New Life Notes #6 – All of a Sudden

“…But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” – Luke 12:39-40

 

Death is a thief.

I believe with all my heart that we human beings, the image of God on earth, are made for life and not death. The Scriptures tell us that death came as the result of sin. Adam and Eve turned away from God, and physical death was the result. It came, then, as an intruder into the eternal life existence in face-to-face fellowship with God that our oldest ancestors enjoyed.

Life is what Jesus Christ restores to us through His once-for-all death on our behalf and subsequent resurrection. Through Him we have eternal life. Though we die, yet we live (see John chapter 11).

One day Jesus will return and restore all things according to the good will of His Father. But that day is yet to come, so today we live with the reality of physical death as the end of our earthly life and, for those called by God and trusting in Christ, the entry to real and lasting life continuing our eternal love relationship with the Living God. And death is a thief. Death is sneaky.

May my recent experience with a sudden heart attack and loss of consciousness and a few days close to physical death serve as a warning and offer a word of wisdom for us all.

I have no memory of that Saturday morning. I was apparently living my life—getting ready for a wedding… going for a jog… reaching for my laptop to do some work—and wham! All of a sudden I was out… my laptop was underneath me… my head banged into the fireplace wood holder… and my wife was on her way downstairs to perform CPR, call 911 and escort me to intensive care.

No chest pains or shortness of breath or numbness or supernatural premonitions told me the moment was imminent. I had no time to prepare. No way to ask for or offer a final word of reconciliation to anyone with whom I was in a broken relationship. No parting “Thank you’s” or “I love you’s” to those near and dear to me. Not so much as a split second as far as I know to say a last sincere “I’m sorry. Please forgive me” to God above. No way to even begin to form any thought of “Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. I believe in you.” “All of a sudden” doesn’t allow for such things.

If I had never prayed “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” it wasn’t going to happen then. There was no chance for any kind of death-bed conversion. Time was up. All of a sudden.

Sometimes we know well in advance that death is imminent, but I am quite sure we must not count on it. Jesus said he was coming like a thief, and thieves are sneaky. He was talking about His return to bring all human history to a fitting conclusion, but He also was talking about the time when each of us will end this life and stand before Him.

Why do we pretend like we are in control of things? Why do we imagine that death will come, as it must, one day and pull up a chair and chat with us for a while, giving opportunity for the “real and good and repentant us” to emerge, before escorting us gently into its hearse for a quick ride to the hereafter?

Listen. The real you, the real me, is the one we are right now.

The idea that we can count on a last minute change of heart, a generous opportunity to put things right with others at the end, a last thought about God and His gracious salvation when we have allowed no such thought to enter our minds before, a day in our death-bed for making all the right moves we have previously and stubbornly avoided… This is tragic folly.

If I was not ready to die on that Saturday morning, I was not going to have any time to get ready.

I am very grateful that God Almighty was not yet ready for me to die. Through the miracles of modern medicine and technology, through the miracles of prayer upon prayer upon prayer, and through the miracle mystery of our Lord’s sovereign grace, I am still here. And my experience gives me a sobering word of wisdom concerning my life. I hope it does the same for you.

First and foremost, I had, and have, Jesus Christ. Actually, He has me. Without Him nothing else, no other possession, would matter.

Then I realize in a new way that today is the day for doing the things God has for me. Today, right now, is the only time I have. It is the only time I can count on.

Are there broken relationships we are trying to ignore? Is there work for us to do toward making things right with other people? Today is the day.

Are there words of love or thanks we’ve thought about offering but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Today is the day.

Have we made our peace with God, or, more accurately, have we trusted in Jesus Christ our Lord who has made our peace with God? All we must do is put our faith in Him, our Lord and Savior raised from the dead, and call out to Him—“Lord Jesus, Son of God, thank You for the gift of Your life for mine. Please, have mercy on me and save me!”—and He promises He will. And eternal life has begun. And today is the day.

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”                                     – Romans 10:8-13

Today is the day to be the people God has created us to be, to exercise the measure of faith His Holy Spirit has given us, and to do the things our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us to do.

In this life, it is not wise to wait until tomorrow. There may be no tomorrow.

As One Recalled to Life Along with You,

Pastor Jay