Giants in the Land: Deathly Afraid

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
Philippians 1:21
I recently spoke with a friend who had lost a relative who had been slowly declining for years. As we talked about both the practical and the soulful aspects of this death, I asked if my friend’s relative had left plans for a funeral. My friend smiled sardonically and said, “Dying wasn’t in his plans.”
This is true for so many of us. We don’t like to think about or even consider death. But we all do… or will die. Perhaps we avoid death because there seems to be only grief and mystery in death. Perhaps we avoid death because the only emotions we find there are fear and sadness. But when we avoid death completely, we miss the most powerful promises that are given to us in Christ Jesus. Thus, we make decisions and live life with a pall of fear and denial where God offers us hope and promise.
The apostle Paul was able to clearly look at death in this passage from his letter to the Philippians. He did not do so with any sense of depression or fear. Nor did he approach the passage because of resignation in the gift of his life. Instead, he looked at death in the light of the hope that was given to him in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul lived his life in the hope of Jesus’ presence. Thus, it is not surprising that death promised more of the same.
What is important for us to see is how this affected how Paul lived. He was facing a trial for his faith that could lead to his death. In that situation, it would be understandable for Paul to do anything necessary to preserve his life. But because death was colored by hope instead of fear, Paul was resolute in his faith. Come what may, he chose to partner with the glory of God.
Dying might not be in your plans, but the promises of God provide the freedom to live without the fear of death. In fact, in Christ, dying need not be part of your plans because God’s promise is that “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
Do not be afraid of death. Ask God for the hope that is yours in Christ Jesus. Thus, live every moment of life you are given fully and free of the fear of death.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your promise of life… life now and life without end. We ask for faith to believe what we cannot see in regard to life and death. We ask that you step into our fear of the mystery and the sadness, the pain and the loss, and give us hope. Thus, free us to live in hope now and die in hope when it is time. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Keenan Barber