September 26, 2011

Preparation for the end

My husband was twice this week at the bedside of a man who is dying. This is a sad and difficult time, worsened by the fact that this man has not made preparations for the end of his life. Yet as I think about him, I wonder how many of us are truly ready.

Spurgeon writes about the end of life. He uses a passage from the Old Testament that uses trees as symbols, speaking of their death as being like ours.

Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! (Zechariah 11:2)
Spurgeon says that when a tree falls, this can indicate that a woodsman is there. In metaphor, he says that every tree in the entire forest may tremble thinking that the sharp edge of the axe should find then next. Then he says that human beings are all like trees — marked for the axe.

It is true that the fall of one reminds us that everyone, whether great as the cedar, or humble as a small aspen, will face that appointed hour. The older we get, the approach of that hour seems to be rapidly increasing its speed. However, Spurgeon warns that as we hear of death to not become callous to it.

As I get older, I am more aware of death. It affects my family and friends. We are older, and older is about funerals. Is it possible to get used to them and to death? We live within earshot of the ring road around our city. Most mornings are filled with traffic noises, but most mornings I do not notice them. Could I become like that concerning death and funerals?

Death is the most weighty of all events. Spurgeon says that those who do not prepare for it are more than ordinary fools; they are madmen. I’m not sure I’d say that. Fear of the unknown and fear of eternal judgment can make people do strange things. So can the false idea of “when you are dead, you are dead,” including the thoughts that there is no God, no afterlife, nothing else. To this, Spurgeon says, “When the voice of God is heard among the trees of the garden, let fig tree and sycamore, and elm and cedar, alike hear the sound thereof.”

The Bible indicates that eternity is written in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) so that we know there is more. In our hearts, we know that death is not the end. As a Christian, I’m totally certain. My evidence is Jesus Christ. He not only said so, but He rose from the dead to show the power of God regarding death. Like Him, we can live after we die. The bigger question is where we will be after that final event.

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28–29)
Lest anyone immediately claims that they are a “good person” Jesus also said, 
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
Because of the invitation and the promise of Jesus Christ, I am assured of my eternal future. Nevertheless, God tells me to be ready. Death could come at any moment. Even sitting at my desk, my heart could stop beating. I have no idea when the Woodsman will come. I need to be faithful in obedience and keep my affairs in order. This isn’t merely financial, but that I maintain short accounts with God, keeping my sins confessed and my life in tune with Him. When I leave this place to be with Him, I would like to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Lord, these days our hearts have been continually occupied with thoughts and prayers for loved ones who are not prepared for death. While we also experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing You are our Sovereign and Almighty God, we have this continually sense that no everyone knows that, not everyone is ready to stand before You. We are confident that You are able to bring anyone to the foot of the Cross, but we also know that You give Your servants a role in this. May I not miss my cues. I feel so much like a weak sapling with small and insignificant voice, yet if You want me to echo Your words, I want to be obedient to that so no one misses the opportunity to walk into eternity hand in hand with Jesus Christ.

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