Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart. … A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. [Ecclesiastes 7:2,4 (NLT)]
Having recently joined our Florida church, I thought back to when we joined our northern church back in the early 1970s, during the Viet Nam War. During our new member classes, as we discussed why we were there, a young man shared that he’d drawn a low number in the draft lottery and expected to be in combat before the end of the year. He wanted to get right with God before that time arrived. His was as good a reason as any and perhaps the most honest of any given in the group.
Near our Florida home is a roadside memorial for a young man who died in a car crash at that corner. Decorated seasonally, it’s not easily ignored as it reminds drivers to “Drive Safely.” It is a visible reminder of how quickly a life can be extinguished. Unlike the fellow in our church class, this teen, the victim of a drunk driver who ran a red light, didn’t have a low draft number to warn him how near to danger and death he was.
“A funeral provides an indispensable perspective on the universally terminal condition,” said the Reformation Study Bible notes for those verses from Ecclesiastes 7. Indeed, we are all born with the incurable disease of death. I’m reminded of death’s inevitability whenever we pass that memorial in Florida or an enormous billboard near our northern home that shows a sad middle-aged woman. Superimposed over her picture are the words, “If every wife knew what every widow knows.” Although it is an advertisement for pre-planned funerals, I get chills every time I pass it. I wonder what other things the widow might advise: always kiss him good-by…forget the angry words…cherish every moment…write a will…know the end will come.
These are sad thoughts for a dreary January day, yet far too many of us choose to ignore our inevitable fate. Death is the one appointment that none of us will miss. While our family background, medical history, and actuarial tables can give us a rough idea of the when, perhaps we shouldn’t be concerned just about the date of that appointment. Maybe, like the young man awaiting his draft notice, we should be more concerned with how we choose to prepare for it. In both this world and the next, what happens after we die depends entirely on what we do now, before we die. Once laid out in the mortuary, it’s too late to write a will and it’s too late to accept Jesus. When we’re placed in a casket, we won’t be able to mend fences or make amends and we’ll have missed the opportunity to get right with God, as well. Once we’re on the other side of the sod, we’ve can’t express our love and forgiveness or decide to accept God’s saving grace.
The good news for the saved is that dying doesn’t mean departing from the land of the living. For those who know Jesus, death means departing from the land of the dying for the land of the living.
Depend upon it, your dying hour will be the best hour you have ever known! Your last moment will be your richest moment, better than the day of your birth will be the day of your death. It shall be the beginning of heaven, the rising of a sun that shall go no more down forever! [Charles Spurgeon]