A Time to Die

Written by Devon Bowman

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted
; –Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Death. This subject is one of great difficulty to discuss and is routinely avoided in our culture today. We talk about ageless creams for our skin, activities to prevent our brains from aging, age-defying activities that people will be amazed at, and so many more marketing plans repeated ad nauseum. In a world so focused on busyness, frantic pace, endless productivity, and pushing the limits, it is easy to ignore and forget that we indeed do not live forever. Death is a reality. There are moments that snap us awake to this reality of our own finitude. For me, one of those moments happened last week.  

Funerals are a reality in ministry and the funeral of one of our church members was this reality-inducing moment for me. The nature of ministry means that we have these more than most. Many people may only have three funerals in a year, but I remember a moment having three in one week. It makes this reality unavoidable. Conventional cultural wisdom would say this would be difficult and there is no doubt that it is. However, this consistent reminder of “life under the sun,” as King Solomon would say, is a sobering revelation of value. We hear consistently from those who have had a near brush with death, or those who have won their battle with cancer that many things that looked valuable before seem trivial and those they neglected were actually the most important. When we look at our lives, we may try and express what we value and what is most important to us. However, when we look at the precious resource of time spent our statement of values does not line up with the statement of our schedules.

I believe there is an important question for us believers in light of this reality. What must we do to have that understanding of real value awakened in our lives? King Solomon was a man like us who asked for wisdom from God, and was given it. One would think this wisdom would bring a life of pure joy, happiness, and freedom from worry. However, we see in the book of Ecclesiastes this was certainly not the case. Godly wisdom is not a tool to avoid or simply manage the world of woe that we find ourselves living in, but instead it is the way we actually arrive at an understanding of it. Solomon in all his wisdom still was fixed in a striving for meaning and in this search he had to look in the face of the reality of death. For us here today we are blessed to be able to open the scriptures and see this for ourselves and learn from the wisdom found in Solomon’s words. 

This blog is not simply one to cause sobriety in our misshapen culture, but also one to fix our hope. We as Christians live in the already, but not yet, nature of the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is one where death has already been defeated through Jesus, our Lord; but not yet in that the full inauguration of this Kingdom is still awaiting the return of Jesus the King. So, until then, we ourselves and those that we know will have to face the reality of death. But we do this with hope. Hope that, although we have only a small amount of time here on Earth, we have eternity with God. Hope that all that we do here is not in vain and trapped by time but we are participating in a Kingdom that is eternal. 

So then what should we do? Well, I contend that we should embrace our limits. Embrace the limited time that we are given. We do not know how much time we or the ones we love will be given. We should then not wait for the unexpected or uncalculated moments of life to renew this for us, but rather allow this truth that is found in God’s Word to orient our lives toward the good. We should embrace the fact that in life we cannot do everything and that by saying yes to one thing we are saying no to countless others. These choices we make with the limited time we have display the value of every step we take. We are thankful because every choice that we make is in light of hope. The hope of Jesus.
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