I must admit to you all that I have joined the rest of America in the "Beginning-of-the-year Health Binge." Last year, I watched as the gym that I so faithfully attended went from being fairly empty before New Year's, to a madhouse the day or two after. I had a hard time finding a free lane in the pool, and you can forget the treadmills. All of the 'faithfuls' would sit around talking about how it would only last for about two weeks, and then the New Year's motivation would wane, and the true Fitness Family could once again fellowship in exclusive unity. I was happy to be among them.
This year, I am no longer part of the faithful few. Alas, it has been several months since exercising was a top priority in my life. However, the holidays being over, I am now among the crowds at the gym, fighting to take another stab at it, and to rid myself of the holiday pounds. I hear the faithful few in the locker room declaring, "It will only be a couple of weeks"; it only spurs me on.
While I was at the gym, I was remembering how I used to want to exercise and stay healthy in order to prolong my life here on earth. Death scared me. I knew that it was going to happen, but even as a Christian, I didn't look forward to death at all.
Since my gym is primarily full of elderly people, I quickly learned that motivations for staying healthy change for people as they age. Listening to conversations, I realized how the elderly can idolize those who can do the most, the longest. Those who seem to get nearer and nearer to death, yet don't seem to be affected as it approaches. Yet, death is inevitable. I remember one elderly man declaring to his group of friends, "You know why we exercise? So we'll look good at our viewing." The inevitable is near for all of us, and in our hearts we know this.
"Since, therefore, the children share in the flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." Hebrews 2:14,15
When I read Scripture I get very excited about verses like these. These to me are "Treasure Verses". Nuggets of gold that remind us of another way that Christ has freed us. Freed from the penalty of sin, freed from the power of sin, freed from the vanity of life, freed from the concerns of this life, and freed from the fear of death.
"Fleeing from death is the shortest path to a wasted life." ~John Piper
I remember as a boy hearing a sermon on the fear of death by a pastor from a communist country. His story was truly amazing, as one of the miraculous works of grace that God did when He saved this man was to completely remove any fear of death.
As this man preached and shared the Gospel in his country, he was arrested numerous times. He was beaten, imprisoned, and tortured. Never killed. He told of a time when he refused to promise to stop teaching God's Word. He was in a room with some high-ranking police officials; they were irate at his resistance. They were beating him and throwing things around the room. Finally, one of the officers pulled out a gun, stuck it to the pastor's head and yelled, "It's over!"
The pastor told of how, at that time, the grace of God completely put him at peace, and that God removed any hint of fear of death. So in response to the officer, he just chuckled. He told the police, "You can kill me. By killing me, it will only mean that God is finally allowing me to go home to Him. You will carry out His sovereign plan, and His kingdom will continue. However, my God is a God like none other; for my God has the ability to use your wicked deeds to accomplish His sovereign plan, but to hold you completely guilty for your actions."
"Some of you will die in your service to Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy." ~John Piper
God is glorified when we bank on His promises. If we desire to have a life that is truly for the glory of God, and the furtherance of His kingdom, than our lives should reflect faith in what God has told us.
How would our lives change if we lived everyday with the understanding that our time here is almost done? How would we use our resources differently? Would we spend as much energy and time worrying about future careers, marriage, and homes? How would a man be different if he truly valued Christ over this life? What changes would you expect? Do our lives display the radical nature of this kind of faith?
I had a meeting with my pastor yesterday, and we were discussing books we are reading or have read, on heaven. He was talking about how important a proper doctrine of heaven is for singles. He told me how he longs to see singles see and understand the temporariness of marriage in the light of eternity. We need this encouragement. We need to be reminded of what and who we live for.
"If, than, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 2:6