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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Columnist: Dr. Daniel Gyebi

If christians must die!

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“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. …. I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:6-8, 17).

The subject of death makes almost all of us nervous, and some of us really afraid. Although we know that we will die one day, we are not comfortable talking about death. We pretend as if death is not there. We use many euphemisms to describe death, such as, “deceased,” “departed,” “called home,” “asleep in Christ,” “in a better place,” “passed away,” “passed on,” “gone to sleep,” “late,” “laid to rest,” and “joined ancestors.” While all of us should take the necessary precautions to protect our health and lives, we know that death will eventually come one day.

This article is as much about life as it is about death. For that reason, we join the Psalmist in proclaiming that we will not die, but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done for us. The Lord is with us and we put our trust in Him, and so we do not fear people or enemies (Psalm 118:6-8, 17).

Of all the people in this world, Christians have the best reasons not to fear death. We serve the Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We serve the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. We serve God, the GREAT I AM, whose Beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, sacrificed his life on the cross to save all mankind from sin and eternal damnation. We follow Jesus Christ who defeated death by resurrecting from death and sitting at the right hand of God from where he will come to judge the world. We also follow Jesus Christ who promised that he was going to prepare a place in heaven for us and would come back and take us with him. We know that salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. With all these, why should any Christian fear death?

Therefore, if Christians must die, let us not face death like people without hope. Instead, let us face death with hope, courage and faith in the Lord. Let us face death like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, in the face of what looked like certain death, defied King Nebuchadnezzar, and refused to bow down and worship the Babylonian gods and an image of gold.

The three young men made this remarkable statement: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NIV). The blazing furnace was heated seven times hotter than usual and the three Jewish men were thrown into it, but they did not burn. The God of Elijah who answers by consuming fire, did the reverse; He protected them from fire.

If Christians must die, let us face death with anticipation and hope like Simeon, a righteous and devout man who lived in Jerusalem at the time Christ was born. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Jesus Christ.

When Simeon saw baby Jesus at the temple, he took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation ...” (Luke 2:28-30). Simeon was not afraid of death; rather, he was asking God to take him home.

If Christians must die, let us face death by following the example of Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. After he was arrested allegedly for blasphemy against God and Moses and brought before the Sanhedrin, Stephen gave one the longest, defiant speeches recorded in the Bible which infuriated the Jewish leaders. ““But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”” (Acts 7:55-56 NIV). While he was being stoned to death, Stephen prayed for the Lord to receive his spirit, and to forgive his killers of their sins; then he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59 NIV).

If Christians must die, let us face death like the Apostle Paul did. Paul was bold, courageous and daring. Consistent with his zeal for Jesus, the man who said, “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NIV), ignored a prophecy by Prophet Agabus that he would be arrested by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem if he went there, and would be handed over to the Gentiles. When the Church leaders tried to persuade Paul, his response was: “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13 NIV). Paul went to Jerusalem, was arrested by the Jewish leaders and handed over to the Roman authorities in Rome who eventually killed him.

Over the years, men and women of Christian faith have been killed in the service of the Lord. They did not have the luxury of dying at home or hospital environment surrounded by loved ones. Some were persecuted, tortured, stoned, put to death by sword, crucified, beheaded, starved to death, or boiled to death. Yet, they kept the faith and trusted in the Lord to the very end.

It might be helpful for all of us to examine our lives to know those things which keep us so grounded to this earth that we do not want to be separated from them. We should not become earth-bound Christians with no eager anticipation to meet the Lord in heaven. We should take some comfort in what the Bible says that eyes have not seen, nor ears heard, nor the mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Death is the beginning of the journey to eternal life that Jesus promised believers in John 3:16. That may explain why the Bible says that: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15 NIV). When people die, some see their dead bodies as mere corpses to be buried and forgotten, but God sees His children among them as precious because they begin the journey to eternal life.

I pray and hope for long, healthy life for everyone. Longevity is its own blessing. By the grace of God, we will not die, but live. We will hear and enjoy lots of “happy birthdays and many happy returns.” However, if Christians must die, let us face death without bitterness, hatred, grief or sin in our hearts. If Christians must die, let us face death graciously and triumphantly by standing firm in the faith, upholding the banner of Christ, and loving God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all people all the way to the end. And if Christians must die, let us look up to heaven and see the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. That is the victory we have over death through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.

Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.