity of life for both young and old, we must seek to live for the "progress and joy in the faith" of others. But let's not attach our hearts so firmly to the things of this world that we believe death actually robs us of our greatest joy! At death our greatest pains will be left behind and our greatest joys will be realized. I give you yet another quote, this one from the Puritan Thomas Brooks.
A Christian knows that death shall be the funeral of all his sins, his sorrows, his afflictions, his temptations, his vexations, his oppressions, his persecutions. He knows that death shall be the resurrection of all his hopes, his joys, his delights, his comforts, his contentments.
So today you're alive ... make use of today for God's glory and the benefit of others, tell someone about Jesus, rejoice and weep with others, serve someone in need, rest in His sovereign care.
To follow up on my last post .... I'll be starting a regular Sunday night work at the Moody Blue Bar ... we'll eat together, sing a few songs, I'll do a short lesson, and we'll conclude with a Q & A time ... it's gonna be called Blue Bar Fellowship. First night is June 4 so please continue to pray for the Lord to shower down His amazing grace on this opportunity!