Another Step – Death and Dying
The blessing and the curse of being young is that you know you will surely die but you don’t believe it. In church, we don’t talk about death, sin, hell or heaven much anymore. We’re afraid people will stop coming or think we’re nuts. Noted physicist Stephen Hawkins says the afterlife is “a fantasy!” Jesus proved it’s real by coming back after death and being seen by more than 500 people. I’m going with Jesus!
In this topic, we want to get across that “hope is not a strategy”. Hoping you live to 100 doesn’t prepare you for the possibility that you might die young. Since Scripture clearly says that God knows the number of our days, we must be prepared and, as the country song says, “live like we are dying”.
You’ll want to think on this discussion about death and dying on two levels: the physical and the spiritual.
1. Take care of yourselves physically. Have an annual physical and do what the doctor says to do to stay alive and healthy. If you haven’t had a physical in the last year, get one.
2. Talk about wills and living wills with the people you care about.
3. Push to get enough insurance to take care of your wife and kids should God take you early.
4. The “love letter” (I call it the “dead” letter) - When my dad died, there was mass confusion. We couldn’t get to his will because it was in his safe box. And we couldn’t get into his safe box without his will. Multiple other complications arose because we didn’t really know what was where, who to call, etc. Years later, my attorney introduced me to the idea of a “love” letter: an informal document that spells out in detail what we have, (insurance, investments, stock and bond certificates, pension documents, etc), who to call to let them know I’ve passed including their phone numbers, and any special instructions of situations that a wife would need to know about. It’s been one of the most peace-giving documents I’ve ever prepared. It makes me feel good, not just that I’ve taken care of my family financially, but I’ve also taken away the anxiety that would strike shortly after my funeral when hundreds of questions and documents start to come at her and she has no idea as to what to do or who to call.
5. Your parents - Many of the guys that I’ve mentored have just moved into the stage of life when their parents have begun to get sick and die. I press really hard regarding Ephesians 6:2-3 which says "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— "so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." I remind them that they’ll likely live many years after their parents have passed. So they want to have VERY CLEAR consciences about how they treated their aging parents. I’m sure God was very careful when He chose the word “honor” and gave it to Paul when he wrote this to the church at Ephesus.
6. Your friends and family - There WILL be times when you’re going to be intimately involved with a family who has lost a loved one, whether suddenly or through a long illness. Remember that there are no words that can be said that are adequate during these times (Job 2:12b-13). So the best option is to say “I’m so sorry” and then to be quiet. Your physical presence and loving touches speak what needs to be “said” in most cases. Restrain yourself from all the clichés that actually hurt and confuse the grieving, like “She’s in a better place” or “God must have wanted him there more than he wanted him here”...that kind of thing (Job 6:26). A kind smile, a gentle touch or hug—that’s what people appreciate, not long diatribes with meaningless words of inappropriate theological concepts. Become a servant. Be quiet, but be present. Pray for them. Let the Healer do His work.
7. Get ready in your heart - A great writer once said, “The mark of true spiritual maturity for the Christ-follower is when he is ambivalent as to whether they live in this life or the next.” We’ve all heard “You can’t really live until you’re ready to die.” Study God’s Word and pray until you’re confident in your faith; until you KNOW that when you breathe your last breath here, it will be followed by your first “breath” there. Meditate on this reality. Get comfortable with the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding;” that peace that can only be experienced by Christ-followers who know their Heavenly Father’s voice and who know they’ll hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” 30 seconds after they die.
I have the guys I mentor write their obituaries, so we get to talk about what they see as important and what they’d like said at their funerals. It’s a great segue to a meaningful discussion about judgment and heavenly rewards.
Share your view, your vision, your plans for the rest of your life with some people you’re close with. Don’t be disappointed by a lack of dialogue in this topic. As I said in the beginning, younger people believe death is what happens to someone else. Tell them what you know, tell them what you plan, and point them to God’s Word. That’s all you want to do.
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