This has been one of those weeks in our church where the inevitability and suddenness of death is driven home powerfully. In one case by the tragic death of a life cut painfully short, and in another, by the end of a long and full life that is still just as painful to the family that is experiencing the loss. I want to a share a few words this morning from a book I am currently reading by Paul David Tripp called Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It. This chapter, “The Bad News You Can’t Escape,” spoke powerfully to me this morning.
The way for you to begin to experience real life is to face the inescapable reality of death. The death that is all around you is meant to get your attention. It is meant to force you to face the impermanence of the physical things around you. These things clearly have a limited and temporary ability to fulfill you. The wilting flowers, the rotting deck out back, and the food that quickly spoils are all meant to produce in you a deep hunger for the forever that comes with it. Rather than depressing you, all of the death and impermanence around you is meant to open your eyes and inform your heart. It is meant to call you away from the delusion that this life is all there is and that you can find your identity, meaning and purpose and deepest inner sense of well-being from things that so quickly die.
Speaking of the impermanent pleasures of this life, he goes on to write,
The temporary pleasures of this world are meant to point you to the lasting pleasure of knowing God. The rising of the sun each morning is to remind you of his faithfulness. The crushing power of a devastating storm is designed to make you reflect on His power. The sweetness of a human kiss is meant to remind you of his tender care. The dependency of the baby is there to remind you of your constant need for God. The fading beauty of the daffodil is meant to help you see his eternal beauty. The imperfect justice of the human community is designed to make you thankful that God is perfectly just. The tender moment of human mercy is there to cause you to rest in his mercy. That five-course meal is an opportunity to reflect and be thankful for the spiritual food you need and that God graciously gives. The shifting stars in the night are created to remind you that Jesus is the Light that never shifts or fades. Every experience of love is meant to point you to his love. Every moment of grace is there to cause you to run to his grace. All of creation is finger pointing to God. It was not meant to replace him.
Psalm 73 powerfully reminds us that this life is not all there is. The point of life is not personal, temporal pleasure. An end is coming. All that is now wrong will be made right. In pointing us to the final end of things, Psalm 73 tells us what the drama of life is all about. We were made to have God as the one life-shaping treasure of our hearts, but sin turns us in on ourselves. It causes us to forget who we are and that God exists. It turns us into little self-sovereigns, wanting to reign for our own glory.
James 1:2-4 teaches us, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).
Surely death is one of the great trials of life, but we have the promise of God that even this, the greatest of all trials, has the ability to produce something in us that prepares us for eternity if we will just view it from the proper perspective.