At Greater Risk of Death…?

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12 ESV)

As I was watching the local news last week, an interesting segment caught my eye.  A recent medical study has shown that if you sit at work you have an increased chance of dying.  I know what they meant was that you have an increased risk of dying at a younger age or from heart related issues – but my mind couldn’t get past the absurdity of the way the study was presented.  If you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, you have a greater risk of death.  Greater than what?  Does an office job pose a greater risk of death than, let’s say, an active duty soldier, an electrician working on high tension lines, a miner working deep underground?  If so, then I think that to be an acceptable risk.

Still, how can a job that requires one to sit increase the chance of dying?  I was under the assumption that each of us faced a 100% chance of death.  Is there a job that lowers that chance?  Would someone please tell me what it is, so that I may apply?  To highlight the universality of death, here are some of my favorite quotes on the topic:

“The end of birth is death, the end of death is birth: this is ordained!”  Sir Edwin Arnold

“Death is as necessary to the constitution as sleep: we shall rise refreshed in the morning.”  Benjamin Franklin

“Pale Death, in impartial step, knocks as the poor man’s cottage and at the palaces of kings.”  Horace: Odes

“When death comes, he respects neither age nor merit.  He sweeps from this earthly existence the sick and the strong, the rich and the poor, and should teach us to live to be prepared for death.”  Andrew Jackson

“A man can die but once: we owe God a death.”  Shakespeare: Henry IV

“Every man dies, but not every man really lives.”  William Wallace, Braveheart

My personal favorite – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  The Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:21

The Bible also reminds us that each of us must face death.  Genesis 3:19 reminds us that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Death is a fact of life.  Yes, death is painful, for in death we lose the presence of those whom we love.  Death is the end of life, and for those who love well and are well loved, death is an agonizing separation.  But for the Christian, death is the end of the struggle against sin, the laying aside of this perishable body to take up that which is imperishable and unfading.  Death is the entry into everlasting life in the glorious company of the saints in light.  Here’s another great quote:

“Death is not, to the Christian, what it has often been called, “Paying the debt of nature.”  No, it is not paying a debt; it is rather like bringing a note to a bank to obtain solid gold in exchange for it.  You bring a cumbrous body which is nothing worth, and which you could not wish to retain long; you lay it down, and receive for it, from the eternal treasures, liberty, victory, knowledge, and rapture.”  John Foster

There is wisdom to be had in remembering the inevitability of our own mortality.  Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Studies have shown that 100 people out of 100 will eventually die; nothing you do will increase or decrease your chances of dying.  I know that I will not live forever, that one day I will die and leave this life behind.  The question each of us must ask is this, “Will death be the end of my life, or just the beginning?”

At the conclusion of The Chronicles of Narnia, as Narnia is coming to an end, C. S. Lewis writes:

And so for us it is the end of all stories, and we can most truly say they lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  And all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: and now they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.  -C.S. Lewis The Last Battle.

otherwise occupied by death

Sorry friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  I had such grand aspirations – then life happened.

I had two funerals this week, hospital visits to an entire family from my church in a very serious auto accident, and an elderly gentleman in the congregation whose cancer treatments took a turn for the worse.  I’ve been, rightfully so, rather preoccupied by death this week.

I’ve stopped fearing death.  Please, that doesn’t mean I want to die; I love life and want to keep on living.  But I have overcome my irrational fear of dying.

I say it’s irrational, because, as Christians, death is nothing to fear.  For the longest time, I was afraid of death, of dying, and was paralyzed with fear over saying the wrong thing to people whose loved ones had died (as you can imagine, this isn’t a good fear for a pastor to have).  I don’t know where my fear came from, it could be from the fact that I didn’t have a lot of experience with death until my first pastoral call. 

Regardless, I no longer fear death – not now that I understand how Christ has conquered death.

It used to be that death was seen as the end of life, a departure from the living, the payment of natures debt.  The wages of sin is death… when this life is over, there is no more to be said.  That’s what death used to be.

Now, in Christ, death has lost it’s sting, it has no power over us.  Death is nothing more than putting off this perishable, mortal existence, and putting on the imperishable, immortal life with Christ.  We cannot live in eternity without laying down this life.  We exchange this existence for a greater glory; to live is Christ, to die is gain.

This does not negate the fact that when someone we love (a parent, grandparent, child, or spouse) we will feel great loss and sorrow.  The more we love someone, the greater the void we will feel.  Jesus dignified this sorrow; he did not rebuke Martha when she criticized him for not keeping Lazarus from dying, he even wept at the death of his friend.

Still, do not lose hope, remember your faith.  We do not grieve as the world grieves, as those without Christ.  For we know that death is but the passage into eternity with Christ.  For the dead in Christ shall rise first, and we shall meet them in the air.

I don’t remember where I came across this – but I thought I’d pass it along:

The world pictures death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save.  The world thinks of death as ending; let us rather thing of life as beginning, and that more abundantly.  The world thinks of losing; let us think of gaining.  The world thinks of parting, let us think of meeting.  The world thinks of going away; let us think of arriving.  And as the voice of death whispers “You must go from earth,” let us think hear the voice of Christ saying, “you are but coming to me!”