Elder Update | July 1st (Part 2)
Fearelss, Hopeful and Helpful - Part 2
While we see clearly that we are not to fear death, we also see in Scripture that we have gospel-centered reasons to participate in the efforts to preserve lives. The reasons we see in Scripture for working to preserve lives are all rooted in love for others. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors, and Christians who work to preserve lives are often doing so in fulfillment of this commandment. Let’s consider the reasons that Christians have for helping to preserve lives.
We actually have gospel-centered reasons for preserving our own lives. As odd as it may seem, it is good to work to preserve our own lives for the sake of others. The Apostle Paul wrestled with the possibility of his own death in his letter to the church at Philippi. In Philippians 1:21-26 he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
Paul was not afraid of death. On the contrary, he looked forward to it! Yet, he regarded his time on earth as his opportunity for fruitful labor. He understood that living longer meant he could be a blessing to more people. Though departing to be with Christ would be immeasurably better for Paul, he wanted to continue life on this earth for the sake of others.
We too are called to live our lives for the sake of others. We are called to view our time on earth as our opportunity for fruitful labor. For some of us this will mean laboring to raise our children to know the Lord. It is a good thing for parents to live and provide for their children while pointing them to Jesus. For some of us this will involve using opportunities in the workplace to make disciples. For many of us it will involve using the money and resources we have to help fund gospel ministry locally and around the world. Hopefully, for all of us this will involve investing in the lives of our church family and the ministry of the church. We see that desiring to live a long life for the sake of laboring for the gospel is commendable.
We should also value the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In Philippians 2:25-28 Paul wrote, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.”
Even though Paul viewed death as a means of great gain for a Christian, he still viewed Epaphroditus’s recovery from a serious illness as a merciful act of God toward Epaphroditus. Paul knew that if Epaphroditus died he would immediately experience inexpressible joy in the presence of Christ. Yet, even with this understanding of death he still considered Epaphroditus’s recovery as a merciful act. Paul was grateful that the life of his friend was extended for his friends’ sake but also for his sake. Epaphroditus’s recovery brought Paul great comfort whereas his death would have caused him sorrow upon sorrow. Of course, Paul would not have mourned as an unbeliever, but he would have mourned, nonetheless. Paul viewed Epaphroditus’s time on earth as precious and valuable just as he viewed his own time on earth as precious and valuable. We do well to follow Paul’s example and regard the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ as precious and valuable.
We should also seek to preserve the lives of our unbelieving family members, friends and neighbors. We do so with the hope that they will hear the gospel, repent of their sins, believe in Jesus and be saved. We are called to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. It goes without saying, but you can’t make disciples of dead people. The Bible is clear that when an unbeliever dies their opportunity for repentance has passed. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” We, of all people, should have a great sense of urgency to preserve the lives of our unbelieving neighbors not so they can enjoy a few extra years in this world. After all, what does it profit a man to gain a few more years only to forfeit his soul in the end? But we do seek to preserve their lives with the hope that they will come to faith in Christ and spend eternity with us in the Kingdom of God.