1 Thessalonians 4:13 clearly tells us about those who have died in faith, "... so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope." Just as one of the brothers stood and encouraged his family with 2 Corinthians 4, "we do not lose heart... we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal." [16, 18]
I wanted to share some biblical insight into why we must encourage one another while we still draw our breath. There are no perfect people; even the Bible is full of imperfect people, save one. Read throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, and you will find broken and imperfect people in need of redemption. Read beyond the individual lives and you will discover there were no perfect families either. As a matter of fact, there were literally few marriages in the Bible worth exemplifying. All that to say, we are in good company with bad examples. But, it doesn't end there.
There is hope for those willing to surrender their brokenness to One who can truly make them whole. As long as you can muster up enough physical strength to continue on your merry way, you will have little knowledge of the broken sounds your body gives off like a worn-out 1966 mustang chassis with a fresh coat of paint covering a needed overhaul. (I only say that because my 1966 chassis is in need of many overhauls). Ultimately, we are all decaying in some form or fashion. Death awaits us all.
Truth be known: "Death does not keep us from God, nor does God keep us from death." It is true as well that death is not a wall ... it is a door. Charles Spurgeon gave commentary over Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." He said, "Until you can drain dry the ocean of Omnipotence, till you can break into pieces the towering mountains of Almighty strength, you need never to fear." [Morning and Evening, December 22]
The strength of man will never be a match for the power of God. God has compassion on those who are struggling. He knows our frame... that we are merely temporary on this earth. Isaiah 40:6-8, "All flesh is as grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever."
You and I are mere shadows according to the Bible: Psalm 144:4, "Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow." And further, Ecclesiastes 6:12, "For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?"
Indeed, these are sobering words which should call all our spirits to reflect upon our own journey from the cradle to the grave. And yet, there are many competing voices which direct our steps each day. Voices of the world which distract and discourage us from that which is eternal.
Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." [John 10:10] Jesus prefaced this statement with hope, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved...." [John 10:9]
The many voices which ring loudest to our ears tell us that we need air, water, food, and shelter. To be honest, I believe what Hal Lindsey states, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air...but only for one second without hope.” I believe what one Pastor researched about people's real basic needs. We wake up every morning looking to fulfill these four basic needs: Acceptance, Identity, Security, and Purpose.
Am I accepted? Do people give me value or where do I find my value? You see, most people love us based on what they do not know about us. God loves us despite what He truly knows about us. You can "walk through the valley of the shadow of death," and know that God "will never leave you nor forsake you." [Hebrews 13:5] How do we know this? Romans 8 tells us that "nothing" can "separate us from the love of God." [35-39]
Who am I? How do I find my identity? Well, the Bible says, "You, God, formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well." [Psalm 139:13-14] You are special and unique. Don't allow the voices of the world to define who you are, let the Creator of the universe define and design your destiny.
Am I safe? Where do I find security? We are searching for all types of security in an ever-changing world, growing darker by the minute. But to be honest, there are none who can truly shelter our spirit and soul like the Lord. The Bible tells us, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" [Psalm 91:1]
Even the wisest man who ever lived encouraged his children, "do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones." [Proverbs 3:1-8]
Lastly, perhaps a most pressing question: Do I have a purpose? I can't tell you how many people I hear questioning not only there days, but their existence. Are you living for weekend, or perhaps even the next twenty-four hours? One preacher said, "We are not here to suck up as much oxygen as we can. We are here for a greater purpose." The trouble is, most will lose track of that purpose and drown in the despair or drown out the voice of reason. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, "'I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'"
One of my favorite groups sings an inspirational song: "Here For A Reason" by Ashes Remain.
You’re not forgotten – you’re not alone
You think you’re worthless but you’re worth it
And He calls you His own
Made in His image – you were made for more
You think there is no plan it’s all by chance
But don’t believe that anymore
Every time that you wake up breathing
Every night when you close your eyes
Every day that your heart keeps beating
There’s purpose for your life
Don’t give up – Don’t lay down
Just hold on – Don’t quit now
Every breath that you take has meaning
You are here for a reason
When all is said and done, each of us will leave only four things behind:
Memories – thoughts that others have of us
Souvenirs – proof of our existence
Trophies – records of our achievements
Legacies – everything you are (truly your shadow)
Now, capture this: Memories will fade. Souvenirs and trophies may be lost, stolen, sold or rust away. Hold and possess those souvenirs a while longer, if you have found value in your loved one. Take stock in the souvenirs and trophies for which you will pass along some day. They will not have as much value to others as they do yourself. The only thing which will outlast all these is our legacy. Make sure your legacy is worth an eternal weight of gold.
Let me share a favorite poem I found many years ago; I wish I could recall where I uncovered this, but the logic is priceless (if you know what I mean).
Wealthy vs. Rich: A lot of people confuse being rich with being wealthy.
Money makes people wealthy, but not rich.
Wealthy is financial, but rich is relational, emotional, spiritual.
A wealthy man buys and sells, but a rich man gives.
Being wealthy is having the things that money can buy, but being rich is having things money cannot buy.
Wealthy, think a person is broke without money, rich are merely poor without money, never broke.
A wealthy man is defined by what he has, a rich man is defined by who he is.
Wealth is what you have in the bank riches are what you have in the heart.
The wealthy may be are well-off, but the rich are fulfilled.
I believe that to be so true. You are only as rich as your relationships in this world, but greatly prized by your relationship with the Lord.
Listen to these final words; make your choice clearly and follow obediently.
Before God, my best is but a "filthy rag." [Isaiah 64:6] Truth is, "everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. ... For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. ... But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. But if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
[Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10]
The glorious hope for everyone is that "whosoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved." [Romans 10:13]
It doesn't matter what your past was like, or even what your present is. God shows up and transforms brokenness into wholeness. You can become a new creation, simply by confessing your sin, believing in Jesus (not just about Him), and confessing Him as Lord and Savior of your life. The Bible makes it clear, that you and I can do nothing to earn our way into heaven, it is a gift of God received through faith in Jesus Christ. "God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." [Ephesians 2:8-9]
The Bible is full of brokenness, but that is not the end result of God... that is the end of man. The blessing of God is righteousness and favor through His Son, Jesus Christ. May this encourage you as you journey through life, on your way to meet the doorway of death opening up into eternal life itself.