Friday, May 3, 2013

Today is a Good Day to Die

Good morning.  Today is the final day of our seventeenth week, reading the Bible through together.  Our scriptures today are:  1 Sam 17; 1 Chr 2; Acts 12.

What if you knew your own future?  What if you knew the day you were going to die?  Would it change the way you live today?  If they knew the date of their death, some people would be very depressed about it.  They'd develop an unhealthy obsession with death, and mentally they'd live in a very dark place.  But others (and, I think I'd include myself in this) would find it terribly freeing.  Think about it--if you know that you're not going to die until X-date, then you can live without fear until then.

Emily Dickinson once wrote:

 Sic transit gloria mundi (Latin: Thus passes the glory of the world.) 
How doth the busy bee, 
Dum vivimus vivamus, (While we live, let us live) 
I stay my enemy! 

In other words, worldly things are fleeting.  But bees in their busyness care nothing for the destruction that will one day come--they continue doing their work nonetheless.  As long as they live, they live life to the full, according to God's plan.  In this way, fully living while they live, the living have mastery over the enemy, death.

Knowing their own death ahead of time, some people would "live it up."  For them, dum vivimus vivamus would mean, "There's no need to repent until I'm ready to die, so I might as well sin all I want up until the last minute.  Then I'll ask God for forgiveness and get saved."  Of course, that would be the wrong approach.  Instead, true believers would wake up and say, "Since I know I'm not going to die today, I have absolutely no fear."  While they live, they'd really live.

David and Goliath
In Psalm 56:3-4 (NASB), David said:

When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?

That's a pretty good attitude to have.  David wrote this when the Philistines seized him in Gath.  But he had this attitude earlier than this.  In our 1 Samuel passage this morning, we read about young David's fearless encounter with Goliath.  What could give him such courage?  He'd already been anointed as king of Israel, yet the promise of that anointing hadn't yet been fulfilled.  He knew as he faced the giant that he wouldn't die today--not if God was going to keep His word.  While he lived, David could truly live.  What could mere man do to him?

But what if you knew that today was the day that you were going to die?  How would you live differently?  Would you make peace with people you'd been feuding with for years?  Would you forgive your enemies?  Would you seek spiritual counsel and prepare your heart to meet your Judge?  Would you entrust yourself to the loving arms of your heavenly Father?  Would you wake up and say, "Today is a good day to die?"

The Beheading of James the Greater
While Steven was the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54-60), James the son of Zebedee (elder brother to John) was the first apostle to suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:2).  He had been a fisherman, and a partner to Peter.  He had been one of the three who was closest to Jesus in His ministry.  Nicknamed one of the "sons of thunder," no doubt he was filled with energy and passion for the Lord.  But one day in AD 44, his day to die arrived.  I wonder, as he laid his neck on the block and waited for the blade to fall, did James think, "Today is a good day to die?"  He knew that with one swift stroke, he would be in glory with his Lord.  He had lived his life to the full, in total surrender to the God who had called him away from his nets all those years ago.  But a moment from now, he would walk hand in nail-scarred hand with the One who loved him most!

In the United States, Christians are not persecuted to the point of death.  But around the world, believers suffer greatly.  More Christians died at the hands of persecutors in the twentieth century than in all other centuries combined.  I invite you to pray for the persecuted church--that God will give them the strength to really live as long as they live, to not back down from the giants that threaten to destroy, to claim victory even as David did.  I invite you to pray that when the day of death through martyrdom or other causes comes, believers might rise with confidence and be able to say, "Today is a good day to die."

I pray that you, dear reader, might be able to say in faith, Dum vivimus vivamus--"While we live, let us live!"  Then, boldly go out and live for Christ. 

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