Last week sad news reached me that an old friend has been told that he has only three or four months to live. He has unselfishly requested prayer for his wife and son – that God will give them comfort and provision after he is gone.
Death is something we do not like to think about. Who wants to see the specter of death slowly drawing near?
But many do see it. Along with prolonging life expectancy, modern medicine also sometimes tells people what they would rather not know – that death is imminent.
The truth is, unless the Lord returns, death is a certainty for every one of us. “It is appointed unto men once to die…” (Heb. 10:27). How we respond to death’s approach is very important.
Several times the Bible tells us of great men of faith who knew that death was imminent.
From his deathbed, Jacob expressed his faith in God by asking that he not be buried in Egypt, but in the land God promised him and his descendents. Then he blessed his sons, reassuring them of God’s covenant promise.
God told Moses that he would not lead Israel across Jordan into the Promised Land. Instead he would die in the wilderness. Moses delivered several sermons to prepare Israel for life without him. These messages make up the book of Deuteronomy. Moses also asked God to provide a successor to guide the people of Israel. Joshua was the answer to Moses’ prayer.
As David approached the valley of the shadow of death, he charged his son Solomon to be wise, just, strong, and to keep God’s law.
Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy urging him to make full proof of his ministry just as Paul had done. He assured Timothy that there was a crown of life waiting not only for him, but for all who are faithful and love the Savior.
Peter, in his second epistle, wrote that “shortly I must put off this my tabernacle.” He endeavored to write down vital truths so that after he died, Christians might “have these things always in remembrance.”
Each of these men possessed a perspective on death that we all need. Instead of denial, fear, or anger, there was faith. They acknowledged that God was in control; that their times were in His hands. They expressed confidence that death was not the end, but a transition. They anticipated something more. Paul boldly expressed his assurance that “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). It is a departure “to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). A resurrection and a reunion await, so those left behind should “sorrow not even as others which have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13).
These men expressed an unselfish concern for others. They made what arrangements they could to leave behind a legacy of faith. And they spoke and wrote words of godliness and assurance. They taught, warned, comforted.
The wife of a friend in the ministry suffers from a terminal illness. Her remaining days are few. I’m told that she has greeted people who have come to see her in a way I am sure they will not forget. She has given them a gospel tract. “I’m going to heaven in a few weeks. I want you to come with me.”
Solomon wrote that for each of us some day the silver cord will be loosed, and the golden bowl will break. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). His wise advice, “Remember now thy Creator…” (12:1).
Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90 :12).
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.