Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
"Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death." Martin Luther
"Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death." John Knox"Thou, Lord, bruisest me; but I am abundantly satisfied, since it is from Thy hand." John Calvin
"The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!" John Wesley
"I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness--satisfied, satisfied!" Charles Wesley
It is possible to live under a delusion. You think you are kind, considerate and gracious when you are really not. You think you are building positive stuff into your children when in reality, if you could check with them twenty years later, you really didn't. What if you could read your own obituary? How do people really see you? Here is the story of a man who did.
One morning in 1888 Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred's brother that had died and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother. Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The "Dynamite King," the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred's life. None of his true intentions to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas for peace were recognized or given serious consideration. He was simply a merchant of death. And for that alone he would be remembered. As he read the obituary with horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. This could be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament--an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace (the sixth category of economics was added later)--would be the expression of his life's ideals and ultimately would be why we would remember him. The result was the most valuable of prizes given to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace. It is called today, the "Nobel Peace Prize."
John Wesley preached his last sermon of Feb 17, 1791, in Lambeth on the text "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Isa 55:6). The following day, a very sick man, he was put to bed in his home on City Road. During the days of his illness, he often repeated the words from one of his brother's hymns: I the chief of sinners am, But Jesus died for me! His last words were, "The best of all is, God is with us!" He died March 2, 1791.
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers, p. 245.
Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.
When you're old as I am, there are all sorts of extremely pleasant things that happen to you...the pleasantest of all is that you wake up in the night and you find that you are half in and half out of your battered old carcass. It seems quite a tossup whether you go back and resume full occupancy of your mortal body, or make off toward the bright glow you see in the sky, the lights of the city of God.
Malcolm Muggeridge, Christian Times, September 3, 1982.
In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain's motto for centuries. Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth. Thus their motto was "Ne Plus Ultra," which means "No More Beyond." The word being torn away by the lion is "Ne" or "no," making it read "Plus Ultra." Columbus had proven that there was indeed "more beyond."
On his deathbed, British preacher Charles Simeon smiled brightly and asked the people gathered in his room, "What do you think especially gives me comfort at this time?" When they all remained silent, he exclaimed, "The creation! I ask myself, 'Did Jehovah create the world or did I?' He did! Now if He made the world and all the rolling spheres of the universe, He certainly can take care of me. Into Jesus' hands I can safely commit my spirit!"
Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, in the closing months of his life said to a friend, "I am so weak. I can't read my Bible. I can't even pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a little child and trust."
Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1994.
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without a ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.
from the book September.
In 1846 former president John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke. Although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. Daniel Webster described his last meeting with Adams: "Someone, a friend of his, came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, 'I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.'"
Today in the Word, April 11, 1992.
Mark Twain, became morose and weary of life. Shortly before his death, he wrote, "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last--the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them--and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,...a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever."
Gen. William Nelson, a Union general in the Civil War, was consumed with the battles in Kentucky when a brawl ended up in his being shot, mortally, in the chest. He had faced many battles, but the fatal blow came while he was relaxing with his men. As such, he was caught fully unprepared. As men ran up the stairs to help him, the general had just one phrase, "Send for a clergyman; I wish to be baptized." He never had time as an adolescent or young man. He never had time as a private or after he became a general. And his wound did not stop or slow down the war. Everything around him was left virtually unchanged--except for the general's priorities. With only minutes left before he entered eternity, the one thing he cared about was preparing for eternity. He wanted to be baptized. Thirty minutes later he was dead.
Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
Thou oughtest so to order thyself in all thy thoughts and actions, as if today thou wert about to die. Labor now to live so, that at the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than fear.
Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ.
A few days before his death, Dr. F. B. Meyer wrote a very dear friend these words: "I have just heard, to my great surprise, that I have but a few days to live. It may be that before this reaches you, I shall have entered the palace. Don't trouble to write. We shall meet in the morning."
Quoted in Consolation, by Mrs. C. Cowman, p. 70.
I read that when a terrible plague came to ancient Athens, people there committed every horrible crime and engaged in every lustful pleasure they could because they believed that life was short and they would never have to pay any penalty. In one of the world's most famous poems, the Latin poet Catullus wrote, "Let us live and let us love, and let us value the tales of austere old men at a single halfpenny. Suns can set and then return again, but for us, when once our brief light sets, there is but one perpetual night through which we must sleep."
Morning Glory, January 29, 1994.
Alexander the Great, seeing Diogenes looking attentively at a parcel of human bones, asked the philosopher what he was looking for. Diogenes' reply: "That which I cannot find--the difference between your father's bones and those of his slaves."
"Here lies Jamie Smith, wife of Thomas Smith, marble cutter. This monument was erected by her husband as a tribute to her memory and a specimen of his work. Monuments of the same style 350 dollars."
from Springdale, Ohio.
I was driving with my children to my wife's funeral where I was to preach the sermon. As we came into one small town there strode down in front of us a truck that came to stop before a red light. It was the biggest truck I ever saw in my life, and the sun was shining on it at just the right angle that took its shadow and spread it across the snow on the field beside it. As the shadow covered that field, I said, "Look children at that truck, and look at its shadow. If you had to be run over, which would you rather be run over by? Would you rather be run over by the truck or by the shadow?" My youngest child said, "The shadow couldn't hurt anybody." "That's right," I continued, "and death is a truck, but the shadow is all that ever touches the Christian. The truck ran over the Lord Jesus. Only the shadow is gone over mother."
Donald Grey Barnhouse.
Peter Kreeft tells us that in the Latin rite for the burial of an Austrian emperor, the people carry the corpse to the door of the great monastic church. They strike the door and say: "Open." The abbot inside says: "Who is there." "Emperor Karl, the king of..." The response from inside: "We know of no such person here." So the people strike the door again. "Who is there?" asks the abbot. "Emperor Karl." "We know of no such person here." So they strike a third time. "Who is there?" asks the abbot again. "Karl," say the people. And the door is opened.
One World, May, 1982.
"You don't go look at where it happened," said Scott Goodyear, who starts 33rd [speaking of race-car drivers who have been killed in crashes at the Indianapolis 500]. "You don't watch the films of it on television. You don't deal with it. You pretend it never happened." The Speedway operation itself encourages this approach. As soon as the track closes the day of an accident, a crew heads out to paint over the spot where the car hit the wall. Through the years, a driver has never been pronounced dead at the race track. A trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Racing Museum, located inside the 2.5-mile oval, has no memorial to the 40 drivers who have lost their lives here. Nowhere is there even a mention.
Sarah Winchester's husband had acquired a fortune by manufacturing and selling rifles. After he died of influenza in 1918, she moved to San Jose, California. Because of her grief and her long time interest in spiritism, Sarah sought out a medium to contact her dead husband. The medium told her, "As long as you keep building your home, you will never face death."
Sarah believed the spiritist, so she bought an unfinished 17-room mansion and started to expand it. The project continued until she died at the age of 85. It cost 5 million dollars at a time when workmen earned 50 cents a day. The mansion had 150 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 2,000 doors, 47 fireplaces, and 10,000 windows. And Mrs. Winchester left enough materials so that they could have continued building for another 80 years.
Today that house stands as more than a tourist attraction. It is a silent witness to the dread of death that holds millions of people in bondage (Heb. 2:15).
Our Daily Bread, April 2, 1994.
Thursday, December 21, 1899, after cutting short a Kansas City crusade and returning home in ill health, D. L. Moody told his family, "I'm not discouraged. I want to live as long as I am useful, but when my work is done I want to be up and off." The next day Moody awakened after a restless night. In careful, measured words he said, "Earth recedes, Heaven opens before me!" His son, Will, concluded his father was dreaming. "No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go."
Moody, December, 1993, p. 70.
In one of his books, A.M. Hunter, the New Testament scholar, relates the story of a dying man who asked his Christian doctor to tell him something about the place to which he was going. As the doctor fumbled for a reply, he heard a scratching at the door, and he had his answer. "Do you hear that?" he asked his patient. "It's my dog. I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up and hears my voice. He has no notion what is inside this door, but he knows that I am here. Isn't it the same with you? You don't know what lies beyond the Door, but you know that your Master is there."
Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 208.
It is a poor thing to fear that which is inevitable.
Tertullian, third-century church father, speaking about death.
The bitter news of Dawson Trotman's drowning swept like cold wind across Schroon Lake to the shoreline. Eyewitnesses tell of the profound anxiety, the tears, the helpless disbelief in the faces of those who now looked out across the deep blue water. Everyone's face except one -- Lila Trotman, Dawson's widow. As she suddenly walked upon the scene a close friend shouted, "Oh, Lila ... He's gone. Dawson's gone!" To that she replied in calm assurance the words of Psalm 115:3:
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
All of the anguish, the sudden loneliness that normally consumes and cripples those who survive did not invade that woman's heart. Instead, she leaned hard upon her sovereign Lord, who had once again done what He pleased.
Charles R. Swindoll, Starting Over, Multnomah Press, 1977, p. 67.
Around 125 A.D., a Greek by the name of Aristeides wrote to one of his friends, trying to explain the extraordinary success of the new religion, Christianity. In his letter he said, "If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they accompany his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby."
Today in the Word, April 10, 1993.
Before his death in 1981, American writer William Saroyan telephoned in to the Associated Press this final, very Saroyan-like observation: "Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?"
Today in the Word, April 11, 1993.
Edith Rockefeller McCormick, the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, maintained a large household staff. She applied one rule to every servant without exception: They were not permitted to speak to her. The rule was broken only once, when word arrived at the family's country retreat that their young son had died of scarlet fever. The McCormicks were hosting a dinner party, but following a discussion in the servants' quarters it was decided that Mrs. McCormick needed to know right away. When the tragic news was whispered to her, she merely nodded her head and the party continued without interruption.
Today in the Word, September 29, 1992.
When you have had a loved one go to be with the Lord, do not feel like you're the only person who has had this experience. There is an Eastern legend about a Hindu woman whose only child had died. She went to a prophet to ask for her child back. The prophet told her to go and obtain a handful of rice from a house into which death had not come. If she could obtain the rice in this way, he promised to give her the child back. From door to door she asked the question, "Are you all here around the table -- father, mother, children -- none missing?" But always the answer came back that there were empty chairs in each house. As she continued on, her grief and sorrow softened as she found that death had visited all families. Yes, death is universal; our painful experience is not the only one of its kind. Because God is faithful, because Jesus Christ is alive, so is your loved one and mine.
Hugh Salisbury, Through Sorrow Into Joy, p. 58.
John Bacon, once a famous sculptor, left this inscription on his tomb in Westminster Abbey: "What I was as an artist seemed of some importance to me while I lived; but what I was as a believer in Jesus Christ is the only thing of importance to me now."
Howard Hughes: Worth 2.5 billion dollars at his death, he was the richest man in the United States. He owned a private fleet of jets, hotels and casinos. When asked to claim his body, his nearest relative, a distant cousin, exclaimed, "Is this Mr. Hughes?" He had spent the last 15 years of his life a drug addict, too weak in the end to even administer the shots to himself. His 6'4" frame had shrunk to 6'1" and he weighed only 90 lbs. Not a single acquaintance or relative mourned his death. The only honor he received was a moment of silence in his Las Vegas casinos. Time magazine put it this way: "Howard Hughes' death was commemorated in Las Vegas by a minute of silence. Casinos fell silent. Housewives stood uncomfortable clutching their paper cups full of coins at the slot machines, the blackjack games paused, and at the crap tables the stickmen cradled the dice in the crook of their wooden wands. Then a pit boss looked at his watch, leaned forward and whispered, "O.K., roll the dice. He's had his minute."
Time, December 13, 1976.
Napoleon Bonaparte: Responsible for the death of 500,000 French men in battle, approximately 1/6 of the population. Was exiled by the British for the last 6 years of his life on the Island of St. Helena. His wife Marie Louise never wrote him and married another man while he was still living. He never heard from his son again. he was confined to the house and grounds, needing the escort of a British soldier whenever he ventured anywhere on the island. The tombstone on his grave read simply, "here lies."
Adolph Hitler: Lived the last 4 months of his life in Berlin. It is believed that he went prematurely senile or insane. On April 29 he married Eva Braum and dictated his political testament in defense of his actions. On April 30 he said farewell to a few remaining military men, retired to his suite and shot himself while his wife took poison. Their bodies were burned in accordance with their instructions.
God buries His workmen, but not His work.
Before British actor Robert Morley died, he asked that his credit cards be buried with him. Since his funeral, the London Times's letters pages have been filled with the thoughts of readers pondering their own deaths and their perpetual needs. -Wrote M.L. Evans of Chester: "In the unfortunate event of the miscarriage of justice and several thousand years ensuing before my sentence is quashed, I will take a fire extinguisher."
-Heather Tanner of Woodbridge specified a good map. "I have immense trouble finding my way in this life," she said, "so am extremely worried about the next."-A pair of earplugs would accompany Sir David Wilcocks of Cambridge "in case the heavenly choirs, singing everlastingly, are not in tune."
-Maurice Godbold of Hindhead would take a crowbar, "in case the affair proved premature." Even in the hereafter, there will always be an England.
U.S. News & World Report, June 22, 1992, p. 26.
The last days of British statesman and colonial leader Cecil Rhodes were marked by grave disappointment. He died from heart disease at a time when he was beset by personal scandals and discredited by unwise political decisions. Lewis Mitchel, who was at Rhodes's bedside in his cottage near Cape Town, South Africa heard the dying man murmur, "So little done, so much to do." Yet there's more than this to the story of Cecil Rhodes. He migrated to South Africa from Britain for health reasons. It was there that Rhodes made a vast fortune in gold and diamond mining. Even though he died feeling he had much more to do, he has left a lasting legacy because he used part of his fortune to endow the famous Rhodes scholarship program.
Today in the Word, July 28, 1992.
A young soldier, while dying very happily, broke out in singing the following stanza: "Great Jehovah, we adore thee, God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, joined in glory on the same eternal throne: Endless praised to Jehovah, three in one." The chaplain then asked if he had any message to send his friends. "Yes," said he. "Tell my father that I have tried to eat my meals with thanksgiving." "Tell him that Christ is now all my hope, all my trust, and that he is precious to my soul." "Tell him that I am not afraid to die--all is calm" "Tell him that I believe Christ will take me to himself, and to my dear sister who is in heaven." The voice of the dying boy faltered in the intervals between these precious sentences. When the hymn commencing, "Nearer, my God to thee," was read to him, at the end of each stanza he exclaimed, with striking energy, "Oh Lord Jesus, thou are coming nearer to me." Also at the end of each stanza of the hymn (which was also read to him) commencing, "Just as I am--without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bid'st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come," he exclaimed, "I Come! O Lamb of God, I Come!" Speaking again of his friends, he said, "Tell my father that I died happy." His last words were, "Father, I'm coming to thee!" Then the Christian soldier sweetly and calmly "fell asleep in Jesus."
Anonymous Confederate soldier--1861-65/died in battle in the War Between the States.
I am not come hither to deny my Lord and Master.
Anne Askew--July 16, 1545--burned at the stake after torture on the rack, at the age of 25.
Margaret Wilson, a Scottish girl of eighteen, was tied to a stake where the tide was due to come in. The water covered her while she was engaged in prayer; but before life was gone, they pulled her up till she recovered the power of speech, when she was asked by Major Windram, who commanded, if she would pray for the king. She replied that "She wished the salvation of all men, and the damnation of none." "Dear Margaret," said one of the by-standers, deeply affected, "say God save the king." She answered with great steadiness, "God save him, if he will, for it is his salvation I desire." "Sir, they cried to the major, "she has said it; she has said it!" The major, approaching her on hearing this, offered her the abjuration oath, charging her instantly to swear it, otherwise to return to the water. The poor young woman...firmly replied, "I will not; I am one of Christ's children! Let me go." Upon which she was again thrust into the water, and drowned.
Margaret Wilson--Early 1680's--drowned for faithfulness to the Reformation.
Let me pass over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.
General T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson--wounded by his own men, he died shortly after.
Neil Simon, who wrote The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, was asked on the Dick Cavett Show whether making a lot of money concerned him. The studio went dead silent when Simon answered, "No...what does concern me is the fear of dying."
Leighton Ford, Good News is For Sharing, p. 31.
According to an old fable, a man made an unusual agreement with Death. He told the Grim Reaper that he would willingly accompany him when it came time to die, but only on one condition--that Death would send a messenger well in advance to warn him. Weeks winged away into months, and months into years. Then one bitter winter evening, as the man sat thinking about all his possessions, Death suddenly entered the room and tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, the man cried out, "You're here so soon and without warning! I thought we had an agreement." Death replied, "I've more than kept my part. I've sent you many messengers. Look in the mirror and you'll see some of them." As the man complied, Death whispered, "Notice your hair! Once it was full and black, now it is thin and white. Look at the way you cock your head to listen to me because you can't hear very well. Observe how close to the mirror you must stand to see yourself clearly. Yes, I've sent many messengers through the years. I'm sorry you're not ready, but the time has come to leave."
Daily Bread, February 29, 1991.
When Corrie Ten Boom of The Hiding Place fame was a little girl in Holland, her first realization of death came after a visit to the home of a neighbor who had died. It impressed her that some day her parents would also die. Corrie's father comforted her with words of wisdom. "Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?" "Why, just before we get on the train," she replied. "Exactly," her father said, "and our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need--just in time."
Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 30.
Many accidental deaths result from taking risks. That's the conclusion of an organization in Canada that is seeking to decrease accidents between cars and trains. Roger Cyr, national director of Operation Lifesaver, puts most of the blame for fatalities on drivers who are risk-takers. "Studies have shown that when people hear a train whistle their minds tell them to accelerate their speed," says Cyr. About 43 percent of the accidents occur at crossings equipped with flashing lights and bells or gates. Cyr also said that many drivers "even have the audacity to drive around or under gates." They take the risk, thinking they can beat the train and somehow miss the collision--but with tragic consequences!
Daily Bread, April 6, 1991.
When John Owen, the great Puritan, lay on his deathbed his secretary wrote (in his name) to a friend, "I am still in the land of the living." "Stop," said Owen. "Change that and say, I am yet in the land of the dying, but I hope soon to be in the land of the living."
John M. Drescher.
We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Adam, the first great benefactor of the human race: he brought death into the world.
The bodies of those that made such a noise and tumult when alive, when dead, lie as quietly among the graves of their neighbors as any others.
Our civilization is founded on the shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony.
In the 18th century, Archibald Boyle was the leading member of an association of wild and wicked men known as "The Hell Club" in Glasgow, Scotland. After one night of carousing at the Club's notorious annual meeting, Boyle deemed he was riding home on his black horse. In the darkness, someone seized the reins, shouting, "You must go with me!" As Boyle desperately tried to force the reins from the hands of the unknown guide, the horse reared. Boyle fell down, down, down with increasing speed. "Where are you taking me?" The cold voice replied, "To hell!" The echoes of the groans and yells of frantic revelry assaulted their ears. At the entrance to hell, Boyle saw the inmates chasing the same pleasures they had pursued in life. There was a lady he'd known playing her favorite vulgar game. Boyle relaxed, thinking hell must be a pleasurable place after all. When he asked her to rest a moment and show him through the pleasures of hell, she shrieked. "There is no rest in hell!" She unclasped the vest of her robe and displayed a coil of living snakes writhing about her midsection. Others revealed different forms of pain in their hearts. "Take me from this place!" Boyle demanded. "By the living God whose name I have so often outraged, I beg you, let me go!" His guide replied, "Go then--but in a year and a day we meet to part no more."
At this, Boyle awoke, feeling that these last words were as letters of fire burned into his heart. Despite a resolution never to attend the Hell Club again, he soon was drawn back. He found no comfort there. He grew haggard and gray under the weight of his conscience and fear of the future. He dreaded attending the Club's annual meeting, but his companions forced him to attend. Every nerve of his body writhed in agony at the first sentence of the president's opening address: "Gentlemen, this is leap year; therefore it is a year and a day since our last annual meeting." After the meeting, he mounted his house to ride home. Next morning, his horse was found grazing quietly by the roadside. A few yards away lay the corpse of Archibald Boyle. The strange guide had claimed him at the appointed time.
Paul Lee Tan.
The story is told of a nobleman who had a lovely floral garden. The gardener who tended it took great pains to make the estate a veritable paradise. One morning he went into the garden to inspect his favorite flowers. To his dismay he discovered that one of his choice beauties had been cut from its stem. Soon he saw that the most magnificent flowers from each bed were missing. Filled with anxiety and anger, he hurried to his fellow employees and demanded, "Who stole my treasures?" One of his helpers replied, "The nobleman came into his garden this morning, picked those flowers himself, and took them into his house. I guess he wanted to enjoy their beauty." The gardener then realized that he had no reason to be concerned because it was perfectly right for his master to pick some of his own prize blossoms.
On a bitterly cold January day several years ago, five-year-old Jimmy Tonglewicz chased a sled onto the glazed ice of Lake Michigan. In a blink of the eye he disappeared beneath the ice. The last words his dad heard were: "Save me, Dad!" Jimmy's panic-stricken father plunged into the freezing water, but the cold quickly rendered him helpless and he left the scene in an ambulance. For over twenty minutes Jimmy remained submerged beneath the icy waters. When his limp, lifeless body was pulled from the lake by divers, he had no pulse. But he had a lot going for him--especially the cold water! Scientists call what happened the "mammalian diving reflex." The shock of the cold water allowed Jimmy to live without breathing an abnormally long time. Slowly he came around, and today Jimmy lives a normal life.
Today in the Word, May, 1990, MBI, p. 9.
The courage of Civil War leader Stonewall Jackson in the midst of conflict can be a lesson for the believer. Historian Mark Brinsley wrote: A battlefield is a deadly place, even for generals; and it would be naive to suppose Jackson never felt the animal fear of all beings exposed to wounds and death. But invariably he displayed extraordinary calm under fire, a calm too deep and masterful to be mere pretense. His apparent obliviousness to danger attracted notice, and after the first Manassas battle someone asked him how he managed it. "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed." Jackson explained, "God (knows the) time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter where it may overtake me." He added pointedly, 'That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."
All ends with the cancellation of forces and comes to nothing; and our universe thus ends in one vast, silent, unappreciated joke.
Stephen Leacock, Canadian humorist, writer, professor.
Victoria Principal, a star of the Dallas, television program was nearly killed in an automobile accident when 19 year old. Upon recovering she said she had a new sense of her mortality, and rather than turning her thoughts to eternity, she abandoned herself to hedonistic living for the next two to three years. She didn't want to die having missed any of life's experiences.
When I moved to the U.S. I was impressed with the number of total strangers who visited my home to wish me well...they all sold insurance! One day my visitor was talking about the necessity to be prudent in the preparation for all possibilities. "If something should happen to you, Mr. Briscoe--" he started to say, but I interrupted with, "Please don't say that. It upsets me." He was a little startled, but tried again, "But with all due respects, sir, we must be ready if something should happen to us." "Don't say that," I insisted. He looked totally bewildered and said, "I don't understand what I said to upset you." "Then I'll tell you," I replied. "It upsets me that you talk about (Life's) only certainty as if it's a possibility. Death isn't a possibility, it's a certainty. You don't say "if," you say "When," whenever death is the subject."
D. Stuart Briscoe, Spirit Life.
George McDonald wrote to his sorrowing wife when their daughter died. He began by telling her that she wouldn't find consolation in lovely but empty sentiments that he called "pleasant fancies of a half-held creed." He then pointed out that the Great Shepherd had gone before and prepared the way for their daughter. McDonald reminded her that they were both moving along day by day toward that same destination. In closing, he said, "We seek not death, but still we climb the stairs where death is one wide landing to the rooms above."
A Christian railroad engineer was speaking to a group of fellow workers about heaven. He said, "I can't begin to tell you what the Lord Jesus means to me. In Him I have a hope that is very precious. Let me explain. Many years ago as each night I neared the end of my run, I would always let out a long blast with the whistle just as I'd come around the last curve. Then I'd look up at the familiar little cottage on top of the hill. My mother and father would be standing in the doorway waving to me. After I had passed, they'd go back inside and say, 'Thank God, Benny is home safe again tonight.' Well, they are gone now, and no one is there to welcome me. But someday when I have finished my 'earthly run' and I draw near to heaven's gate, I believe I'll see my precious mother and dad waiting there for me. And the one will turn to the other and say, 'Thank God, Benny is home safe at last.'"
In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. He didn't profess to be a born-again Christian, but it seems that he must have been influenced by Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the body. Here's what he wrote: The Body of B. Franklin, Printer: Like the Cover of an old Book Its contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, But the Work shall not be wholy lost: For it will, as he believ'd, Appear once more In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended by the Author.
The hymn writer Fanny Crosby gave us more than 6,000 gospel songs. Although blinded by an illness at the age of 6 weeks, she never became bitter. One time a preacher sympathetically remarked, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you." She replied quickly, "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?" "Why?" asked the surprised clergyman. "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!" One of Miss Crosby's hymns was so personal that for years she kept it to herself.
Kenneth Osbeck, author of several books on hymnology, says its revelation to the public came about this way: "One day at the Bible conference in Northfield, Massachusetts, Miss Crosby was asked by D.L. Moody to give a personal testimony. At first she hesitated, then quietly rose and said, 'There is one hymn I have written which has never been published. I call it my soul's poem. Sometimes when I am troubled, I repeat it to myself, for it brings comfort to my heart.' She then recited while many wept, 'Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but oh, the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King! And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story--saved by grace!'" At the age of 95 Fanny Crosby passed into glory and saw the face of Jesus.
In his excellent little book When Loved Ones Are Taken in Death, Lehman Strauss made some interesting comments about the Greek word translated "departure." He wrote, "It is used metaphorically in a nautical way as when a vessel pulls up anchor to loose from its moorings and set sail, or in a military way as when an army breaks encampment to move on. In the ancient Greek world this term was used also for freeing someone from chains and for the severing of a piece of goods from the loom. This is what death is as described in the Bible. Here, we are anchored to the hardships and heartaches of this life. In death, the gangway is raised, the anchor is weighed, and we set sail for the golden shore. In death, we break camp here to start for heaven."
Lehman Strauss, When Loved Ones Are Taken in Death.
Statistics and Stuff
John Climacus, a seventh-century ascetic who wrote "Ladder of Divine Ascent", urged Christians to use the reality of earth to their benefit: "You cannot pass a day devoutly unless you think of it as your last," he wrote. He called the thought of death the "most essential of all works" and a gift from God. "The man who lives daily with the thought of death is to be admired, and the man who gives himself to it by the hour is surely a saint." "A man who has heard himself sentenced to death will not worry about the way theatres are run."
Gary Thomas, in Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
Late faith is unavailing. There's little use accepting arks once the rain begins to fall. Death is such an instant storm that by the time you reach for an umbrella, you already need your water wings.
Calvin Miller, The Valiant Papers, p. 20.
Every hour 5417 people die.
A bank in Binghamton, New York, had some flowers sent to a competitor who had recently moved into a new building. There was a mix up at the flower shop, and the card sent with the arrangement read, "With our deepest sympathy." The florist, who was greatly embarrassed, apologized. But he was even more embarrassed when he realized that the card intended for the bank was attached to a floral arrangement sent to a funeral home in honor of a deceased person. That card read, "Congratulations on you new location!"
Our Daily Bread, May 25, 1992.
A young business owner was opening a new branch office, and a friend decided to send a floral arrangement for the grand opening. When the friend arrived at the opening, he was appalled to find that his wreath bore the inscription: "Rest in peace." Angry, he complained to the florist. After apologizing, the florist said, "Look at it this way -- somewhere a man was buried under a wreath today that said, 'Good luck in your new location.'"
Bits & Pieces, June 23, 1994, p. 4.
An evangelist asked all who wanted to go to heaven to raise their hands. Everyone in the audience did so, except one elderly man sitting near the front of the auditorium. The preacher pointed his finger at him and said, 'Sir, do you mean to tell us that you don't want to go to heaven?' 'Sure I want to go, but the way you put the question, I figured you were getting up a busload for tonight!'
"It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
I have no wit, no words, no tears;My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,My harvest dwindled to a husk;
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing,
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Christina G. Rossetti.