Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” There was a time when Christians were known as people who knew how to die well. It was part of Christian concern to be known as people who know how to live and die well. As the Apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Christians for centuries actually believed that and lived that way. Today, the situation is very much different, especially for Western Christians. Not only are many Christians in America not living for the Lord like they should, but many also shudder at the thought of death. For many, death is a very unsettling subject.
I am convinced that the church needs to do a better job at preparing its members to face death and meet God. I am not talking about living morbidly, or with a “doom and gloom” attitude, but rather with an understanding that our days are numbered and that we are all going to die and stand before God. As one pastor wisely said, “You cannot live faithfully in this life unless you are ready for the next. You can’t preserve morality or spirituality or doctrinal purity or faithfulness unless you are living in light of eternity.” When we live in fear of death, we will not have the confidence needed to be effective for the Lord in our life. The Apostle John said, “Abide in Christ, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.” Christians are to face eternity with faith and confidence, not with fear and shame.
In order to get us ready for eternity, the Lord allows difficult things in our lives. God uses suffering, pain, and sorrow in this life to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, and to draw our attention to Himself. The reality is that God does not want us too comfortable in this world, because the more at home we become here, the more we want to stay. The Apostle Peter said that we are “aliens and strangers in this world.” In other words, this world is not our home or final destination.
The point is that we are all under sentence of death. We are all terminal cases. Full acceptance of this truth removes a fair bit of unnecessary shock and rebellion and allows us to escape the modern Western mind-set that refuses to look at death, to plan for death, to live in light of death, and to expect death. For the believer, the time of death becomes far less daunting a factor when seen in the light of eternity. As theologian D.A. Carson says, “Although death remains an enemy, an outrage, a sign of judgment, a reminder of sin, and a formidable opponent, it is, from another perspective, the portal through which we pass to consummated life. We pass through death, and death dies. And the more a Christian lives in the consciousness of God’s presence here, the easier it is to anticipate the unqualified delight that will be experienced in God’s presence there.”
Christians, let us live in light of eternity, so that we are better prepared to die well. When death comes to me, I want there to be a glorious celebration that I am home, that I am finally free! Titus 2:11-14 sums it all up best, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” Living like this will help you prepare to die well. See you next week!