11 March 2020
In the recent covid-19 outbreak, the Lord impressed upon me to consider the subject of death for the believer. As I see patients, many of whom have faces of fear and anxiety, seeking assurance that they were not infected by the virus, I pondered about how believers look at the subject of death; I thought about the many patients who are believers and yet, the same fear and anxiety seemed to grip them.
J.C. Ryle wrote: “The subject of death is one that men blink and refuse to look at. All men think all men are mortal but themselves. But why should we treat this great reality in this way? Why should we not rather look the subject in the face, in order that when our turn comes we may be prepared to die? Death will come to our houses, whether we like it or not. Death will take each of us away, despite our dislike to hearing about it. Surely it is the part of a wise man to get ready for this great change. Why should we not be ready?There is One who can deliver us from the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Christ has overcome death and ‘brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (2 Tim. 1:10). He that believeth on Him hath everlasting life, and though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 6:47; 11:25). Let us believe in the Lord Jesus, and then death will lose his sting”.
As I ponder over this subject, I wonder whether our fear and anxiety in the face of illness and death as believers are in fact a reflection of our lack of readiness and preparation for death. The saints of old taught us to see and feel the transitoriness of this life, to think of it, even with all its richness, as a ‘dressing room’ where we are prepared for heaven, and to regard readiness to die as the first step in learning to live. As we live, are we very conscious that we are just but one step from eternity? Living daily with this consciousness on the edge of eternity would help us to evaluate what truly matters in life for us as disciples of the Lord Jesus; it would also cause us to realise that so many without the knowledge of the gospel are truly on the edge to eternal damnation. It should spur us to bring much energy to our work for God on earth while we are still given time to get on with it. An eternal perspective is so very vital for the disciples of Christ; faith tells the soul what Christ has done and hope revives the soul with the news of what He will do. This hope is nurtured when the eternal perspective becomes clearer and we realise that we are just pilgrims passing through. For the believer, death is not the end but a new beginning; it is like a ‘sleep’ that awakes to eternal joy and glory.
The Apostle Peter tells us: “In His great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:3(b)-6). Rejoicing in this hope, we need not despair in the midst of temporary sufferings and trial, whether it be illness, persecution, or pain. God would ensure that His grace is sufficient for us as we go through what is temporary to enter into what is permanent and forever, in all its glory.
We need not go through trials, illness and the prospect of death like those who have no God; through all these, our Lord Jesus walks with us and He has gone ahead of us through the cross unto the resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. He waits for us at the finishing line; He is beside us, encouraging us, running with us, enabling us, strengthening us to finish the race. At the right hand of the Father, He intercedes for us and reminds us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him unto glory!