“I used to be afraid to die…” I began.
I went on to explain how the truth and faithfulness of Jesus had won out in my story over fear and death and fear of death. The truth is, I really did used to be afraid to die.
And I’d heard that line Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi over and over but the reality is you just don’t know you don’t know till you know; unless you know Jesus personally, you can’t understand the strength and courage and peace behind the words of someone who knows Jesus personally–it’s just words.
19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 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. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For[c] I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
– Philippians 1:19-24
But for me, to live, Christ! To die, gain!
Why is living Christ? Because I live by Christ’s life. Why is death gain? Because death is the end of this sin-riddled flesh, but only the very beginning of Christ’s life. Why does that mean anything? Because I want to know Christ!
It’s something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately–particularly after a friend recently announced the death of his grandmother–and death doesn’t scare me anymore (if anything scares me it’s decay; growing old and turning to mush). I don’t fear anymore either, the possibility that I could die and end up in hell for some unrepentant thing, or for exploring too far–grace and truth gave me a new security in my life now hidden in Christ; love.
And that’s the thing: if you’ve chosen to follow Jesus and you’ve been baptised, symbolizing your acceptance to share in his death and new life, then where, oh Death, is your sting? Where, Hell, is your victory? My hope is hidden in the Lord, the King of Glory, the King above all kings, who was and is and is to come! And it goes right back along with the deep question, “Do you really trust God?” Is your hope in him? And could it be that the hymn spoke of a true hope?
We have this hope that burns within our hearts / Hope in the coming of the Lord / We have this faith that Christ alone imparts / Faith in the promise of His word
– We Have This Hope [Wayne Hooper]
But it’s even better than the words Adventists still sing–better than maybe Mr. Hooper ever knew; because Jesus is alive in me and in every Christian who has shared in His death and resurrection and proclaims Him Lord. I understand now why Paul was able to make such a bold statement about his uncertain future, because I now know the One who he was talking about.