By Matt Branham, Member of King’s Way Alliance Church, Akron, OH
Even though every natural law indicates it, even though popular culture is rife with examples, even though the arc of her condition moved with haste in a particular direction - specifically, down - I was still surprised when a friend of mine passed away.
I've known her since the earliest memories of my childhood. She was full of stories, had a great sense of humor, and got rather feisty if I dared to go anywhere near her keyboard. One thing that stuck out to me over the last few months was how she wished she had more time to live for Jesus, as though what she did was not enough. I pointed out the decades of her serving at the church, and I tried to be lighthearted about the inevitable. Just being an avid fan of the Cleveland Browns should at least get her an Ohio-sized mansion in heaven. It took me a while, but I figured out what she had meant.
Many of us will go to great lengths to not think about death. Most generations of mankind never really had that luxury. For the early church – the Reformers and the Puritans – death was a lot more visible, normal, and expected. Being a Christian now is not so bad. Medicines have advanced in a way that what is easily treatable now was someone else’s demise years ago. America has been an anomaly where we can freely practice and exercise our faith without persecution. Add all the shiny things to keep us entertained and you can see how we stopped thinking about death for the most part. It has become an uncomfortable subject that makes our skin crawl. If there's a silly assurance, we tend to use that instead. Some of the people I know believe they have at least fifty years left on Earth. One of my atheist friends even has "faith" that science will eventually figure out a way for us to live forever.
The Bible, on the other hand, tells us that we have less time than we think (Jm. 4:14, Ps. 39:4), and it's wise to think about our death (Ps. 90:12). I'm still not one of those people who can talk to anyone at the funeral about the funeral, but I realize more than ever now that it's better to be in places of mourning than to be in places of fun. They serve as a reminder that we will all die eventually and we should all take it to heart (Ecc. 7:2).
I believe what my friend wanted us to do was think about our own death like it was real. Envision yourself on the brink of being face-to-face with God. Feel it like you have a panic attack coming on.
If you knew the exact date on which you will die, and it is ten years from now, what would you do? Would you treat your spouse and friends any differently? How would your prioritize your spending?
You have five years remaining. How determined would you be to tell everyone you met about Jesus?
You have one year left. How much stronger would your fight be against sin?
One more month. What would you make crystal clear with your children and everyone you hold dear before passing on?
Time's up. Someone will soon hover around your casket and give a speech to everyone in the sanctuary. What would they say? Would they get into detail about your love for God and how you lived for Him, or will they say something else was your REAL passion in life?
Don't wait until the doctors slap an expiration date on you. Start living for Jesus today. Right now. Live like a madman. Live like the Apostles. Live like we’re supposed to be living. Live like someone who will soon be dead… because that is who you are.
That is who we all are.