BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JUNE 12, 2011
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.” (II Cor. 4:16)
Last week, the Blog title was “Life” and today, it is “Death Defeated.” Aren’t they the same thing? In the spiritual sense, they are the same. We have life because Jesus overcame death and imparted Eternal Life to us. On the other hand, though He may heal us of our diseases, death still haunts us. You remember that King Hezekiah was given a death sentence by the prophet Isaiah who told him to “Set your house in order; for you shall die, you shall not recover.” (II Kings 20:1) It wasn’t the good news he was seeking. He turned his face to the wall and begged God in tears to spare his life.
Isaiah was still in the court yard of the palace when the word of the Lord came to him, reversing his previous prophecy: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. And I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake” (Vs. 5-6).
It is interesting to me that Hezekiah believed Isaiah when he gave him bad news in the beginning, but when the prophet came back and said God had granted him 15 more years, the King wanted a sign. Sigh. That’s part of the human condition, I suppose, always thinking the worst thing that can happen, will happen and doubting God’s ability to perform His word. The sign was that the sun dial would be turned back ten degrees. Isaiah prayed and God made it happen. Only then did Hezekiah believe.
The point here is that the King got a miracle of healing, like so many others in the Old and New Testaments, but when his fifteen years were up, he died and was buried with his fathers (Vs. 21). His son Manasseh, who reigned in his stead, was perhaps the most, wicked king to rule over Judah, and that’s saying a lot!
We’ve all marveled at the awesome healings done by Jesus, and longed to see that healing power unleashed in the world today, and yet people who have been healed, still sicken and die, just as Lazarus eventually died together with the lame man healed by the Pool of Bethesda, and the son of the widow in Nain. For as glorious as these healings were, the recipients thereof all died. Jesus promised, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25)
He told the woman at Jacob’s well: “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) Many of you have been through close calls with the grim reaper, and have lived to tell the tale rejoicing. Many others are “circling the drain” health wise, which sometimes describes my darling Lenny, and yet the life of Christ within is what keeps him and others going. God has granted him the faith to believe what we both heard, “Change is coming.” I hope that means healing because it would seem difficult to spread the gospel of God’s power to deliver us when the body is compromised. That, of course, is Jan’s take on it, respectfully said, knowing that God works “all things after the counsel of His own will.” (Eph. 1:11) And also, I believe Paul’s testimony that God’s grace is sufficient; “for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Cor. 12:9)
The Corinthians had lots of problems, both spiritual and physical. To them, Paul wrote one of my favorite passages, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (II Cor. 4:16-18) Many of our afflictions feel more than slight, but Paul’s answer of looking to the Spirit (unseen) rather than to the flesh for aid and succor still stands the test of viability today.
Jesus was also strength made perfect in weakness: “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God.” (II Cor. 13:4)
The reason death is on my mind today is a gruesome find we made in the barn this week. The source of the smell of decay which was getting stronger by the hour was a stray cat which had gone into the barn to die. We found its mortality being eaten by maggots. Sorry to leave you with that ghastly image, which I can scarcely get out of my mind, but it struck me as the fuel and power of our fear of death. God continues to deliver me from my ancestral fear of death by showing me that His love covers me, this side or the other side of Jordan.
The poor cat’s earthly remains (the seen) reminded me of all the Hollywood scary movies designed to scare the life out of the viewer with gross evidence of death and dying. Perhaps the fear of death, like fear of the dark and fear of snakes, has grasped the human psyche down through the centuries as our ancestors struggled to stay alive. They faced far more difficult living conditions than most of us have to deal with today, our men and women in combat situations being the obvious exception. My whole family is snake phobic, for instance, because the adults were scared by their parents, who scared their children, and on and on it goes. A little fear is perhaps wisdom, as in, “I’m afraid to walk across the highway when La-Z Boy workers are changing shifts.” But carried to its inevitable extreme by the carnal mind, fear can strangle the very life, the joy, and the faith out of a person who hasn’t learned to turn his or her fears over to God.
God did not create us to walk in fear, to cower in apprehension over every situation. Sadly, many Christians I know are more fearful then people in the world. In my family, the fear of death was inexorably tied to the fear of hell fire after we die. If you don’t KNOW that heaven is your home, you fear the worst. Well meaning parents and Sunday School teachers have driven that fear home in impressionable young minds, hoping to scare sin out of the child. More often than not it does not work. I have one friend who said, “Fine, if I’m bound for hell anyway, why bother to go to church?” Other people, including some who have written to us recently, were so traumatized by the fear of hell that they actually considered suicide to escape the pain of their tortured imaginations.
To me, fear is the only stronghold left for the devil to play in. John wrote of his encounter with Jesus, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (the grave).” (Rev. 1:17-18)
When Jesus said that the hour is coming “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25), He was not just speaking about people in a physical grave. I bear testimony to you that it was hearing His voice that took away my fear of death and raised me up to sit in heavenly places as a child of God. My prayer for us all, especially those who call Christ Lord, is that we hear the voice of God saying, “Come, my beloved. Walk with me; talk with me; live in me and I will wipe away your tears and make your fears as though they never were. I died for you, and now, I live in you forever.”
Human beings can sometimes heal our bodies with medicine or surgery, but only the power of almighty God, the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead, can truly quicken our bodies, our souls, our minds and our hearts. We lose ourselves in Thee, O Lord, for Thou alone are worthy of glory and honor and power and worship. Amen.