The longer I live on this planet, the more I’ve been forced to learn the art of dealing with death. There were no classes on this in school, but I have a teacher who refuses to be ignored: Experience. Attendance is mandatory. One after another, with increasing regularity, the funerals come. During the service, those of us who remain remind each other of God’s promises, eternal life and resurrection, Heaven and perfect rest and happiness for all eternity. The crowd pauses to make time for prayers and Scripture while death is in the room, before life moves on. But life does move on, and then many of the same people who spoke of the promises go back to ignoring death. Along with him, many also ignore the God who made the promises.
There’s no question that death is our greatest enemy. He takes everything, and eventually, everyone. He does not negotiate. He makes no exceptions. No matter how much I build up in this world, he will take it all: relationships, wealth, success, abilities, everything. So, if the promises are true – I mean really, genuinely, literally true – isn’t that the greatest of all possible gifts? Life that never ends! Life that makes my years on earth look like a brief introduction to the sweeping story of eternity. If it’s really true, how could I go home and ignore the One who offers me such a gift?
It’s not so easy, though. The gift is too big to be comfortable, because Jesus gave more than just promises – he also gave commands. It’s easy to feel God’s love in promises about eternity, but commands about today feel different. They feel restrictive. They are restrictive. The question is: what are they restricting me from? Are they fencing me off from happiness, or are they closing off a path that would eventually destroy me? If God is God, he knows more about what is best for me than I do. Am I willing to trust that he loves me as much with his commands as he does with his promises? That both are part of the same gift?
Quoting promises about Heaven will always be easier than keeping commands about Earth. Trusting God with life after death will always be easier than trusting him with life before it. Yet how could I say that I trust Jesus with forever, then turn around and ignore everything he says about my life here and now? Wouldn’t this be proof that I haven’t trusted him at all?
If Jesus can be trusted with eternity, he can be trusted with today. He can be trusted with my relationships. With my finances. With my career. He’s already proven that he cares so much for me that he was willing to die the death I deserved to win me life. The promises are paid for, if I will come and receive them. If I will trust him. And the sign that I trust him will be listening to what he says. I have no reason to doubt that his commands for my life today flow out of the same love, the same desire for my good, as the promises – even the commands that are hard for me, or difficult for me to understand right now. Will I trust him?
It’s not a question of trusting God with one thing or another, a bit of this or a piece of that, or whatever I can’t manage on my own (like death). If God is worthy of my trust, he’s worthy of all of it, in life and death, today and forever. I trust him.
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