People post obituary notices on billboards and concrete block walls in Ghana regularly. Headlines such as Gone Too Soon, Celebration of Life, and What a Shock! announce the passing away of loved ones and the approaching funerals. One I read—In Transition—points to life beyond the grave.
When a close relative or friend dies, we sorrow as Mary and Martha did for their brother Lazarus (John 11:17-27). We miss the departed so much that our hearts break and we weep, as Jesus wept at the passing of His friend (v. 35).
Yet, it was at this sorrowful moment Jesus made a delightful statement on life after death: “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” (v. 25).
On the basis of this we give departed believers only a temporary farewell. For they “will be with the Lord forever,” Paul emphasizes (1 Thess. 4:17). Of course, farewells are painful, but we can rest assured that they are in the Lord’s safe hands.
In Transition suggests that we are only changing from one situation to another. Though life on earth ends for us, we will continue to live forever and better in the next life where Jesus is. “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (v. 18).
When I first began working in the small office I now rent, the only inhabitants were a few mopey flies. Several of them had gone the way of all flesh, and their bodies littered the floor and windowsills. I disposed of all but one, which I left in plain sight.
That fly carcass reminds me to live each day well. Death is an excellent reminder of life, and life is a gift. Solomon said, “Anyone who is among the living has hope” (Eccl. 9:4). Life on earth gives us the chance to influence and enjoy the world around us. We can eat and drink happily and relish our relationships (vv. 7,9).
We can also enjoy our work. Solomon advised, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (v. 10). Whatever our vocation or job or role in life, we can still do things that matter, and do them well. We can encourage people, pray, and express love with sincerity each day.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Time and chance happen to them all. . . . No one knows when their hour will come” (vv. 11-12). It’s impossible to know when our lives on earth will end, but gladness and purpose can be found in this day by relying on God’s strength and depending on Jesus’ promise of eternal life (John 6:47).
Growing up in the 1950s, I often attended the Saturday matinee at a local movie theater. Along with cartoons and a feature film, there was an adventure serial that always ended with the hero or heroine facing an impossible situation. There seemed to be no way out, but each episode concluded with the words “To Be Continued . . . ”
The apostle Paul was no stranger to life-threatening situations. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked as he sought to take the good news of Jesus Christ to people. He knew that someday he would die, but he never considered that to be the end of the story. Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, “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’ ” (1 Cor. 15:54). The passion of Paul’s life was telling others that Jesus our Savior gave His life on the cross so that through faith in Him we can receive forgiveness for all our sins and have eternal life.
We are not like the movie hero who always escapes certain death. The day will come when our earthly lives will end either by death or Christ’s return. But by God’s grace and mercy, the story of your life and mine is “to be continued.”
In response to the news that a mutual friend of ours had died, a wise brother who knew the Lord sent me these words, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). Our friend’s vibrant faith in Jesus Christ was the dominant characteristic of his life, and we knew he was home with God in heaven. His family had that assurance as well, but I had been focused only on their sorrow. And it’s appropriate to consider others during their grief and loss.
Two men were killed in our city on the same day. The first, a police officer, was shot down while trying to help a family. The other was a homeless man who was shot while drinking with friends early that day.
I looked up the members of my seminary graduating class recently and discovered that many of my friends are now deceased. It was a sober reminder of the brevity of life. Three score and ten, give or take a few years, and we’re gone (Ps. 90:10). Israel’s poet was right: We’re but strangers here and sojourners (39:12).
In the 1960s, the folk-rock band The Byrds popularized the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” It climbed to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and gained worldwide popularity. People seemed captivated by the lyrics. Interestingly, though, except for the last line, those lyrics are from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.
Everything in this world eventually comes to an end, which at times can be disheartening. It’s the feeling you get when you read a book that’s so good you don’t want it to end. Or when you watch a movie that you wish would go on a little while longer.
Spring is the time of year when God reminds us that things are not always as they seem. Over the course of a few short weeks, what appears hopelessly dead comes to life. Bleak woodlands are transformed into colorful landscapes. Trees whose naked arms reached to heaven all winter, as if pleading to be clothed, suddenly are adorned with lacy green gowns. Flowers that faded and fell to the ground in surrender to the cold rise slowly from the earth in defiance of death.