A man had a checkup and then went in to see his doctor to get the results. The doctor said he had bad news and worse news for him, which did he want to hear first? The man was a bit nonplussed and said he’d rather hear the bad news first. The doctor said, “The bad news is that you only have twenty-four hours to live.”
At this the man jumped up, totally flabbergasted and distraught. He paced the doctor’s office and complained, “Twenty-four hours to live? I can’t possibly get my affairs in order that quickly. I can’t believe this, it is incredible! What could be worse news than this?”
The doctor said, “The worse news is that I was supposed to tell you this yesterday but I forgot.”
How many of us are prepared to die? If it were to come tomorrow, would you be ready? Those are sobering questions, aren’t they? We don’t like to think about death and dying. After all, we say, the message of the gospel is a message about life. When we come to church we should hear about good things, not things like dying.
But if Christians can’t talk about death and dying, who can? And I believe the world today needs people who can look death in the face without anger and without fear.
Even the process of dying, for a believer, can be a time of great and effective testimony… if we are fortunate. We will all die, unless the Lord returns first, but will we all be ready?
Even Christians don’t like to think about death. There is something in us that wants to push death as far away as possible. No matter how often we are told that death is just a passage to the eternal and wonderful life God has in store for us, we still find it hard to think about.
Yet, what if we didn’t die? What if we just kept going day after day, year after year, forever? Our bodies would continue to break down, perhaps, but we would not die. The struggles of this life would never end. We would never be free from sin and pain and fear. We would never experience life as it was meant to be for us.
Think about that. For thousands of years we would deal with corruption in leadership, with betrayed trust, with family struggles, with all the difficulties this world offers. The joys would become stale and there would be less and less pleasure and more and more pain. Eternal life in this world would not be a blessing.
Our Lord understood that. When the first sin was committed death was decreed for humankind. We usually think of it as a punishment, but I would suggest that it was not a punishment at all. It was a gift, the only way out of a broken world. The only way out is through, as they say, through death.