There are two things the following list of people has in common. Do you know what they are?
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.
In addition to this list, I will give a second list which again has people with the same two things in common:
Peter, John, Paul, Stephen, James, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Martin Luther, John Wesley, George Mueller.
What could possibly tie these various and assorted people together? Some would say it is that they were all people and that would be a true statement, but not one of the two things I am speaking of here. Perhaps yet another list would help. Once again, these people all have the same two things in common:
Josiah, Nathan, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Daniel, Ezekiel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Malachi, Mary and Joseph, Centurion, John the Baptist, Elijah, Elisha, Elizabeth, Anna, Simeon, Barnabas, John Mark, Luke, Matthew, Andrew, Jude, Phoebe, Aquila, Priscilla, Timothy, Tychicus, Epaphroditus and Jesus Christ.
Lest this turn into a chronological list so long no one will read any further, please allow me to explain what this is all about. Please keep in mind that contrary to what anyone thinks, there are very good reasons for subjecting you to this.
The two things common to all these people are:
THEY WERE MEN AND WOMEN OF EXTREME, UNDILLUTED AND PURE FAITH.
THEY ALL DIED
This may seem to some as quite a letdown, but in reality it is quite profound. With the glaring exceptions of Enoch and Elijah; all these people did as all people have done since Adam and Eve, and that is to die. The only person on these lists to have died and then be raised from the dead with eternal life spirit is Jesus Christ. But, even he suffered the agony of taking his last breath and ceasing to be a living creation.
It is indeed fascinating that of all the things people fear, the one they fear the most is the one they can do the least about-death. Millions upon millions of people spend their entire lives in bondage to the fear of one day dying. Billions upon billions of dollars have been spent by people trying desperately to find a way to stay one step ahead of the "grim reaper". This is actually quite logical in that the vast majority of people have nothing to live for except this life.
We know from God's Word that when it comes to Abel, Noah, Abraham and Sarah according to Hebrews 11:13 they all "died in faith". I believe it is safe to say that all the others on these lists did the same. Let me try and explain what it means to "die in faith". Look at this verse a little closer:
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
There are five things that defined them "dying in faith":
They had not received the promises yet
They had seen these promises from afar off
They were assured these promises were true and would come to pass
They embraced these promises and held them close to their hearts
They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth
Every person who has escaped the bondage of the fear of death ends up "dying in faith". Every person who comes to the above mentioned five points, has reached the place where life is not measured by anything accomplished or gained in the here and now, but in the future.
When life is lived for eternal rewards and promises, then the inevitable result is the confession that we are nothing but strangers and pilgrims on this earth. When life is lived for fame, glory, honor, wealth and riches; the inevitable result is bondage to the fear of death, for death would end it all.
God gave the promise of the coming Messiah as far back as Genesis chapter 3. Those who lived in the Old Testament who "died in faith", were fully persuaded that God's promises regarding the future Messiah would come to pass. They embraced these promises and held on to them for dear life.
Jesus had the promise of God raising Him from the dead to be assured of and embrace. This is what allowed Him to endure the cross and all the shame and contempt poured upon Him. We have the promise of Christ's return to be assured of and embrace. If we know and are fully persuaded of our eternal home with God and Christ, then we can plainly confess we are but strangers on this earth.
Absolute and total confidence in the promises of God allows us to escape from the grasp of the fear of death. Overcoming the fear that upon taking one's last breath, one vanishes for eternity is only done through total faith that upon dying, in reality our life has only just begun. May we all strive to eliminate the fear of death and replace it with the firm conviction that when that day arrives when we take our last breath; that which God will say about us is that we "died in faith". What more appropriate way of living is there?
After reading this blog I thought of the words of this hymn which I love so well: [quote][i][b]My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.[/i][/b][/quote] At the end of the day, there really is nothing else to cling too! It is my prayer that God will say that I "died in faith". It is, indeed, the only way to live! May God help my faith to grow more and more each day!
As I read through this, I reflected on living & dying, life and death. In the mortal, human form, we're born, we live, we die. Dust to dust. Big whoop in the grand scheme of things. But when we are born again, born of the Spirit, and allow ourselves to be filled, refilled, and refilled again by the Spirit, we can "live-in-faith". Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we received the promise. When we "live-in-faith", live a Christian life, we do find that comfort of having the promise that we will "die-in-faith". And by so doing, have life eternal. "In My Father's house there are many rooms". Oh, how comforting it is to know we have a "reservation" in His house. That is, unless we ourselves cancel it!
In my church, there is a woman who is dying of cancer. It is spreading rapidly, painfully, throughout her body. She is wasting away noticably each day. Yet she begins each day with a bright smile, a joyful laugh. "Thank God," she proclaims, "that it has not reached my brain". This woman does not fear death. She fights to continue living, but she does not fear death. She "lives-in-faith", she will "die-in-faith"... so that she may have life.
Alive in the Word