You know those times when a theme occurs repeatedly in things you hear or read. Let me share this one with you.
First, it was a newspaper article where the columnist highlighted the staggering financial cost of Australia’s ‘over-reaction’ to the virus, claiming that the country had ‘forgotten the inevitability of death.’
The second was a daily devotion based on Ecclesiastes 7:2, ‘Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.’ The writer spoke of an establishment in South Korea that offers ‘free funerals for the living’ with the aim of helping people ‘improve their lives by considering their deaths.’ Since it opened in 2012, more than 25,000 people – from teenagers to retirees – have participated in mass ‘living funeral’ services. These are ‘meant to give the participants a truthful sense of their lives, inspire gratitude, and aid in forgiveness and reconnection among family and friends.’ [Our Daily Bread – 16 Oct 2021]
The third was a real-life account from Nepalese pastor Rabindra Das who was forced to consider his own death after contracting COVID-19. He concluded his story by reflecting:
‘During my isolation, I had the opportunity to renew my faith and calling. I learnt how important our faith is, which gives us trust and future hope; and how weak we are without Jesus. When I was reflecting, the Lord clearly showed me that the DREAM OF MY LIFE SHOULD BE JESUS. Making any other GOAL for my life is vain. Jesus is the LIFE, the WAY, the TRUTH. I learnt that I should enjoy my success and achievements in Jesus. I am His servant. If I can do my duty as He assigned to me, I am a successful person. Achieving everything without Jesus is achieving nothing. Losing Jesus is losing life.’ [Asia Focus – Sept 2021]
The fourth was another devotion that spoke about our tendency to live with anxiety or driveness that come from believing that all we have is life in this moment.
We easily forget that difficulties in this life, even the prospect of death itself, are there as reminders that we are designed for a world to come. [New Morning Mercies – P D Tripp, Mar 11]
In these anxious times we can worry about our lives from any number of angles, from fear that we may become infected with COVID-19 and die, to fear of harm to our bodies from vaccines, to fear of the loss of lifestyle or privileges to which we have become accustomed.
Can we really ‘improve our lives by considering our deaths?’ Taking to heart that ‘death is the destiny of everyone,’ as Ecclesiastes says, can indeed help us focus correctly on life. It can cause us to ask, “Have I ‘forgotten the inevitability of my death?’ Have I considered the staggering spiritual cost of that forgetting? Have I made life in this world my idol? Am I hanging so tightly to some of God’s good gifts like money, relationships, security, health or pleasure, that I fear losing them more than I fear losing Jesus?”
‘Considering our deaths’ can help us to loosen our grip on the vain goals and achievements that can so easily rule our lives and prevent us living for eternity.
We can only do that properly when we first consider the death of Jesus. By his own death and resurrection Christ has guaranteed a perfect life to come, the likes of which will never be found in the here and now.
God’s gift of new life in Jesus can help us focus on making the most of God’s good gifts and dealing with the difficulties in our lives, while always considering, ‘the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Philippians 3:14).
May God help us all to say with Pastor Rabindra Das, ‘the DREAM OF MY LIFE SHOULD BE JESUS. Making any other GOAL for my life is vain… Achieving everything without Jesus is achieving nothing. Losing Jesus is losing life.’
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania