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The Precious death of a Christian
by Jerry Blount from Jerry's Christian Jottings
Odell Smith
The West Fayetteville Family Remembers and misses our own Odell Smith who passed away last month on October 5, 2009

Psa 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Psa 116:16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
Psa 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

After my last “Jotting” I received word that a Christian lady that I had only once met was dying. Last month the father of a dear friend, and a dear friend, who was the wife of a dear friend, (all Christians) had passed away. Yet another friend sent me the linked video of a gospel preacher’s saying farewell to his congregation 5 days before his cancerous death… after preaching there for 40 years. You can click on the following link to listen to his last sermon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZfwV5DkAig

There is a beauty to knowing you have done the best you could with all integrity and now it is time to receive your reward. Not because you are famous, but because your Lord knows you… and you know Him. You are not just one of the endless hordes… you matter, God knows and cares for you.

We use euphemisms to try to soften every aspect of death. On the contrary, our Lord teaches us to embrace it. We cannot control death, that is why we fear it so. We can cause it, but we cannot avoid it. He has promised… that we need not fear.

From ancient times God has reassured His people…
Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Today I want to pursue the knowledge granted to God’s people long before the coming of Christianity. Death has been with us almost since the beginning. It is at the same time viewed as the ultimate punishment for earthly crimes… and the relief to those that are in pain. What is this “precious” enigma of the human experience?

To the Christian physical death is the temporary separation of the soul and body.

James 2:26. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Jesus promised (or threatened depending on your standing with Him) that the soul and body would be united and that all of us would stand before our Maker.

We, by nature, fear new things. Death obviously separates us from virtually everything familiar to us. Just as clearly, nothing in this earth goes with us. All that is important to us here is left behind. We must go forward seemingly alone…. But God has promised that His people we are not now, nor shall we ever be alone. That fact of faith is the glory of a Christian!

Yes, the Bible uses the word “glory” to describe all this.

I Corinthians 15
42. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable {body,} it is raised an imperishable {body;}
43. it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44. it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual {body.}”

Perhaps it is the preparation for this “leap of faith” that causes scripture to place such emphasis on faith. You cannot see the angels come to get you… but the Bible describes them clearly.

Luke 16: 22. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried…”

To the Christian death is a reward …

Matthew 16
26. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
27. For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

Folks rush in with lottery tickets to receive their carnal rewards. This is their ultimate reward. A life spent in pursuit of the goose that lays the golden eggs… only to discover that true treasure is not to be found here. Where is the joy of it all? We often really do believe all this but we are torn with what is “here.” There is always “more” to do, or that “needs” done. The reality is that sometimes tomorrow is beyond our reach.

Paul wrestled with this very real concern…

Philippians 1
Php 1:20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
Php 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Php 1:22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
Php 1:23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

What of those left behind?

Death is often the ultimate gift. One of the greatest ironies of life is that the last gift a Father or Mother can often give to their children is given by leading the way in faith… Death entered in faith is a direct demonstration that it is all true, and that faith really will sustain you through the most fearful part of the human experience.

Consider Paul’s farewell to his spiritual son in Christianity.

II Timothy 4
2Ti 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
2Ti 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
2Ti 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Can they make it on their own?
I remember when the first of my children was about to wed and go off on his own. My grandfather was having one of those discussions about his philosophy of life with me. His comment was simple, “Isn’t this what you have been working for?” It is easy to hold onto the past but you worked a long time for him to grow up and to be able to make it on his own. This is his chance to do just that. Take joy in what you have accomplished.

He’ll take what you gave him and he’ll do well. Well, my grandfather was right in this matter. All three of my children are fully capable of making it on their own. I like to think they want me around… but push comes to shove… my role has been completed. They can and will make it on their own. By the grace of God it is as it should be.

It is the destiny of a Christian to do his dead level best to help all those around him to take hold of the resources given to all of us by God. It is our role in life, having led to the best of our ability to let go. If we have done well and they have take advantage of what we have given them… all will be well.

Here is how Paul opens his letter to Timothy as Paul was awaiting his beheading for the cause of Christ. His concern was for Timothy… as any other parent’s concern would be.

2 Timothy 1
2Ti 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
2Ti 1:2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2Ti 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,
2Ti 1:4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,
2Ti 1:5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
2Ti 1:6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
2Ti 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Whether an Apostle, or “just” a Christian…
there comes a time when we must let go of all that is here… to gain all that is there.

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