This past week, a friend of mine sent me a lesson God had shared with her that really touched my spirit. I asked her to put it together into a post for the blog and she graciously obliged.
This week’s post is by @Surabbie. I hope it blesses you as much as it blessed me.
“So then [Jesus] told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him…’
Jesus said to [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
—John 11: 14 – 15, 25 – 26
“…What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else;
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
—1 Corinthians 15: 36 – 37; 54 – 57.
Death is a necessary part of every Christian’s journey. This essential process is often initiated by our Heavenly Father. We see it from the very beginning of the Bible when God wiped out the whole earth and left a remnant of only those in the ark (Genesis 6 – 9).
Then there’s Abraham’s story in Genesis 22: 1 – 19. After waiting for 25 years for his promised child Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. (This is much like God asks us every day to lay the things we most value on the altar of His love, provision, sovereignty and will and trust in Him, but I digress.) In the end, God provided a sacrifice to take the place of Isaac, but something still died on that mountain.
Then we get to Leviticus and the host of sacrifices and offerings the Israelites had to make every time they transgressed against God and each other.
In all these cases, there was death in order for “new” life to exist.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 35 – 58, Paul talks about how important death is to all areas of our lives as Christians. Verses 37 – 38 say: “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body.”
This is ultimately about our resurrected bodies at the last day. However, every day of our earthly lives, as we take up our cross and follow our Master, we are crucified in our flesh. As the scripture says, only God knows what we will look like after each death. It is not ours to worry about the outcome but to have faith through it.
We cannot and will not be caught up to meet our Lord when He returns if we still look nothing like Him.
“I declare to you, brothers and sister, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
– 1 Corinthians 15: 50
As Christians, we are first introduced to death when we receive Christ as our Lord and personal savior. We die to the old nature and are made new in Christ when we receive His salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Our second introduction to death is when our flesh is put to death by the work of the Holy Spirit. In every trial, every struggle, every painful situation we go through God is putting something to death in us. Our final introduction to death is the physical death.
The beauty of death for the child of God, however, is that it is only a temporary phase and a springboard to even greater things.
We all know the outcome of the last and final death: we are resurrected into our new bodies and our new lives in eternity with Christ begin. What is harder to track is the second kind of death we go through as children of God, which happens over and over again in the course of our earthly lives – death to self through the Spirit’s work. It is literally God killing the bad habits and impurities in us. This death produces the most amazing work in us, but it is harder to track because:
1. It often feels like failure.
2. It feels like weakness and inadequacy and imperfection. I entered law school with a mindset of, “I’m smart and I’ve totally got this.” Then one day I was sitting in a class in my first year having a panic attack because I couldn’t figure any of it out. I was texting my parents and telling them that I think I’d made a mistake and couldn’t do this. I’m entering final year in September and the only way I’ve passed any exam is by the sheer grace of God and direction of the Holy Spirit. I mean that literally: I pray and He shows me what to learn. Looking back, I see that most of my troubles were God killing my arrogance and stripping me of all of it.
3. It comes like financial and material lack. God needs you to know that He is your only true source for EVERYTHING. Remember the story of the young rich man whom Jesus asked to sell all he had? I realized that in my life money had become a security blanket and God said, “No! I am your source.”
In truth, we don’t need money when God is looking out for us. But this is something we only learn when God kills our reliance on money.
4. It looks like loneliness and ever – increasing brokenness.
5. It comes like Lazarus dead in a tomb surrounded by Mary and Martha, the disciples and all the people who came to mourn with them. It looks like a sealed tomb with absolutely no way out.
The last thing it ever feels like is the precursor to resurrection and earth – shaking revival, but that is exactly what it is. The beauty of death for the child of God lies in a number of things:
- As I have already said, it’s only ever temporary. All our trials are temporary. Our failings and weaknesses won’t be here forever. Even though you may feel like nothing will ever change, God is strengthening you, pruning you. You will come out stronger, more faith-filled and faithful. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 58, death was swallowed up in victory the minute the first drop of blood hit the ground. It didn’t know it, but it was.
- It marks the start of new life. Case in point: Christ. Case in point: David. Case in point: Daniel in the lion’s den. And Joseph. And Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. All these people faced situations that felt like death but every time it launched them into the most dramatic increase and transformation of their lives.
- Finally, death for a child of God is victory because that means God is still working on us. He hasn’t abandoned us to our own devices. He still loves us and cares enough to prune and groom and cut out the things that don’t please Him and aren’t for our good.
As the Bible says in Hebrews 12:5:
“Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his sons? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.’”
What then shall we say? If God is for us where is death’s power? Where is the finality of our trials, our struggles, our pain? We have the victory in Christ Jesus and we have had it ever since He went to the cross and rose again three days later.
To which I say: Hallelujah.