Death by Tomorrow?
On Monday, December 26th, 2016, pop singer Britney Spears was reported dead. But, in unmistakable Mark Twain verbiage, may we respectfully say that reports of her death had been ‘greatly exaggerated,’ as Sony soon reported that their Twitter account on which the tweet was first posted had been compromised.
However, for many others, certain, sudden, and very real death came to claim their earthly lives in 2016. From singer-songwriters such as Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Oklahoma’s own Merle Haggard, as well as Prince and George Michael; to such sports celebrities and superstars as Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, Jose Fernandez, Craig Sager, and Joe Garagiola; to Hollywood T.V. and movie stars including Alan Thicke, Florence Henderson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kenny Baker, and Carrie Fisher; plus political personalities and people such as our former first lady Nancy Reagan, Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia, and former astronaut, fighter pilot, and U.S. Senator John Glenn, none escaped or outran death’s inevitable grasp.
And neither did some of those in, related to, or known by, those in the Lord’s church. From Warren and Marie Hazelton – two of the most faithful, knowledgeable, compassionate and sacrificially selfless saints I have ever had the privilege of knowing and loving in Christ; to our young 18 yr old Arkansas brother Caleb Bonde who died in a car crash on Christmas eve; to surely many other beloved brethren as well as many other friends and family members who could be mentioned from probably almost every congregation of the Lord’s church world-wide, many fell to the inevitable, insatiable, and inescapable grip of death’s icy hand and departed this earthly life in 2016. From the rich and the famous, to the poor and the afflicted; from the poorest of paupers, to the most popular of personalities; whether the young or the old; from the Master’s elect to the masses’ elected; from entertainer to entrepreneur; and from the least to the greatest; physical bodily death is the great and inevitable, all-consuming equalizer.
Why bring all this up now as we enter a new year? The answer should be painfully and blatantly obvious. As we officially end 2016 to enter and embark out into the new year, every single one of us should enter into every single day we are given by God, with the mindset that it might very well be our absolute last day on this earth in which to lovingly and faithfully serve, submit, and sacrifice ourselves to and for, both Him, His Son, and Their kingdom – because it just might be! Listen: God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23)! But do you really know and truly understand exactly what that means? It means that every new day we are given by the grace of God, is another chance to either get right with Him, stay right with Him, and/or, to serve even better, and to get ever closer to and with, Almighty God Himself through our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk. 6:46)!
Someone has rightly observed, “Yesterday is gone; tomorrow may never be; today is a gift – that’s why we call it “the present.’” And the Bible concurs! “For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psm 90:9-12).” As James says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (Jms. 4:14).” And in addition, the apostle Paul further instructs the Lord’s church to: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:15-17).
You see, there are numerous “dead men walking” that many of us come in contact with on a regular basis whom the Lord wants us to seize the day to go seek, speak to, and seek to save with the grace-laden gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk. 9:57-62, 19:10; Eph. 2:1-3; 1 Tim. 2;1-4, 5:6; 2 Ptr. 3:9). Even worse, there are still yet numerous other “dead men walking” even in the Lord’s church at times (Rev. 3:1-6)! And they too, must be turned back to life before it’s too late!Because the bottom line is this… There are no guarantees to any of us – not a one of us; no matter our age, gender, general health, worldly wealth, spiritual standing or social status – that we will make it through 2017 on this planet any more than there were any guarantees to any of those previously mentioned that they would make it through 2016 – there just isn’t. Never was; never will be. But one thing is guaranteed: Eventually all will pass away from this planet and answer directly to God. And when that time comes for you, will you be ready? What if it’s tomorrow? What if it’s today? Will you have made the absolute best use of your time in His service from this point forward that you possibly could with each new day in 2017 He gives you to be faithful, obedient, compassionate, and evangelistic – if He in His goodness even chooses to thus bless you with more days to devote to His service? Will He be truly happy with your daily efforts on His behalf, or wrathfully and regrettably heart-broken at your destructive excuses and flimsy attempts at self-justification?
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matt 7:21-27).