July 6, 2023 | By Jay Ashbaucher
People normally do not like to talk about death. Every day people die, whether in wars, from accidents, from mass shootings, from murders, from diseases, or from old age. Humans are often trapped in a fear of death. As a child, I panicked when I realized that one day I would have to die. My mother shared with me the greatest news someone fearful of death could ever hear; the words of Jesus, “The one who believes in me will never die (John 11:25-26). When we take that step of trusting Jesus to rescue us, he sends the Holy Spirit to reside within us and he gives us the power to be raised from the dead in two ways; spiritually and physically.
First, we are raised from the dead spiritually through conversion. To be resurrected spiritually means that we have become a newly created person who begins a new kind of life. We have been given a new heart that wants to live God’s way. Second, when Jesus returns, we will be raised physically from the dead to live eternally in God’s fulfilled kingdom with a resurrected body like Christ’s (Romans 8:9-11; Philippians 3:20-21).
We are not just saved from a physical death. More than that, death is to be a way of life. Jesus said, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25) Is he not saying that to participate in his sufferings and death, a truly satisfying life will be found? Participating in Jesus’ sufferings and death does not sound like a happy or logical thing to do, and it is hard to come to that place of willingness, but for the committed Christ-follower, death becomes the path to a joy-filled life (John 10:10; 12:24-25). As we mature in faith, we do not fear death, we do not run from death, or deny it; rather, we learn to face it and to participate in it. There are five ways we lose our life to find an abundant and satisfying life.
First, we allow our fear of death to create in us a dependency on God. There is no place else to go. Jesus asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him. They answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66–68). The apostle Paul told us we had the sentence of death in us so we would not trust in ourselves but in God, who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8–10). Fearing death causes us to turn to God, and to rely on Him who loves us to be our deliverer.
Second, we participate in death by welcoming it as the doorway into a new world. By trusting this guaranteed hope, we anticipate a wonderful life in God’s future planned world (Hebrews 11:13–16; Luke 23:41–43; 2 Peter 3:13). Believing God’s promises helps create in us an excitement for the future.
Third, we participate in death when we deny ourselves to meet the needs of others. Because God supplies our needs and we have a future inheritance awaiting us, we do not have to selfishly hold on to our money or possessions. Our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions or in our having to grasp for security in this world (Luke 12:13–21). We willingly lose a part of our life by freely giving ourselves and our possessions to bless people and help meet their needs.
Fourth, we participate in death by dying to our sins. By learning to walk in the power and ways of God’s Holy Spirit, and by practicing the new life Christ teaches us, we are continually overcoming those corrupting and negative traits in us that are destroying our lives and the lives of those around us. (Colossians 3:3–15).
Finally, we participate in death by willingly and boldly identifying with Jesus in His sufferings. As believers in Christ, we don’t compromise God’s standards of right living, and we become willing to stand up for Him, even if it means persecution (Acts 20:22–24, 21:13). One of my favorite stories is about a missionary who traveled by boat to a faraway country to share the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness with a tribal people. A shipmate asked him where he was going. When he told him, the shipmate said, “Don’t you know those people are dangerous? You could die out there.” The missionary calmly replied, “I died before I came.”
We seldom think about how precious life is. We grow up enjoying the things kids do but with very little thought and appreciation of what life means. The sacrifices of those who love us escape our notice. We marry and raise families, and if we are fortunate along the way, we develop close, loving relationships with our family members and a few friends. Life continues from season to season, taking us into old age. We may have taken life for granted, but now, through all the ups and downs, and the hurting and forgiving, we have grown fonder of those we love, so much so that it deeply saddens us to think that one day our relationships with our life companion and beloved family and friends will come to an end. It doesn’t seem right that death should rob us of all we have come to hold dear, treasure, and enjoy. We wish life would not end unless of course, our suffering is too great to bear.
Jesus gave us hope when He said, “I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1–6). Jesus will return, and together with those who love Him and look forward to His appearing, we will rise to meet Him. There is no greater comfort anywhere (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18). As Christ-followers, we believe in a God who has created us, and re-created us, and who has promised never to leave or forsake us. We believe in God because we have heard from Him, and He has convinced us by showing us through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that there is something more than a life of troubles and sadness which is often experienced here on earth. We are not imprisoned in a life of our own making that is subject to death. We have been set free and have had our eyes opened to see the existence of a life beyond death. As the Bible reminds us: If Christ is not real and if he has not risen from the dead, we are of all people most miserable, and our faith is worthless. But Christ has risen from the dead and His plan is to abolish death (1 Corinthians 15:12–26). We who belong to God through our supernatural birth into His family, possess the everlasting life He promised. It has already begun here and now. As we learn to live with death, we find our life, a life that overcomes the fear of death; one of love, righteousness, hope, and peace.