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Devotional – “Living Well, or Dying Well?” (3 June 2018)

Is your Christian life more focussed on living well now, or dying well in the future?

Paul wrote from prison, perhaps even from death row, to the Christians in Philippi:

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” – Philippians 1:21–24 (ESV)

There have been amazing advances in medical technology, nutrition, sanitation and social welfare in the last century that have made life longer, easier and more stable for many in the western world. But with that, death has become less ‘in-your-face’ than perhaps it’s ever been. Death is sanitised, it’s distant, it’s outsourced

The result is that our lives, and even our Christian lives, are often focussed so much on the here-and-now, with little thought given to what happens when it all comes to an end. We compartmentalise so well, as ToG‘s Joshua Bovis puts it: “…we compartmentalise dying from our thoughts, and heaven, we reserve heaven to being that place we go to when we die (which hopefully will not happen for a very very very very long time), so I can get on with living my life now, enjoying my family, church, work, etc now.” [1]

This was not so for Christians for most of the last 2000 years. Low life-expectancy, infant mortality, illness, accident, infection, war, persecution, hunger, and other things brought death right into the daily experience of most people. With that, Christians tended to be far more conscious of how their salvation in Jesus doesn’t just mean a blessed life here and now, but a blessed life for eternity – with death as the necessary doorway through which we must pass to receive it.

Christians tended to be far more conscious of how their salvation in Jesus doesn’t just mean a blessed life here and now, but a blessed life for eternity – with death as the necessary doorway through which we must pass to receive it.

There was far less emphasis on living well, and far more emphasis on dying well. Pastors were more concerned about preparing their congregations to meet their creator than preparing to meet their boss on Monday morning. Assurance was a major aspect of Christian teaching and discipleship.

Richard Baxter, an English church minister in the 17th century wrote about the duty of pastors:

“He is to admonish them in time of health to prepare for death.” [2]

We will die, and we will all face God (Hebrews 9:27). It may be soon, it may be a long time ahead. But it will happen. Are you preparing for that while you still live?

Live it: Ask the Lord to help you learn Paul’s perspective on Christian life, that you may grow in your assurance of your place in heaven, and that you may prepare now to face your death (whenever it happens) confident of what awaits you in Christ.

 

– Clint Lombard


  1. “Dying Well” by Joshua Bovis, http://thinkingofgod.org/2017/10/dying-well/
  2. “The Reformed Pastor” by Richard Baxter http://www.apuritansmind.com/wp-content/uploads/PDF/RichardBaxterReformedPastorPDF.pdf

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