September 17, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
John Piper would say that one of the jobs of a pastor is to prepare his people to die well. Sounds odd, doesn't it? When we consider the truth of the gospel, though, the oddity of this goal diminishes and we begin to see it as utterly Christ-exalting.
When comforting two sisters grieving the death of their brother Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he love, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26) Christ knew that through his death and resurrection he would provide eternal life for all who trust in him.
When Paul reflects on the work of Christ he speaks both of the sting of death being removed and the hope of being reunited with Christ at death. He quotes Isaiah 25, "'Death is swallowed up in victory.' O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?... Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15: 54-57). And considering his own death Paul says, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain... I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (Phil. 1:21, 23).
This is the power of the gospel that enables us to die well. Death for a believer in this earthly life is merely a passage way to be with Christ for eternity. To die well means to not fear death and the loss that comes with death but to long for that union with Christ. To die well exalts the goodness and inestimable value of Christ over all that this life offers.
This past week my dear pastor, mentor, and friend, David George, died well. David pastored two churches for over 35 years (10+ years in Green Bay, WI; 25 years in Roseville, CA). He learned he had pancreatic cancer on August 11. On September 9 he learned that there were no treatments for his very rare and aggressive cancer. He passed away on September 11.
When David heard from the oncologist that he had "days to weeks" to live, he told his family, "It's not the end of the world. We're waiting for the world that is to come. I'm just going there sooner." He spent his remaining conscious hours praying and visiting with his various family members (his wife of 40 years, four children, their spouses, and eight grandchildren) and listening to the Word of God (his daughter read out loud to him the gospel of Mark and nearly half of the Psalms in those final days). David faced death with the hope of the resurrection and with joy at being with Christ.
Author and personal friend of David, Steven Garber, says, "What we believe about the end of the story shapes the way we live the story." David George believed what the gospel says about the end of the story. David's life and final days were marked by valuing Christ above all else.
How about you? Are you ready to die well? How does the end of the story shape your life today?