Behold, God works all these things,
Twice, in fact, three times with a man,
To bring him back from the grave,
That he may be enlightened with the light of life.
One winter, when I was in high school, my father decided to replace an old fence that marked the back line of our property. We spent a few days removing the barbed wire and then he got busy with another chore and set me to the task of pulling the old fence posts out of the ground with our tractor.
After a day of getting off and on the tractor to attach a chain to the posts I decided the next day, in a stroke of genius, to attach it to the seat post of the tractor rather than the draw bar. All I had to do was back up to the post, reach behind me, attach the chain and pull the post out of the ground. Shake the chain loose. Move on. Piece of cake!
The contrivance worked well until I came to a large cedar corner–post that was not rotten and was deeply imbedded in the ground. (I didn’t know it at the time but it was set in concrete.) My first effort yielded no result, so I revved up the tractor, popped the clutch and…
Well, if you know anything about the laws of physics you know exactly what happened. The seat post acting like a lever, lifted the front wheels off the ground. The tractor did a wheelie, throwing me backward, head over heels to the ground. I looked up to see the tractor, tethered to the fence post, “walking” forward on its back tires until it was almost vertical and about to tip over and squash me like a bug. I reckoned my all-too-short life was over. When the tractor reached vertical, however, the engine stalled, otherwise someone else would be writing this column today.
I’ve had two or three similar “near–death” experiences and I’m sure you have too. They serve us well, reminding us that death is right around the corner. Samuel Johnson, I think it was, said that the prospect of one’s imminent demise “wonderfully concentrates the mind.” Indeed, death makes you think about things.
I saw a line in a sports magazine the other day about a well-known athlete who was in failing health and “listed as day to day.” An unexpected philosophical one-liner followed: “But then again, aren’t we all?”
Right. You never know! Death could visit any of us any day.
Old Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) wrote, “Death meets us everywhere, and is procured by every instrument, and in all chances and enters in at many doors; by violence and secret influence; by the aspect of a star and the stink of a mist; by the emissions of a cloud and the meeting of a vapor; by the fall of a chariot and the stumbling at a stone; by a full meal or an empty stomach; by watching at the wine or by watching at prayers; by the sun or the moon; by a heat or a cold; by sleepless nights or sleeping days; by water frozen into the hardness and sharpness of a dagger, or water thawed into the floods of a river; by a hair or a raisin; by violent motion or sitting still; by severity or dissolution, by everything in nature and everything in chance.”
HOWEVER, if you’ve put your trust in Jesus you’re in good hands. You can meet death, whenever and wherever it meets you, without fear. Jesus has promised, in a pledge that could hardly be stronger or more sweeping, that, because He died and rose again for us, you and I “will never, ever die” (John 11:26).
Jesus was thinking of our souls, of course. Our bodies are not immortal and, speaking for myself, I will most gladly leave mine behind. But the part of me I call “me, myself and I” will live on, not just to the end of time, but forever.
Death is not the end of us, if we’re “following the Lamb.” It is an entrance into a life that is “far better” (Philippians 1:23). Life does not end in death, It is perfected by it. Lines from George MacDonald’s The Golden Key, come to mind:
You have tasted of death now,” said the Old Man. “Is it good?”
“It is good,” said Mossy. “It is better than life.”
“No,” said the Old Man; “it is only more life.”
David and Carolyn Roper co-direct the work of Idaho Mountain Ministries, a ministry of clergy care. David is the author of 14 books. The most recent: Teach Us To Number Our Days. His musings are archived on davidroper.blogspot.com/
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.