With the corona virus in the news and on everybody’s minds, I thought this would be a good time to talk about death.
The prospect of death gets everybody’s attention.
The corona virus – now a worldwide pandemic – has turned the world on its head and may in fact permanently change some of the ways that societies operate.
It is reminding us once again of the fragility of life and the possibility of a quick departure from it.
The virus is highly efficient, very easily spread, and scientists are scrambling to develop a vaccine against it and to identify any existing medicines that will fight it.
I looked at my Bible’s concordance and couldn’t find the term “Coronavirus” there. But I did find “pestilence.” And “death.”
Jesus said in Luke 21:11: “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”
Who among you wants to die within the next few days or weeks? Form a line, starting here.
I don’t want to be in that line, but I’ll organize it.
God has placed inside every one of us an instinctual desire to remain alive. We don’t normally want to die.
As Woody Allen once quipped: “I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
In recent weeks, Dot has been concerned about me working at the courthouse. Sending disinfectant with me. Insisting that I wash my hands and don’t touch my face – something I’m normally bad about doing.
Isn’t it a nice feeling – knowing that your spouse doesn’t wish you dead? I think so.
She got very concerned when we found out that the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in our county had visited the courthouse where I work back on March 4th, while apparently still contagious but before being diagnosed with the virus.
As a result, I and my fellow screeners at Bankruptcy Court were directed to self-quarantine until 14 days had passed. We were allowed to return to work Wednesday, March 18th.
Since then, the court has drastically altered its operation, with everything scaled down and proceedings carried out telephonically.
We screeners have been scaled back as well, divided into 2-person teams scheduled to work on alternate days.
In the meantime, Dot has been filling me with all sorts of vitamins and supplements and exhorting me to vastly improve my personal hygiene, which I didn’t think was all that bad to begin with.
Everybody is on high alert due to the potentiality of catching this virus that can quickly make “death” a reality for us.
The potentiality of soon dying makes people think differently, makes us do strange things, and oddly enough, not always kind things.
It should cause us to seek peace with God, if we haven’t already.
But for many of us, it’s really hard to accept that it might actually happen to us, to ME.
I DO know that death is a certainty. But just not for myself. Not now. Not yet.
But unless we are alive to be raptured into the clouds to meet Jesus when He comes back, we will most certainly SOMEDAY die. And SOMEDAY may be very soon. Sooner than we think.
Death is the most democratic event in history.
“Death is the destiny of every man,” Ecclesiastes 7:2 tells us, “the living should take this to heart.”
Recently, I read the following commentary by the late evangelist Billy Graham on the subject of death.
“Life is like a shadow,” wrote Dr. Graham, “like a fleeting cloud moving across the face of the sun. King David said, ‘We are aliens and pilgrims…as were all of our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow’ (1 Chronicles 29:15). The world is not a permanent home for anyone; it is only a temporary place to dwell physically. The Bible tells us that the days of mankind are numbered.
“When English patriot Sir William Russell went to the scaffold in 1683, he took his watch out of his pocket and handed it to the physician who attended him in his death. “Would you kindly take my time piece?” he asked. “I have no use for it. I am now dealing with eternity.”
“Time slips away for everyone. Long ago, a friend went for a ride one day, never dreaming it would be his last ride on earth. He swerved to avoid hitting a car, ran into another car, and was thrown from his vehicle and killed. The news reports such instances daily; stories of death coming suddenly to those who had no idea they were living their last moments on earth.”
“It is reasonable – even responsible – to ask how people would live if they knew it was their last day on earth, for one day it will be!”
“The Bible teaches that God knows the exact moment when each man is to die (Job 14:5). There are appointed bounds beyond which we cannot pass.”
“When a person is prepared to die, he or she is also prepared to live.”
“The primary goal in life, then, should be to prepare for death. Everything else is secondary.”
Do you agree with that statement? I do.
And how do we best prepare for death? By living. Just living? No. Living for God. Living for Jesus.
No doubt you’re familiar with Tim McGraw’s song “Live like you were Dying,” about a man who learned he didn’t have much time to live.
“I was in my early forties,” the song goes, “with a lot of life before me, and a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days looking at the x-rays, talkin’ bout the options and talkin’ ‘bout sweet time…”
Remember how that news changed the man who received it?
“I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t, and I became a friend a friend would like to have.”
“I finally read the Good Book, and I took a good, long, hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”
“And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
“And he said, ‘Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying,
Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity to think about
What you’d do with it, What could you do with it, What did I do with it, What would I do with it?’”
When a person is prepared to die, he or she is also prepared to live.
Friends, I believe that is true.
The question I need to ask myself – and perhaps you need to ask yourself – is: “Am I living like I was dying?”
Remember the old slogan, “You only go around once in life.”?
That statement applies only to the “life” we’re living in our current skin.
But we won’t be in THIS skin forever.
“I know that my Redeemer lives,” said Job, “and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus proclaimed. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25)
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed,” wrote Paul, “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands…For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5: 1,4-5)
In Hebrews chapter 9:27-28, the writer is seeing right through the grave and into eternity when he writes: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
My friends, I hope that we can all live like we are dying in our time here on earth – not in the sense of this world – but rather in terms of the world that will come, as described above. Because when we’re prepared to die, we’re truly prepared to live.
May God bless and keep you in the days ahead.