PREPARING WELL FOR DEATH
Many years ago, Michael Roemer produced a television documentary on three cancer patients, dealing with how they faced or didn’t face the coming of their deaths. Roemer stated, “You can’t learn to die as though it were a skill. People die in the way they have lived. Death becomes the expression of everything you are, and you can bring to it only what you have brought to your life.”
If, indeed, people die the way they have lived, then we need to consider: How are we living that will prepare us well for death?
It seems to me that the best way to live that prepares well for death is by living in close connection to the One who bridges this life and the life to come.
In Revelation 1:17-18, Jesus says to John, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Jesus describes Himself as the Living One who is alive forever and who holds the keys of death. He is the One who would live with us here in such a way as to prepare us well for our life in heaven and for our passing from this world to the next.
The best way to visit a foreign country is with one who is from that country. They know the language. They know the customs. They know what is best about that country. They know how to navigate from here to there.
Howard Hendricks, who was a professor at Dallas Seminary, remarked to some close friends shortly before he died, “I’m going from the land of the dying to the land of the living.”
Jesus is the Living One; He is the One who comes from the “land of the living” to our land to teach us the customs of the land of the living, to reveal to us what is best about that other land, and to help us to navigate well from here to there.
On March 7, 1991, Billy Graham spoke in Seattle, Washington on a day that President Bush had proclaimed to be a day of celebration for the liberation of Kuwait and the end of hostilities in the Persian Gulf. He invited a woman named Shirley Lansing to share with the crowd. Here is a part of what she shared.
“I come with a story about my son, John Kendall Morgan, Warrant Officer One, United States Army, serving in Operation Desert Storm. Jack committed his life to Jesus when he was young…. At the time it didn’t seem terribly important, but it was. A few weeks ago, two officers came to our door and told us they regretted to inform us that our son had been killed in action, when his helicopter was shot down by hostile Iraqi fire….
“Three weeks before he was killed, Jack wrote two letters, to be opened ‘just in case.’ After we got the news, we opened our letter and it said, ‘In case you have to open this, please don’t worry. I am all right…. Now I know something you don’t know—what heaven’s like!”
Committing one’s life to Jesus and living in ongoing close connection with the “Living One” is what prepares us well for death—for the move from the land of the dying to the land of the living.