My experience as a health worker brings me close to dying people a great deal of the time. It has helped me see life from a new perspective and I particularly spend some time in my devotional prayers now to thank God for the gift of each new day.
I have however observed that though many of the people I encounter in the hospital are suffering from terminal illnesses, some of them usually appear unprepared for their deaths.
I see this in the deep apprehension that is written all over the faces of the patients. And when these patients die, the manner of grieving that families demonstrate reveal that both the patient and their family members have been totally unprepared for the deaths.
The more tragic one is observing professing Christians on their deathbeds. Some of them behave as if there is no Christ, there is no heaven and as if there is no hope after this life. I observe as such persons cling on to life, with some crying out “I don’t want to die…”; and I wonder at what exactly they had believed all their lives.
I digress here by launching an attack on the sort of modern but nonsensical gospel that has pervaded our churches. The gospel of prosperity offers no hope for its adherents for the life to come. All of their hopes and aspirations are earthly (1 Corinthians 15:19) and when many of their adherents lie on their deathbeds, facing eternity, they are such a miserable sight to behold.
This fact is even made more urgent when one observe that Muslims have a greater hold over the matter of death than some Christians do. When they loose their loved ones, I see Muslims make confessions about the futility of life and the fact that all souls made by God must return to him at some point.
Islam is a religion that is disproved by many Christians as false and idolatrous; yet its adherents handle the matter of death better than many professing Christians.
I know of Christians who will not venture into grave yards. Some of them will not will not enter or even pass by mortuaries. Even in health, many professing Christians have a morbid fear of death.
There is no greater proof of the futility of what a person believes than when such a person’s faith lies flat in the face of eventualities like death. Again, I blame this wrong mind-set on the gospel of prosperity which many of these people believe today and for this reason alone one cannot but continue to condemn these messages as false and even outright demonic.
Death is a price that every living being must pay. It is sin that brought death into this world and because every one of us is a sinner, every one of us must die (Genesis 3:3). The Bible refers to our bodies as mortal (Romans 8:11), what that means is that this body is dying. It is the wise Christian that prepares daily for his death.
Fortunately for the Christian, the Bible offers us a rich theology and base for belief on the subject of death. In fact that Bible gives the impression that while people without God may die, Christians sleep in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). By extension, the Bible tells us that by dying and rising from the dead, our Lord has defeated death forever (Hebrew 2:14).
The implication is simple: though we as Christians must die because we live in a mortal body, our greatest rejoicing is that our deaths in this life is equal to our living with Christ forever. Paul the apostle states this most succinctly when he said to die is even better for the Christian (Philippians 1:21).
As Christians join all humanity to pay the price of death, we have it written in our Bible that someday God will destroy death himself in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Thus we see that death is a being like Lucifer himself and he is the enemy of every living thing. But death himself shall be destroyed by God.
There is a famous story that is told of John Wesley. Wesley had been raised in a religious home and was quite familiar with Christian themes. In fact Wesley considered himself a Christian until he took a trip on a ship from England to the Americas with the purpose of going to evangelize the new found continent. In the midst of the trip, the ship encountered a storm and Wesley was scared to death; thinking he had met his waterloo on that trip.
Wesley would however observe that a group of Christians with him on that ship looked calm at the face of death. These people, he would later discover, were some Monravians brethren, a Christian group from Germany that was steeped in the doctrine of Martin Luther. Wesley then enquired about their faith and they explained what they believed and why they appeared so calm in the storm while every other person was scared stiff.
That incidence revealed to John Wesley that he was the one that needed to be evangelized. He would later find saving faith while listening to an introductory text that Luther wrote on the book of Romans.
Wesley records that his heart was strangely warmed at that occasion and he finally rested his faith in the eternal Saviour. And of course with this went his morbid fear of death. Wesley was used by God to bring many others to saving faith in Christ Jesus.
My point is simple: if you fear death that so much, it is likely that you are without saving faith in Christ Jesus. I have not said those with saving faith in Christ will not fear death; I am saying that true, mature and increasing faith in the living Christ will diminish the fear of death daily in the minds of true Christians.
The point therefore is this: while we live, we must not only serve the Master but we must increase in our understanding of him, and come to increased realities of the life to come after now – placing our eyes on things above (Colossians 3:1).
Christians must do things that will increased the assurance of their salvation. Petty sins and hopeless gospels, that major on the things of the now, will eat at the heart of an assured salvation. We must avoid these things at all cost.
One day, either sooner or later, every man shall stand face to face with his death. For some, there will be little time to prepare to die. Death will come suddenly and in a moment of time such persons are in eternity, accounting to their creator how they lived their lives. For others, and I think it is the mercies of God that grants this, there will be a lengthy time to prepare to die.
This is why I think that those who have the opportunity to lie on their death beds, through prolonged illnesses, have been granted mercy by God to prepare to die properly.
If based on a false message of health and wealth, these people spend all their time “faithing” a recovery from illness, they will die suddenly and whatever they meet in eternity will be their fault and not the fault of the preachers that deceived them.
It is my hope, however, that every reader of this piece does find saving faith in Christ by first believing that Jesus died for this very purpose: to deliver all men from sin and its eternal consequences, even eternal death. I do sincerely hope that you will repent of your sins and place your hope of eternal life on Jesus Christ. The greatest joy of the believer is in the fact that regardless of how he dies, suddenly or otherwise, his sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ. What this means is that when every Christian appears before the judgement throne of God, he will stand acquitted from the guilt and penalty of sin – which is eternal hell.
Christians will not go to heaven because they are perfect or because they have confessed every sin (although God calls us to upright living and to also confess known sins); rather Christians will go to heaven because they are in Christ and thus found themselves in God. Christ is our only hope to God’s kingdom.
Therefore if any reader of this text have come to faith in Christ, realise that our life long duty from now on shall be to increase in faith in our Lord such that when death comes calling we will not fear it. Like the Monrovian Brethren that Wesley met on that faithful day on the ship, we can stare our deaths in the face and smile.
As a result of our faith in Christ, we would have spent all of lives ready to die.