Thursday, October 6, 2011

By Life or By Death

“This spake he [Jesus], signifying by what death he [Peter] should glorify God.” (John 21:19a)

The Westminster Confession decrees that “man’s chief end” is to glorify God. agree. Our most meaningful goal, as recipients of the undeserved grace of God, must be to use whatever means God puts at our disposal to magnify and glorify Him. One way that can be easily overlooked is what we find in this verse in John: our death. And make no mistake; this article is directed to the young as well as the old, perhaps more so, because, statistically, while older people are living longer, young people are dying earlier. Therefore, just as it’s never too late to think about living, it’s never too early to think about dying. And as the verse in John indicates, just as there is more than one cause of death, there is more than one way to die. If there are some deaths that glorify God, there are others that do not.

Yesterday, on my birthday, I became even closer to the Psalmist’s observed allotment of 70-80 years of life (Ps. 90:10). I may or may not appear to have lived this long, but the fact remains, I have; and to deny or dismiss this reality would not only be deceptive, it would be dumb, says the Psalmist. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).

On the same day that I turned sixty-eight, Steve Jobs, the brilliant technological innovator, who founded Apple, died at the age of fifty-six. He had been battling cancer for some years, and he told a group of Stanford graduates in 2005, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” This echoes what the Psalmist said, though I have no way of knowing if it helped him make the right decision on the most important choice in life: where he will spend eternity. But he was correct to say that one is not ready to truly live until he or she has prepared for death.

How, then, shall you and I glorify God by our deaths? Not only in the Bible, but down through history we have countless examples of deaths that served to inspire, and, in some cases, inflame those around them. I’m thinking now of the impact of Stephen’s death on the Apostle Paul and the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam by Chinese Communists in 1934. In the memorial service for them at Moody Bible Institute, over seven hundred students stood to consecrate their lives to missionary service. These are only two examples, but, in each case, I would venture to say that the common thread among them all would have to be this:

The people who glorify God in their deaths, are those who glorified Him in their lives.

Those who live well, biblically speaking, generally have a way of dying well. Their accomplishments may not have been spectacular, but their lives magnified the name of Jesus Christ. It is good to remember that we may plan our funerals, but others will take care of the eulogies. And, personally, if anything good is said about me at my home going, I don’t want it to be vague hearsay. I want there to be convincing evidence. I want my death to make Heaven seem more real and more accessible. I want the reality of Christ in a life to be more validated than ever. In short, I want my death to glorify God.

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)

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