Looking Squarely at Death, #67

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

John 8:51, (context, vv. 48-51)

R.I.P. “Requiescat in pace”, was discovered etched on the walls of catacombs that dated 150 AD. It was done by  early Christians and indicated that “they died in the peace of the Church, that is, united in Christ.” The abbreviation R.I.P., is now used today–“Rest in Peace.”

Death is inevitable, none of us are going to escape it. Exactly 100% of us will step out into this unknown, and as far as I know no one except Jesus has returned to tell us what to expect. But he completely understands our fear, and he will guide us through this moment. He will not let you face death frightened.

“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”

Martin Luther

Jesus promises eternal life to all those who keep His word. Our obedience is like a long (sometimes happy, sometimes dreary) hallway that we walk through. At the end of it there is a golden door–for the believer it immediately opens up, but for the non-believer it’s locked tight.

For the unforgiven and the unfaithful, death means doom. For those who want to follow Jesus, death isn’t any different than a graduation, or your wedding day. Rather than listen to the wickedness of the devil, we must grasp truth and not let go. And we really must encourage our frightened brothers. They need to know this.

“How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”

George Macdonald

When I was a young boy, I used to lie at night on my bed, crossing my arms, and pretend I was dead. I also went through an awful fear of being buried alive. I read about caskets that had a bell that could ring if I somehow was trapped inside. Somewhere I read they when they had to exhume a body they sometimes found scratch marks on the inside lid. Pretty heady stuff, for a ten year old.

Until I became a believer, I was haunted by this awful fear of death–I now realize that Satan was trying his best to ensnare me. Fear is his awesome tactic, and it destroys the human heart–but I also know that these moments the Holy Spirit always visits me, and along with him he brings his joy, comfort and calming peace.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

“Death may be the King of terrors… but Jesus is the King of kings!”

D.L. Moody

The Voice, #51

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 

Matthew 17:5, (context, vv. 1-8)

Sometimes God uses a megaphone. At least whenever I read this account I always have that impression. Perhaps, like these three disciples, we are being led into these situations were the voice of God becomes extremely audible. When we do hear Him it occasionally freaks us out.

The disciples collided with God’s glory and it altered them permanently. Peter recalled these many years later in 2 Peter 1:17-18–

“…when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Peter remembers the voice. At the end of his life that is what amazed him–Peter couldn’t forget, it was something he couldn’t shake. He had seen astonishing things that afternoon, profound things; but at the end he recalls that voice. When we read this, we realize that it wasn’t the visuals so much as it that voice that terrified the three of them.

*****

“Rise, and have no fear.”

Matthew 17:7

Peter is not penalized for his distressing behavior on the mountain. I’ve read this passage over the years, and every time (without fail) I’m totally embarrassed by Peter. He is completely out of mesh here–he acts like clown. He hasn’t a clue.

When the three hear the voice they fold–they are terrified to the point of collapse. The Greek word is “phobos,” the root of our word phobia. This is intense, knee-shaking, face-falling fear. (“Loose bowels” is just slightly more intense.)

Jesus steps right into this situation. He understands completely. He may have even smiled? He reaches to His own and lifts them up. “Don’t be afraid anymore” can be very comforting to hear, especially coming Jesus.

“The Bible is God’s voice, in print.”

Gonzo Faith, Entry #38

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

Mark 4:40 (context vv. 35-41)

Often fear rules the human heart. Quite suddenly the waves seem too high, and the wind starts to really howl. We look at our circumstances and we freak out by what we see. Things look grim, and often we imagine the worse is going to happen. Fear has its sharp hooks in us; and everything is starting to get really crazy.

Jesus often zaps us at times like this. When our boat is pitching violently in open seas, we’ve lost our anchor and the sails are useless, it’s then we start looking around to find where we put our life-jackets. We choose this approach rather than calling out to Him.

It seems that becomes our last option–to beg Him to come and save us. (We can get so stiff-necked sometimes. I think it really is a pride/humility issue.)

Faith is probably the most significant part of this verse. It’s faith in Him that screams out of our storm. When faith shows up, fear leaves. We get one or another. I suppose it’s always going to come to this–will it be fear or faith? We must grasp this lesson, hopefully sooner rather than later. The storm is how the Kingdom of God gets worked into the human heart.

“Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation.”

-Andrew Murray

“Have you no faith?” That’s Jesus’ interesting question to His believers who are about die. Crazy! But know this, these tempests will never be random or capricious. His love has absolute control over each of them. All He wants is that His disciples will see a truly powerful love, that really does save.

Calling on Him must become our first reaction, and not the fifteenth.

We’ll learn to do this first eventually, even if it means repeating the lesson over and over and over, until faith becomes our first response. Jesus often uses a bad storm to put the Kingdom even deeper inside of people. “Have you no faith” isn’t so much as an indictment of you, as it’s a deep and concerned observation. And only the storm can reveal your faith.