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Feature Article of Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Columnist: Gyebi, Daniel

Overcoming the Fear of Death

About ten years ago, as part of my preparation to give a presentation on the subject of Wills to my co-workers at a proposed company workshop, I asked four of them privately if they had a Will. None had a Will, and they were all lawyers. The idea of preparing a Will makes people to confront death, and that is uncomfortable and fearful. It is the same reason why many people do not have life insurance, which should probably be called death insurance. The workshop was canceled for budgetary reasons. By the way, preparing a Will does not mean you are rich; it means that you want to direct the disposition of whatever assets you may have(big or small) instead of leaving others to do it for you and creating confusion after your death.
Death is inevitable. My co-workers were fully aware of it, but they did not think it was the right time. Unfortunately, death hardly announces its arrival, and has no respect for anyone. Death comes for the sick and the healthy alike; the strong and the weak; the rich and the poor; the adult and the child; the man and the woman; and the Christian and the non-Christian.
Yet, we do not want to come to terms with death or even mention it. That is why we have come up with various euphemisms to describe death. Instead of saying that a person is dead, we usually say that the person has been called home, passed away, passed on, gone to meet his or her maker, become God’s own; or is gathered with his or her ancestors, late or deceased. You can add many others.
The fear of death has overpowered many of us. That fear has led many people to take extraordinary steps to protect themselves, including selling their souls to the devil. They do not realize that all those worrying and protections cannot add a single hour to their lives (Matthew 6:27). In our Ghanaian society, as in some parts of the world, there are still those who consult with, and put their faith and trust in, gods, shrines, certain native doctors, and “spiritualists.” Those who indulge in such practices set themselves up against the Most High God without adding one hour to their life span. Do not listen to those who try to mislead you into believing that your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, or any other relative is planning to use witchcraft to kill you or to undermine your progress. This may be part of the devil’s plan to put fear in you and bring enmity between you and your family members. That belief has prevented many from honoring their responsibilities to some of their family members. It has also driven some people to seek protection from demonic sources.
Longevity is a well-desirable goal. Many of us pray that we will live long enough to see our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It becomes a problem when that goal is pursued at all costs, even to the point of selling one’s soul to the devil. A productive and fruitful life in the Lord, however short, is better than long years of dealing and dancing with the devil. If you dance with the devil, sooner or later, the music will stop and the devil will use you for entertainment.
We can overcome the fear of death the right way. The first thing is to become a child of God by accepting the fact that you are a sinner, believing in the saving power of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, confessing your sins, asking for forgiveness, and inviting the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into your life. If you repent and do these things, you should not be afraid of death. In Luke 10:19-20, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us that he has given his followers the power to trample over scorpions and to heal the sick, and that nothing will harm us. However, he advises us not to rejoice about the powers we may have, but to rejoice that our names are written in heaven. Heaven-bound Christians need not fear death. Heaven-bound Christians know that death is not the end, but the beginning of our homeward journey to the Lord. That is why the Bible tells us that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15). We bury the dead in tears, but if the person was a Christian, then in the sight of the Lord, a precious child is coming home. Many of us may not necessarily fit the classic definition of a saint, and that is alright. As Christians, we are sinners saved by grace, the grace and the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should not be overly concerned about a particular label or semantics because all we know is that when the saints go marching in, we, too, will be counted among the number.
The second thing is to live according to the will of God. We should worship God constantly and begin to bear fruits that befit repentance. Heaven-bound Christians put earthly matters in the right perspectives. We are in the world, but not of the world (John 15:19). We should find the appropriate balance between our heavenly goal and our earthly aspirations. We should strive to channel the bulk of our efforts and resources towards our heavenly goal, and remember that only those things we do for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will last. When we put our house in order, and live according to the will of God, the fear of death will reduce to the barest minimum. We can then bring to life the true meaning of Psalm 23 (The Lord is My Shepherd). In verse 4 of that Psalm, we can confidently say that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil because the Lord is with us. We do not pray for death to come to us, but if necessary we would be able to stare death in the face and join the Apostle Paul in asking “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). What all of us should hope for is a stage in our spiritual development and journey where, like the Apostle Paul, it does not make any difference whether we live or die because either way, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).
There is wisdom in learning to number our days (Psalm 90:12). A good way to put life and death in the right perspective is to consider what you would do if you had only twenty four hours to live. Think about it. What are the most important things you would do within the twenty four hour period? What good things are you currently doing on which you would like to expand? What good things have you thought about doing, but have not had the time to do them? It may be a good idea to start doing them now. What bad things are you doing that you intend to stop doing in the future? It may be a good idea to stop doing them now. A God-fearing, Christ-centered life is the best way to overcome the fear of death.
And so let’s choose the fear of God over the fear of death. If we fear God, we have nothing else to fear. Troubles, difficulties, failures, sicknesses, and yes, death, may come our way, but we should not fear. Even if those who threaten to kill us are successful, they can only touch our bodies, but not our souls. We should not fear them or their weapon of death. Instead, we should fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). Remember that the threat of death did not stop Moses from confronting Pharaoh; the threat of death did not stop Daniel from violating a decree and praying to God; the threat of death did not stop Stephen from proclaiming Jesus; the threat of death did not stop Paul from going to Jerusalem even though he had been warned by a prophet that he would be arrested; and the threat of death did not stop our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from proclaiming the Good News of Salvation.
Great men and women of God have gone before us triumphantly. They were not afraid to die. They achieved victory in death. And they are interceding and cheering for us right now. My dear Brothers and Sisters, we, too, should be courageous and not fear death or anyone or anything on this earth. By the grace of God, nothing, absolutely nothing, shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord-- not powers, not demons, and not death – because we are more than conquerors through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

Dr. Daniel Gyebi Attorney-at-Law Texas, U.S.A.

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