My husband and I have been staring death in the face for the past couple of months.
We were first reminded of its presence the afternoon our next-door neighbor told us his wife was going downhill quickly after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
Death called again the day we noticed the medical van in their driveway advertising hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen. Then came the newspaper obituary and the knock on our door: Our neighbor’s wife had died at home on Saturday, surrounded by her family.
A couple weeks after the visitation, death visited again. This time it was our neighbor’s dad who was taken.
And suddenly I can’t escape the cold, hard truth that all of us share this destiny of death. Every time I look at my neighbor’s house, I am reminded of the reality of death. And while none of this is pleasant, I am glad for this sobering reminder. As the teacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:2:
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
The wise will live with the reality of death ever before them.
There was a motto, YOLO, that gained popularity back in 201.? “You only live once” served as encouragement for reckless living and obscured our destiny of death.
If we had a chance to sit down with the writer of the wisdom book Ecclesiastes, I believe he’d tell us that YOLO had it all wrong. Rather, our mantra for life should be YODO: “You only die once.”
And After Death . . .
Why should we think about our inevitable death while we’re still alive, even though none of us really want to? Because we have a Creator, and we will meet Him face to face on the other side of death and give account for the way we lived our days:
It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Heb. 9:27).
That’s why, after twelve chapters, the author of Ecclesiastes sums up the teacher’s words this way, so we’re sure to understand his main call to action:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl. 12:13–14, emphasis added).
So if you want to continue living as if YOLO is your motto, go for it. But don’t say you weren’t warned:
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment (Eccl. 11:9, emphasis added).
The teacher tells us that we are to enjoy good while we live, recognizing that these thing are God’s gifts to us, remnants from life before humanity’s fall into sin.
I wonder, when you examine your life, have you been living as if YOLO were the motto of your life . . . or YODO? Are you living recklessly, mindless of your Creator, mindless of the final judgment where you will stand before God and give account for every thought and deed?
How would living with the reminder of death and judgment ever before you change the way you live each day?
Maybe you’ve clued in to the growing debate over assisted suicide, a debate about whether to allow patients the legal option to end their life. I predict we will hear more and more that assisted suicide is compassionate, that quality of life trumps sanctity of life every time. We say we want to end suffering . . . but at what cost?
A couple years ago a beautiful, young woman started a global conversation about “death with dignity” when she ended her life after she was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. I want to make sure her voice—and ultimately her choice to take her life—is not the only voice and choice you’re hearing about.
Would you allow me to introduce you to a few of my heroes who know what it is to suffer, to cling to God in trust, and to lead a purposeful, fulfilling life?
Meet Joni, A Quadriplegic
Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadriplegic at seventeen, during an unfortunate diving accident. As if that weren’t enough, she continually feels crippling pain and is a breast cancer survivor. Instead of wanting to end her life, though, she has led one of the most beautiful, surrendered, servant-hearted lives I have ever seen.
She has become an advocate for the disabled around the world—among other things—providing wheelchairs for those who otherwise would be confined to their beds.
Time and time again at the True Woman Conferences, Joni has spoken life into my soul. She has shared how God redeems our suffering, how our suffering is anything but insignificant, and how and why we should forgive those who have hurt us. She has also pointed to a deeper kind of healing and freedom than the healing and freedom of physical pain.
Just this month I emailed Joni about a work project. In her response, she included this personal update:
I’m always fascinated at the way God works in our lives. I’ve been in bed for the last five days healing a stubborn pressure sore, but oh, what a rich time of communion with Jesus! Hopefully, by tomorrow, I may be able to sit up. Prayers are always appreciated!
Now that is the kind of woman I long to become.
Meet Katie, A Chronic Neurological Lyme Patient
If it is sickness that brings me closer to Jesus, then it is a gift, and I am so thankful for it.
Katie Laitkep is a sweet, new friend. After ten years of pain and no answers, she was finally diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease in 2010 and has been undergoing treatment ever since. In spite of symptoms continuing daily, she teaches hospitalized children and others unable to attend school in a traditional setting. She is a beautiful writer who blogs about the Lord’s perfect faithfulness in chronic pain.
“I will always long for health,” she says, “but if it is sickness that brings me closer to Jesus, then it is a gift, and I am so thankful for it.”
Meet Ian, A Survivor Left with a Brain Injury
I do not know Ian and Larissa personally, but their story has brought tears of wonder to my eyes. Ian and Larissa met at college in 2005 where they fell in love. In September of 2006, on his way to work to earn money for an engagement ring, Ian was involved in an accident that left him with a brain injury.
Four years later, they did marry, even though Ian could barely talk and couldn’t walk. After that came a book deal and lots of opportunities to share Jesus with the world. Watch their story here, and marvel at their selfless love for one another.
Meet Katherine, A Brain Stem Stroke Survivor
I’ve never met Jay and Katherine in person, but their story speaks volumes to me. Katherine, a former model and new mother, survived a massive brain stem stroke that nearly took her life. She spent forty days on life support, two years in brain rehab, and was left with a severely disabled body.
Watch any of her videos, though, and you will see that she is full of life and laughter. Her husband stayed with her through it all. They have two sons, and they’ve written a book together. And—in what she calls “upside-down kingdom irony”—Katherine just landed her biggest modeling job to date. Does that sound like a life lacking . . . quality?
Our Heroes and Our Teachers
All these “broken,” suffering people have pointed me—the supposed “healthy” and the “whole”—to the ultimate freedom and joy offered by Christ.
Please do not believe the lie that these people would be better off to end their suffering early and die. They are fulfilling God’s purposes, bringing great glory to Him, just as this blind man did:
And his [Jesus’] disciples asked him,“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2–3).
These are our heroes. These are our teachers. We need them. Please do not take them from us.
Last week we asked the question, Why does God want your money? We made the important clarification that it’s not your money but God’s money. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the original question:
Why does God want your (er, His!) money?
Here are just two reasons from Matthew 6:19–21:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (emphasis added).
When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
God wants your money because He wants you to have treasures that’ll last. As in, forever.
My sweet neighbor has let me watch two of her births. Elijah came out clutching a flat-screen TV, and Mercy came out with a sparkling pair of twenty-four-carat diamond earrings. (Kidding!) They both came out naked and empty-handed. No surprise, right? Paul says it like this in 1 Timothy 6:7:
We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (emphasis added).
Have you ever asked your mom what you brought into this world the day you were born? Probably not, because you already know the answer. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that when you leave this world (whether it’s through death or through Jesus’ soon return for you), you will bring nothing with you? Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
I like how John Piper says it:
There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.
In Matthew 6:19, Jesus isn’t saying it’s wrong to store up treasures; He just doesn’t want us to be stupid about it. We can’t take our favorite possessions or clothes with us (sorry to disappoint!). When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
Randy Alcorn says it like this, “You can’t take it with you—but you can send it on ahead.” He continues in his fantastic little book The Treasure Principle:
Jesus has a treasure mentality. He wants us to store up treasures! He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong place and start storing them in the right place!
God wants you to have treasures that’ll actually last—as in forever.
God wants your money because above all, He wants your heart.
There’s another reason God wants your (ahem, His!) money.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
What if God is really after your heart? And what if the way to your heart is through . . . your wallet?
As I read The Treasure Principle, I learned that 15 percent of everything Jesus says in the Bible relates to money—more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined!
Why does He care so much about money? It’s ’cause He knows that wherever our money goes, our heart goes.
More than your money, He’s after your heart (Matt. 15:7–9). He wants you to share a relationship with Him that’s closer than any other relationship you have on this entire planet. (And yes, when that happens, He’ll also have your money.)
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t payback. God didn’t sacrifice His life for you so you could pay Him back (as if you could!). Your salvation was a free, lavish gift. Don’t pull out your wallet to pay Him back. Give out of joy and gratefulness for how He gave to you, and watch your love for Him skyrocket as you do. Because where your money goes, there your heart goes.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
If Jesus says we can expect persecution (and He does), then I sure want to know how to prepare for persecution. So with the help of Thomas Watson’s book The Beatitudes, I came up with the following eight ways to prepare for persecution:
1. Get to know Jesus better. In the words of Watson, “A man can never die for him he does not know.” Are you satisfied with what you know of Christ, or do you long for an even closer friendship with Him?
2. Store up God’s Word in your heart—especially His promises to those who suffer for Him. Promises like Matthew 10:28-33, Mark 10:29-30, Psalm 91:14-16, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Matthew 10:19-20.
3. Read the stories of those who have been persecuted for Jesus. Sure, some of the details may make you squeamish, but these stories will infuse you with courage and give you examples to imitate. My recent favorite is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. There are so many more, like the story of Perpetua, a courageous woman who died in AD 203.
4. Don’t be so quick to always defend yourself; trust God to be your Defender. This is tough. We’re proud, and proud people tend to think they’re above suffering. Are you willing to let go of your high opinion of yourself and trust God with your reputation?
5. Replace fear of man with a healthy fear of God. Jesus puts it like this in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [men]. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [God].”
6. Treasure truth. In a world filled with lies and confusion, wholeheartedly seek after truth and lovingly share it with others. Don’t be easily swayed by people’s words and arguments. Examine everything you hear against the truth of God’s Word to test whether or not it’s true (Acts 17:11).
7. Pursue righteousness. Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10, emphasis added). Run from evil. Repent of your sin. Keep a clear conscience before God. Pursue Him.
8. Look for ways to deny yourself rather than always pampering yourself. I used to know a guy who regularly slept on the floor rather than in a bed. I’m not recommending that, but if you always choose the very best for yourself, you’ll have a hard time when you experience real suffering. Besides, Jesus told His followers in Matthew 16:24–25, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
“Before a man can die for Christ he must be dead to the world,” Thomas Watson said. The apostle Paul lived that way. In Galatians 6:14 he said, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
How do you plan on preparing for the very real possibility of persecution? Tell me about it.