Some mornings after I wake up, I switch on my radio to hear the news. On the hour the announcer begins, “Here is the news read by [whoever is on that morning].” On reflection it seems most of the news these days is bad or troublesome, however I am going to remind us in this article of some really good news which is worthy to embrace.
In Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, he writes: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9). It would seem that surrounding ourselves with good news is very much the will of God.
Now here is the good news. If you have made a definite act of commitment inviting Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Saviour and are attempting to walk in God’s ways, you are on God’s greatest journey and have everlasting life. That’s got to be good news!
Death on the journey
Some think this great journey is cut short by death, but that’s not so for the believer. Death is not opposite to life. Death is opposite to birth. When we have an understanding of death being opposite to birth, it helps us see God’s overall plan for our journey more clearly.
God created us and allowed us to be born, and in his time he allows us to die. If we know Christ as our Saviour, we go back to him—and again in his time, forward in his further purpose. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26).
E. Stanley Jones has a beautiful description for death. He says death is “only an anesthetic which God gives while he changes bodies.” (1)
Leading us forward
It’s been said that John 3:16 is probably the best known Scripture in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." If we look into this verse, short as it may be, it gives an indication that there are stages in life that lead us forward in this great journey. Let’s look in more detail.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” In one word— appreciation. We should have great thankfulness that through the gift and sacrifice of Jesus, who alone has removed our sin, we are now redeemed back to fellowship with our Creator by the salvation Jesus accomplished for us. We are no longer living just physically and intellectually but a spiritual dimension of truth, realisation, and revelation has opened before us.
“so that everyone who believes in him” In one word—association. The word “everyone” shows me that I am not alone but there are others who I join with on this great journey. We’re called the church and we need to be all going forward with unity and passion endeavouring to embrace and demonstrate God’s goodness by word and deed.
“may not perish but may have eternal life.” In one word—anticipation. I am looking forward with hope, expectancy, and dare I say— excitement—to what is guaranteed to all who have begun this journey of faith with Jesus. Paul also covers these three points very clearly in his epistle to the Colossians:
"for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus [appreciation] and of the love that you have for all the saints [association], because of the hope laid up for you in heaven [anticipation]. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you" (Colossians 1:4-6).
Shadows and valleys
In recent months, circumstances have caused me to look with a little more interest at this area of anticipating the joys of heaven and life everlasting, and I have not been disappointed as I have discovered scriptural encouragement. Hebrews 13:4 and John 14:2-3 are two such examples, as is Psalm 23:4 which reads: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”
Spurgeon has some noteworthy comments on this passage (2) and I want to build on some of his points here: Note the word “shadow” in this verse. Shadow is different from substance. This is important. Say I’m fearful that a dog might bite me. One day I see what looks like a big animal coming! On closer look, I see it’s only a shadow—I can say, “Hey, it can’t harm me.”
Or if there’s a rifle leaning against a wall and I see a disturbed individual walking past, I might think, “What if he picks it up?” But if it is a shadow, then it can’t harm me. A shadow of a dog can’t harm me and a shadow of a rifle can’t harm me. This Psalm talks about walking “through the darkest valley”. Jesus died on the cross to redeem us back to God and when he rose in the resurrection, he destroyed death’s substance once and for all. So if I say that “The LORD is my shepherd,” then in passing through the valley (not staying in the valley), that valley is shadow only, with no substance of death to harm me.
Also if a shadow is present, then I’m reminded there is a bright light nearby. In John 8:12 Jesus says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Growing up we were taught that every story needs an interesting beginning, a meaningful middle, followed by a good ending. Well the story we follow has no ending, but three great components: Appreciation of Jesus Christ as Saviour, association with like-minded travellers, and anticipation of a glorious life eternal. “When John Owen, the great Puritan, lay on his deathbed his secretary wrote (in his name) to a friend, ‘I am still in the land of the living.’ ‘Stop,’ said Owen. ‘Change that and say, I am yet in the land of the dying, but I hope soon to be in the land of the living.” (3)
True, how gloriously true.
It’s good to leave your dying day to a living & loving God as he takes us on life’s greatest journey. Rejoice.
Story: Jim Hurn 1935 – Forever
Jim has been an itinerant pastor with Bethlehem Baptist Church since 2001. Jim is married to Kaye and since the end of 2015, he has been battling terminal pancreatic cancer.
- Does death scare you? If so, are you able to identify what it is that scares you?
- What encouragement does this article give you?
- Is this hope that you can share?
1. E. Stanley Jones. 1995. The Unshakeable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person. (p.210). Bellingham. McNett Press.
2. Charles H. Spurgeon. 1869. The Treasury of David. Retrieved from spurgeon.org/treasury/ ps023.php.
3. John M. Drescher. 1985. Death. Pulpit Digest. Summer 1985.
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Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.