January 6, 2017

Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

For quite a few years now the attitude of so many Christians toward death has been a mystery to me, because it is so different from the one expressed here. Humanly, physically, it is natural to fear death, but for someone who has encountered the risen, living Savior, Paul’s attitude seems far more logical. This is not at all to say we are to seek physical death in any way; suicide is a horrible defeat before the deceptions of the devil. However, for anyone who is in Christ, physical death is a liberation, a graduation from all the struggles of this life into the incredible presence of our Lord in heaven. That is gain indeed, just as Paul says. Our problem is that we are so fixated on the material and the temporal that we can’t shift gears into the eternal. We are on this earth simply to get to know our Creator and learn to serve Him in love and fellowship. We will lose sight of that, or fail to see it in the first place, if we are fixated on earthly pleasures and things. For someone who is in Christ, death is a tragedy for those they leave behind, not for them personally. Funerals are for those left behind in any case, but for Christians they should be celebrations. I was once in charge of the music for the funeral of a lady over 100. She was technically a member of the church I pastored in Virginia, but she had lived with a daughter for many years and so had been associated with two other churches, and all three pastors took part in the service. I chose the liveliest, most joyful hymns I could find that she would have been familiar with, and afterward was thanked by many family members for such an enjoyable funeral that they were sure had delighted her. At that age that doesn’t seem so strange, but it should be the same even for a young person who is in Christ. We look at “lost potential,” but God is the judge of that, and we should trust Him.

When I got the news that my father had died at 64, my first, honest reaction was, “He won’t have to retire.” I knew he was very much NOT looking forward to that, since he would have had to leave Japan. That said, I grieved my own loss. At this point, I realize the impact my own departure would make on those around me, especially my wife, and I do my best to stay healthy, knowing that I have the same genetic makeup as my father and grandfather before me, who both died of heart problems. Like Paul, I need to focus on the “fruitful labor” the Lord has for me, spending each day in obedience to Him. Frankly, I am FAR more concerned about my wife’s passing than my own, but I am fully aware that is entirely selfish, particularly given her long list of physical problems. Also, she’s already been to heaven once and come back, so I know from her own report that insisting on her resurrection would be downright cruel! As long as I am on this earth, I am to seek to bring as many people as possible to the same assurance I have, so that death may indeed have no more dominion, for the glory of God. (Romans 6:9, 1 Corinthians 15:55-56)

Father, thank You for this reminder. These days I’m spending a lot of time with a very frail 79-year-old, and we are moving toward building an assisted living facility, so this sort of thing is very much in my awareness. Help me indeed get as many as possible into right relationship with You, so that they too may look forward to standing in Your presence, for Your glory now and throughout eternity. Thank You Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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