This morning I was reading again a journal article by James I. Packer entitled “Wisdom in a Time of War: What Oswald Chambers and C.S. Lewis Teach Us about Living Through The Long Battle with Terrorism.” He wrote this for the January 2, 2002 edition of the periodical Christianity Today.
One of the first points he makes is that Christians must think carefully and biblically about our own lives. I found his particular points very salient:
- God gives us life to live for his glory.
- Since the Fall of man (see Genesis 3), tragedy, distortion, frustration, and waste have been the regular marks of life in this world.
- Reason (with a capital R) cannot save us, as its secular worshipers thought it could.
- Knowing and serving Jesus Christ the Redeemer and his Father, who through Christ is now our Father, is the only thing that gives life meaning.
- Death is inescapable and wisdom requires us to remember this and live our lives accordingly.
- While God protects his people against spiritual shipwreck, he often puts them through pain for their spiritual progress and sometimes permits and uses war to that end.
- Christians are called not to understand everything that God is doing but to be faithful to him.
Psalm 23:4 says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
Matthew Henry expounds this text and JRR Tolkien shares a beautiful story:
1. Because there is no evil in it to a child of God; death cannot separate us from the love of God, and therefore it can do us no real harm; it kills the body, but cannot touch the soul. Why should it be dreadful when there is nothing in it hurtful?
2. Because the saints have God’s gracious presence with them in their dying moments; he is there at their right hand, and therefore why should they be moved?
I will fear no evil. If one finds himself in a valley of deep darkness (or shadow of death), he need not fear. The Lord is with him and will protect him. The rod and staff are the shepherd’s equipment to protect the sheep in such situations.
A child of God may meet the messengers of death, and receive its summons with a holy security and serenity of mind.
In the Return of the King, as the orcs are over-running the city, Gandalf talks with Pippen about how death is not the end.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. There’s another path; one that we all must take. The curtain of this world rolls back….and all will turn to silver glass, and then you see it….
Pippin: See what?
Gandalf: White shores; and beyond them, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well… that isn’t so bad….
Gandalf: No… no it isn’t.
You have a difficult road before you:
O traveller to heaven, see that you go not without your guide.
You have to pass through the fiery furnace;
enter it not unless, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
you have the Son of God to be your companion.
You have to storm the Jericho of your own corruptions:
attempt not the warfare until, like Joshua,
you have seen the Captain of the Lord’s host,
with His sword drawn in His hand.
You are to meet the Esau of your many temptations:
meet him not until at Jabbok’s brook you have laid hold upon the angel, and prevailed.
In every case, in every condition, you will need Jesus;
but most of all, when the iron gates of death shall open to you.
Keep close to your soul’s Husband,
lean your head upon His bosom,
ask to be refreshed with the spiced wine of His pomegranate,
and you shall be found of Him at the last,
without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
Seeing you have lived with Him, and lived in Him here,
you shall abide with Him forever.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning & Evening
Proverbs 14:32 reads: “When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge.”
“The wise man of Proverbs saw beyond this dying world; and caught the sunbeams of glory brought to light by the Gospel!’ — Charles Bridges
2 Timothy 1:10b – “Our Savior, Christ Jesus, has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
During the last days of Edmund Payson, he said:
“When I formerly read Bunyan‘s description of the land of Beulah, where the sun shines and the birds sing day and night, I used to doubt whether there was such a place; but now my own experience has convinced me of it, and it transcends all my previous conceptions.” Payson dictated a letter to his sister a few weeks before his death. He wrote, “Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter ‘from the Land of Beulah’, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant. The Celestial City is full in my view. Its glories have been upon me, its breezes fan me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approached, and now he fills the whole hemisphere; pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun, exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering with unutterable wonder why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm.”
Payson was a citizen of heaven enjoying full assurance of faith.
Dear Parents of Teenagers, please speak to your kids about death by misadventure and pray that they would not long for and love the approval of their peers more than God’s (John 12:42).
Attached is the link for our Vespers service that focuses on Acts 7 and the sermon and sufferings of Stephen.
Enduring Earthly Frowns with Heaven’s Smile