Few days ago, I attended a memorial service of a long serving missionary to Africa. During the service, I was greatly impacted by a life well lived as people narrated their interactions with her. The service helped me to ponder greatly about death.
Death is always a reminder of the brevity of this life and our mortality. It is one of the most devastating issue and especially for the unbelievers who live life on this earth as if it is all we have got. During the service, I was held by the joy and comfort believers have even in death! We had a reflection from Apostle Paul’s letter to Corinthians;
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Cor 15:50-58)
It was such comforting passage for all of us as we celebrated Ruth’s life and her commitment to the gospel. Our minister started us off by pointing out that in this life, death seems to be winning. “Death seems to stare each one of us and shout,’I’ll get you soon,” he noted.
He continued to help us see that through Jesus, death has lost its sting! It was such an encouraging message that there’s life after death, when we who believe in Jesus will be transformed during resurrection: mortal into immortality, perishable into imperishable! What a joy, death is not the end. Death has been swallowed up!
‘Death thou shalt die!’ the preacher noted. We were all encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus whether in life or in death. We were all called to reflect on our comfort in life and in death as one of the catechism puts it:
“….with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil…”
In conclusion of his encouragement, Paul in his letter to Corinthians noted that the glorious victory over death would make them to live differently in this present age. “Be immovable! Let nothing move you from the gospel. Abound with the work of the Lord, fill your mind with things that will count for eternity.” Surely, a life lived for Christ and his labour is not in vain! It is a life not wasted.
We all need to imitate Paul’s resurrection hope and live for the Lord in this present life until He comes back. If our attention is for the next world, death does not stop it for dying is gain for we will be with Christ days without end. Our prayer now is to be heavenly minded so as to be of more earthly use.
Join me in thinking over C. S. Lewis words in his book Mere Christianity on how thinking about heaven changes how we live our lives today;
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
May the Lord help us!