Illusions - Living and Dying Well
I trust you are doing well and looking forward to Sunday.
This past week (Tuesday – Friday) Connie and I attended a pastor’s retreat sponsored by the Jackson Hole Bible College. We’ve been able to attend for the past 8 years and it is always a refreshing, encouraging, and learning experience. This year there was a great deal of discussion on the church's response to the pandemic brought on by Covid and what has it revealed. Clearly, Christians are divided about masks, vaccinations, shut-downs, and almost everything related to the pandemic. I am not going to criticize other Christians' positions or act as if I have all the answers and a corner on the truth. No one does! However, one thing is clear – Some Christians have an inordinate fear of death and that is unfortunate.
Several months ago now (August 14) my mother-in-law passed peacefully into the presence of the Lord. Her last days of life on this earth were a glorious example of how to die well. Sadly, not everyone does! Those who die well are strong in faith, bold in courage, and well prepared to meet their God. The Puritan Edmund Barker said, “Every Christian hath two great works to do in the world, to live well, and to die well.” This is one of my own spiritual ambitions: to be ready to die when the time comes and to die well. It is never too early to start preparing for something as important as dying well. So what are some practical ways to get better prepared for the last moments we have on earth before our first moments in eternity?
First, we can prepare to die well by thinking often about death and the life to come. Charles Spurgeon said: “We are flying, as on some mighty eagle’s wing, swiftly on towards eternity. Let us then talk about preparing to die. It is the greatest thing we have to do, and we have soon to do it, so let us talk and think something about it.”
Second, learn what the Bible says on the subject. The Bible says “We must all die,” And for the Christian "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Third, pay close attention to the spiritual experience of others in death and grief. As we watch our loved ones suffer, we should consider whether they are dying well. If they are not, we should consider why not, but if they are, we should consider what we can learn from the example of their faith.
Fourth, we can prepare to die well by singing great hymns and meditating on their meaning. Many of the best hymns touch in one way or another on the believer’s faith for the hour of death. As a preacher, one of my favorites is “There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood,” which partly goes like this:
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save:
Or consider the closing stanza of “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”:
When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold, sullen stream
Shall o’er me roll,
Blest Savior, then, in love,
Fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above,
A ransomed soul.
Finally, the most important thing we can do to prepare to die well is to put our faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins on the cross, and who passed from death to everlasting life in his resurrection. If you trust in Jesus, your salvation is secure. Death has lost its sting for you (1 Cor. 15:55), and your Savior will be with you in your dying hour. After that, he will take you to his Father’s house—the place you have been longing to go all your life. Then when it is time for you to die, the only thing you will have to do is to die and to die as well as you can. Everything else is already arranged.
See you this Sunday in person or online.
In the light of His glory and grace,