When John Owen, the great Puritan, lay on his deathbed, his secretary wrote in his name to a friend, “I am still in the land of the living.” “Stop,” said Owen. “Change that and say, ‘I am yet in the land of the dying, but I hope soon to be in the land of the living.”
Paul Azinger spoke of this when he shared his testimony of his battle with cancer. In that same moment, something Larry Moody, the man who leads our Bible study on the PGA Tour, has said to me many times came to mind: “Zinger, we’re not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We’re in the land of the dying, trying to get to the land of the living.” To read this golfer’s full testimony go to this link:
As a pastor, I have often said, “I do death.” By this I mean that I have no fear or discomfort with death and dying, I know the Author of Life and the reality of death and what my death will ultimately mean. Because of this understanding I find that ministering to people who are touched by death is something that I do with confidence and into which I believe I bring peace and comfort.
My mother, Marilyn Dunn, once said while leading a memorial service for Christian leaders, “We rejoice because they are now in the nearer presence of the Lord.”
In our culture today many simply see death as annihilation. Death is not only an end to life as we know it–it is the end. All that was of value is erased except for one’s legacy. It can be a compelling reason for goodness or a powerful license for evil. There is no reward nor is there retribution. Unless one has an extremely high level of tolerance for suffering for suffering’s sake, then a whole lot of life’s experience is also meaningless,
If we lived in a perfect world where there is no trial nor temptation nor tragedy then maybe we could be assured happiness in this life. In that perfect world, personal goodness would be its own reward. Our impact on others would always be constructive. Meaning would come from simply getting up in the morning. Hope would be unnecessary.
We do not live in a perfect world. We live in a fallen one. And hope is what keeps us alive and moving forward.
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” – I Thessalonians 4:13, New International Version.
Our hope is in Jesus Christ. He has conquered death. And through our relationship with Him, we are assured that death will not have the last word, Death will not separate us from Him. The good we do now will be rewarded. But because we have been united with Him on this side of death’s door all that we do now participates in His magnificent plan to demonstrate His love and transform us all into people of purpose.
Suffering in this life does not mitigate this truth. Death does not deny this truth. Death confirms it.