“He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).
Our existence on this planet is the one thing that no one can deny is a gift. There is nothing that we did consciously to become alive. There is nothing we ever did or ever could do in order to deserve or earn our existence, and we came into this universe discovering that it was already made to facilitate life (cf. Genesis 1:1-31).
Life, therefore, is a gift that we should cherish and appreciate. Yet, as the song goes, “I’d like to stay here longer than man’s allotted days…” Many people cling to this earthly existence with clenched fists. Some do so because, in their view, there is nothing beyond this existence. Others may profess to believe in God and in the afterlife, yet live their lives without faith in God’s promises for the hereafter. Maintaining this present existence is all-encompassing. This is when God’s gift of life is made into a god of its own.
This is not to say that we should glorify or seek after death. Death was not part of God’s original intention for mankind; it came as a result of sin (cf. Romans 5:12-18). Taking our own lives in suicide is presumptuous and does not honor the gift of life that God has given to us (1 Timothy 6:13).
Nevertheless, there is a reason why God made sure that Adam and Eve did not take from the fruit of the tree of life after their sin (cf. Genesis 3:22-24): the present creation has been subjected to corruption and decay on account of sin (Romans 8:20-22). In a world full of evil–oppression, pestilence, famine, illness, and pain–eternal life is not a blessing but a curse.
There are good reasons, therefore, why our lives on this planet are temporary. This should not lead us to an attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”; far from it! Instead, as with all the other gifts we receive from God, so it is with life: it is designed to be used for the glory and purposes of the God who gave it (cf. 1 Peter 4:10-11)!
The life of the believer is thus not reckoned to be his own (Galatians 2:20). We are to live our lives for God and for His purposes in Jesus Christ, who is life indeed (John 1:4, 14:6). If God’s purpose for us is to suffer physical abuse and even death for His Son, let it be (cf. 1 John 3:16). If God’s purpose for us is to live long lives in service to Him, and we meet our end by illness, let it be.
We do well to have Paul’s attitude regarding life and death in Philippians 1:20-23: may God be glorified in our lives or in our death. Death is good because we are then with Christ, but it may be more necessary for us to remain alive so that we can continue to serve God according to His purposes.
One of the distinctive marks of a Christian should be their attitude toward life and death. It is to the shame of the faith that hospice workers report that the people who have the biggest challenges in accepting death are those who believe in Jesus. Believers, of all people, should be the best prepared for death, for they ought to die in hope (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11). There is a lack of faith in God’s promises when this is not the case!
Christians should be ready for death not because they believe in death but because they believe in the true and eternal life. Christians are to believe in the resurrection, the transformation of the reconstituted physical body for immortality and imperishability, first manifest in Jesus of Nazareth (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23-57).
Attaining this resurrection must be all-important to the Christian, more important than even this current existence (cf. Philippians 3:11-14). When we have reached the end of our lives, if we have been God’s obedient servants and have lived lives full of faith, we will be able to have the same confidence as Paul before us did (cf. 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Ultimately, those who seek to make a god out of this present life will only lose it. We do not obtain true life on this earth, or the true life in the hereafter, by clinging tightly to our lives. We can only gain true life by being willing to give up everything, even our own lives, to follow Jesus. Let us appreciate the gift of life and use it to serve God and obtain the resurrection and eternal life without pain and misery!
Ethan R. Longhenry