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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Where, death, is your sting?

As far as I can recall, the first piece of poetry that I ever wrote was for my maternal grandmother - on a card that was placed on a wreath at her funeral service. It read, very simply: "Today are met both joy and sorrow. Gran's gone just now; we'll meet tomorrow." Okay, hardly worthy of the Poet Laureate - but those simple words contained a great truth; one of which I was reminded again this morning when my wife and I were informed of the death of a dear friend of many years. 

She has been suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, as did the late Stephen Hawking. However, that was not the only thing that they had in common. It wasn't that my friend ever had the celebrity status of Stephen Hawking. He was known all over the world; she only to her family, her friends, those whom she served for many years in Nepal, those who knew her at a personal level. No, the other thing that they had in common is that both were sinners in the sight of Almighty God.

That, of course, is also where there was a major difference. To the best of my knowledge, Stephen Hawking did not acknowledge his sinful nature, not least because of his declared personal conviction that the Creator God does not even exist. My friend had confessed her sins, and sinfulness, and accepted the salvation that was made possible for her through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus at Calvary. She is with Him today - not because she was a good and faithful daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother; not because she served for all of those years in Nepal; not because she was kind and helpful (but with, at times, a "wicked" sense of humour!). She is with Him because of the grace of Almighty God, and nothing else.

When I e-mailed her husband, this morning, I reminded him of Paul's words "...  we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." (I Thess.4:13). The point that I made was that we do grieve! He no longer has the physical companionship of his wife of so many years; their adult children no longer have a mother with whom they may share. However, our knowledge of his wife's life in Jesus assures us that, to use the now well-known words of the late Billy Graham, "She is not dead. She has simply changed address, and is more alive now than ever she was on this earth."

It was Billy Graham who also said that our last breath in this life is immediately followed by our first breath in the next - the fuller life that is assured for those who die (physically) in Jesus. Paul made the same point to the Corinthian believers: "...  we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (II Cor.5:8).

Whilst I was never a committed "Trekkie", I did enjoy the early series of Star Trek. However, the opening sequence was in error. It is not space that is the "final frontier", but death! It was Benjamin Franklin who said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." and, as the Rapture is delayed, that is most certainly true. Of course, I at least know beforehand what taxes I have to pay, and when they are due. Death is not always as considerate! It can come at any time, and tomorrow is not guaranteed to any one of us - rich or poor; male or female; famous or unknown; black or white; religious or atheist. The important thing, therefore, is to be ready for whenever it comes!

How can we be ready? By following the example of my late friend, and coming to the foot of that cross of which many will be thinking especially deeply on Friday, there to confess our sins  and claim the salvation that is available to all who will come to the One Who hung on that cross, in repentance, and faith, and yield their lives to Him.

Have you done that? If you have, then death holds no terror for you, and you may state with Paul: '"Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" ' (I Cor.15:55). If you have not, then I urge you to do so, and to do so while you have time. Stephen Hawking, as far as I know, did not do so and, with all of his great intellect, has now entered a Christless eternity. Do not join him there. 

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