The Care and Feeding of the Heart: When the Death Toll Mounts, What Is Your Measure of Reality, Readiness, and Redemptive Response?
Welcome to the Training Table where you can depend on some spiritually-nourishing sustenance, carefully prepared to help you run the Godly and good race (2 Timothy 4:7)! For what good is a good race, unless it’s a Godly race?
This feast of the heart for running the good race is a diversion from the normal fare. With all of the chaos going on around the world… With the death toll talley being the main headline story most every day… With purposeful, accidental, naturalistic death tolls becoming so commonplace that we hardly flinch at the news anymore…
I thought I would get very practical and remind you of the best CHECKLIST for being ready when the death toll counts you… And me… Amongst the unfortunate yet inevitable victims…. Or victors.
There are many things that I find particularly interesting about death. The two most prevalent interests—depending on the culture and individuals therein—are that, a) is it inevitable and yet b) death is often placed within a compartment of deep denial and fear within many hearts and the culture at large.
If any of us were to take even a small amount of time, talent, or treasure to investigate the symptoms of the denial of death within our own heart and/or the culture, I believe we would be fascinated by how much we are controlled by something so inevitable, so distasteful, so common to all people, so real… And SO potentially freeing.
BUT… in an effort to prove to many skeptics that I can be incredibly practical when coming up with a menu at The Training Table, I thought I would offer a simple checklist for you to make sure that your measure of reality, readiness, and redemptive response is in place.
I mean really… Hasn’t the sheer volume and array of daily news reports about death, disease, and destruction gotten your attention concerning the reality of death and your own, your loved ones, state of readiness?
Get Started: Review this document completely and keep this on file with your will and other important documents.
I have completed my Will
Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and Medical, and back-up person(s)
Custody of child(ren) and back-up person
Distribution of assets and personal items
The will is signed, notarized, and a copy has been given to those listed.
My copy of my will is located here: _______.
I have completed my Living Will
Medical power of Attorney and back-up person
Additional information and notice to your doctor
Discussed your wishes friends and family
Discussed or written down the type of funeral or memorial service you desire and any instructions about burial or cremation
I have considered where and how I would like to be cared for if I were terminally ill and discussed this with those closest to me
The living will is signed, notarized, and a copy has been given to those listed.
My copy of my living will is located here: _________.
I have researched Life Insurance options and purchased the best possible plan for me and/or my family
I have researched Short term Disability and completed all steps
I have researched Long term Disability and completed all steps
A copy of my policy is located here: ___________.
I have reviewed my financial situation and, if necessary, discussed this with those closest to me
I have completed a budget and track monthly actual costs to my budget
I have ______ weeks/months of expenses saved in case of accident or emergency
I have a plan in place to meet my goal to have _________ by this date __________.
I have a savings plan and/or retirement plan
I have listed my Personal Details out in case of emergency or some one else needs to retrieve it (passwords, contact information, accounts, etc.
A copy of my details list is located here: ___________.
I have thought about my relationships and how I want to move forward to resolve any unfinished business
I have reached out to those people
I have deeply considered how my life lines up with my values and priorities, how I am spending my energy, and what I want to do differently to have the life that is meaningful and important to me
Notes and Next: (any additional thoughts or notes)
Doesn’t That Help Contain Reality and Get You Ready to Go?
The Short Answer? Not quite… Or even close.
Please hear this and act “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8).
Beloved friends, family, fellow marathoners for Christ, there are many amazing and wondrous realms that we could explore about God, Who He is, how He reveals Himself, and why, such as:
1. The Solitariness of God
2. The Decrees of God
3. The Knowledge of God
4. The Foreknowledge of God
5. The Supremacy of God
6. The Sovereignty of God
7. The Immutability of God
8. The Holiness of God
9. The Power of God
10. The Faithfulness of God
11. The Goodness of God
12. The Patience of God
13. The Grace of God
14. The Mercy of God
15. The Love of God
16. The Wrath of God
17. The Contemplation of God
(A. W. Pink)
But I want to boil it down to one very practical issue: Are you and your loved ones ready to die? The ratio of life to death has been and will always be a one-to-one ratio: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… (Hebrews 9:27).
If not, you are not likely ready to really live. If so, there is nothing that can stop you from fully, completely, unflinchingly, and audaciously living… to glorify God and bless other people! There is no better mission in life, and no better legacy in death.
But When the Death Toll Mounts…
Don’t Get Morbid. Please Get Real, Ready, and Redemptive!
When [not if] death comes knocking at our own personal door—or the doors of loved ones, other people, nations, tribes, conflicts, etc—one of the main, simplest, yet vexing messages [due to our own stubbornness or denial] that God has devoted Himself and His revealed will and Word to lovingly and truthfully REMIND us of are questions such as:
Are you really ready to die? [If so, why? If not, why not?]
How real is the inevitability of death to you? [Woody Allen-real? “I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Atheistic-naturalistic real? “I came from primordial goop and I’m happy to eventually be food for worms. To hell with God… if there is one.” Agnostic-deist real? “It’s God’s responsibility to love and forgive me… no matter what.” God grades on a curve real? “Hey, I’m not as bad as Hitler or as good as Mother Teresa. And God’s good with that…”]
What exactly is your measure of readiness upon the inevitable end of your temporal life—and its continuation in your eternal life? [When you are met by God at the gates of heaven, how will you answer when He asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” Or, “Is your unbelief and faith in Me deserving of My justice… and hell?”]
Do you want your death [or the inevitable death of a loved one] to be a tearful yet joy-filled celebration? Or a heart-crushing gathering of those who can only hope… in existential doubt, denial, and despair? [Please think about this: You [by God’s grace alone…] actually have the ability to plan a tearful celebration of your own death… Today. But, in order to do so, you must place your faith in the God of the bible Who alone has made a way to do so. What will your epitaph be?]
Do you know your own heart, emotions, and/or actions well enough to know to what extent that you are trying to LIVE in denial of DEATH—which is not truly, deeply, and freely loving and living at all? [The heart of humankind is hard-wired to live in a temporal-eternal relationship with God. Suppressing this truth leads to all sorts of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical maladies. In Christ, God has, and you can, overcome death.]
Friends, family, fellow feasters, when C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” (A Grief Observed), he was addressing the existential angst all humanity is hard-wired to feel deep down inside… When life is visited with, and thoroughly colored by, death… And we are unprepared for the fact that we will ALL face God when we die… Fear, anxiety, worry, self-contempt rule our lives.
Let’s Get First Things First:
Put the Post-Script in It’s Proper Place!
Please allow me to offer a place on the bottom of the CHECKLIST… which deserves in every imaginable way to be FIRST and FOREMOST on the list… On your list.
After all, let’s get real, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
The Beginning of the List…
I have been converted; I was born again as an adult on or around: _____________.
As an adult, who is, was, capable of making a decision based on the holiness of God, the sinfulness of my own soul and deeds, the need for repentance of my inherited and every day Sin and sinfulness, and the propitiation [placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ] offered me through the death of Jesus Christ the only Son of God for the sins of the world and those that believe in Him… I cried out to God in faith.
As result of my conversion and becoming a new creation in Christ, I have sought to be full of thanksgiving and I celebrate every day for, a) being part of a new family and b) having no more shame.
I have sought to rely solely on the grace and mercies of God not only for the salvation of my soul from hell, but the many blessings of sanctification, discipleship, being in a Bible-based church community, and serving Jesus in the time between my conversion and going to heaven to be with Him, and for the purposes of being salt and light and co-redeeming [with Christ and the Saints] this fast decaying and dark world.
I have fallibly and repentantly sought to steward my life [my time, talent, and treasure] in such a way that glorifies God and blesses his people.
I plan to intentionally, lovingly, humbly, yet boldly use the inevitability of my death as a catalyst for biblical mourning and a positive change of heart in the living—as well as a cause for tearful celebration so that God would be glorified and Hos people blessed by my inevitable death and glorious resurrection when Christ returns.
And, under the auspices of this SPIRITUAL CHECKLIST and these most important points, I will attempt to carry out the following important items in my life in the very same way: To glorify God and bless others.
MY CHECKLIST… [above]
Please reconsider what’s most important… now that you have gotten what is most important in its proper place!
“TODAY…” (Psalm 96:7-8), in Christ Jesus, as a repentant yet shameless son or daughter of God, you can we be completely and utterly assured of and in God’s promises. God knows full well that we cannot truly live while we’re freefalling—not living on the foundations of His Son and promises—in mid-air, everyday.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the bible have conspired to offer you and me EVERLASTING LIFE—either in heaven [if we have a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit] or hell [if we do not].
Loving God and neighbor as self has initiated heavenly living TODAY; loving only self has initiated hell on earth TODAY.
You and I Can Count on God’s Promises!
Death? Bring It! I’m now free to live…
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
The worse thing death can do is usher me into God’s final redemption! “Jesus will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The fullest form of LIFE and DEATH is in Lord Jesus! “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
God forbid you lose a young, old, or in-between loved one, BUT, if he or she is IN CHRIST the deep bitterness of tears will be transformed into tears of temporal and eternal joy! “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
Hell is real. And it’s far worse than everlasting pitchforks and firey brimstone. “They [the unrepentant] will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Death, and his emissaries from the pit of hell, have been defeated by God in Christ. But Satan still has a sway in this world [on God’s leash…] until Christ returns. God’s love in Christ can drive out all fear! “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Hopelessness, living a life devoid of an assurance about death, creates heart disease; the Good News of the Gospel restores the heart to its Garden of Eden state. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
Denial, putting on a happy face works for a time, but the heart desires deeper healing. “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains” (Proverbs 14:13—NLT).
If you feel CONVICTED, be repentant and reach out to God [and another believer]. “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
If you feel CONVINCED, be thankful and reach out to God [and another believer]. Celebrate Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2)!
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
For Whom DOES the Bell Toll?
For you and for me!
Ernest Hemingway’s book, For Whom the Bell Tolls deals with the author’s [an atheist] preoccupation with death. And even though we should always be compassionate about the complicated nature of life and death, Hemingway’s preoccupation with death—and not being able to come to grips with a Life in Christ— took ultimate control over the ambivalence of his own inevitable death… In suicide.
If you are in Christ take some time each and every day to fill your heart with thankfulness that God is giving you life, sonship, shamelessness, a mission, and life eternal with Him.
If you are separated from God by means of not yet having a relationship with His Son, it’s not too late until it’s too late. Don’t delay. Repent and have faith in Jesus—first as your Savior from hell, and then as your Lord, the Prophet, Priest, and King of your journey of discipleship.
Today is the perfect day for being thankful that God has indeed made a Way, a Truth, and a Life… In Christ.
Choose Life… It Will Provide a Peace That’s Beyond Understanding…
But Can Be Clearly Understood.
In closing, and on the most personal level, we are massively blessed by having two born-again, believing, and practicing Christian children, Polly and Teddy. Polly’s conversion was at a Billy Graham crusade in St. Louis; Teddy’s was after watching The Jesus Film at our home; both early in their life. Their faith journeys have continued to move forward and upward; each has married an awesome Christian spouse; and are committed to living a bible-based, Christ-centered, repentant, fruitful, and missional life.
Should either of our kids or their spouses die before I do [or after too…], I can, without hesitation, say that, on the one hand, I would be absolutely devastated and shattered, weeping, and wailing in despair at a loss every parent absolutely dreads.
But, on the other hand… and not far in proximity while experienced in a wild ride of rising and falling emotions… I would know for absolute certain both, either child would be immediately ushered into the presence and arms of Jesus Christ.
This reality is the sublime bitter-sweet… broken-redeemed… dead-made alive… no more tears and sublime Shalom satisfaction God has made in Christ… for those who repent and believe before they die. Relying on God’s unbreakable promises is the only foundation for living free of the fear of death. Period.
Please don’t be so arrogant and foolish as to think that all the news of the death tolls near and far that is increasing each and every day is not ultimately about The Good News that Christ was born, dead, and resurrected to assure those who believe in Him—and completely take away the fear and sting of death… So that we can be FREE to live!
‘Till we sup again, keeping running the good race,
Salvation is Only in Jesus Christ, R.C. Sproul
The Gospel in Life: Discovery, Growth, Mission, Redeemer Presbyterian Church FREE Sermons
The Priority of Christian Fellowship, John MacArthur
Are You Ready to Die?, Charles Stanley
Truth for Life Resource Center, Alistair Begg