Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I love the story of the little four-year-old girl who was attending a memorial service in the church. Her great-grandfather had just died aged 87. At the graveside service, as his coffin was laid to rest in the cemetery, she asked, Who will be the next to go into the ground?
Her grandmother said that no-one really knew. She looked into the grave and then up to her family and said, We’ll just have to ask God about that. Isn’t it true that so often a child has perception and understanding that is so amazing? I want to talk again about trying to understand death, as I did in Part 1.
Death is not a nice subject—but the truth is, as long as death reigns, we will always need undertakers and mortuaries and cemeteries. As long as death reigns on planet earth, there will always be an obituary section in the newspaper and there will always be a funeral somewhere. I’ve said before that about 300 people die each day in this country. When we face the prospect of our own death, we don’t know what to say or what to do.
People say that nothing is certain but death and taxes. That is not quite correct. A person may find a way to avoid paying tax. He may simply not file a return—and at least for awhile he pays no tax at all. But you cannot avoid death or put it off. When your time is up, your time is up.
Life Is a Short Play
We won’t be here forever. I read a very touching article in a newspaper written by a woman on the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It was not sentimental or sad. After writing about the events of the last year and wondering what her husband would have thought about them, she said that she knew he would be glad to know that she had learned to laugh again and to laugh often. She summed up the last year this way: “When someone teaches you how short life is, you tend to quit wasting it. Not only is this not a dress rehearsal, it’s a very short play.”
That last sentence needs saying again—life is indeed a very short play.
Everyone who lives in me [Jesus] and believes in me will never ever die. (John 11:26 – NLT)
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As the poet said, “Death whispers in my ear and says, ‘Live. I am coming.’” This is not sentiment. It is sober reality. There is always room for one more. Moses spoke of this truth in Psalm 90. He said, “Our Lord, in all generations you have been our home”. Our only hope of finding significance is in God. He gives eternal meaning to our lives which must end one day—that’s why Moses reminds us to think long and hard about these things: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have” (Psalm 90:12). For who knows how much time we do have?
In the New Testament we have this wonderful word in 2 Timothy 1:10: “Now Christ Jesus has come to show us the kindness of God. Christ our Saviour defeated death and brought us the good news”. That says Christ has defeated death. How? By his death on the cross 2000 years ago. An old version of that text says “he abolished death”. How come? We still die, don’t we?
Listen to Romans 5:12: “Adam sinned and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned and so everyone must die”. When Jesus rose from the grave, he abolished the power of death. That’s why Jesus said, “whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). Death for the Christian is a temporary interruption, a passing from one stage of life to another.
The Answer to the Greatest Question
Four thousand years ago Job asked this question, “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14a) That is the greatest of all the questions—it is the one great question you need to answer while you’re thinking of it: If a man dies, will he live again?
Yes! Here is the answer to the greatest question, the deepest question, and the final question. All of us will face death someday. But for those who know Jesus, death holds no fear. We’re not afraid of the darkness for Jesus is the Light of the world. We won’t stay in ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ for Jesus has said he will be our guide. We may die, but we won’t stay dead. Jesus has the keys and one day he is going to come back for us.
As he lay dying, the former evangelist Dwight L. Moody proclaimed, “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.” Catherine Booth, wife of the founder of the Salvation Army, cried out, “The waters are rising, but I am not sinking.” And George MacDonald, the English novelist, said, “I came from God, and I’m going back to God, and I won’t have any gaps of death in the middle of my life.”