I recently overheard a conversation where people were telling stories about persons they knew who lived to an old age. One man was 94 and was playing tennis two or three times a week. A woman was soon to be 100 and did not want to have a party planned by her kids. Another thought of a 105-year-old woman who was still leading a Bible study group in her apartment. One person in the group remarked that they had surgery on a painful problematic back and would not want to live to be 100. Another in the group jokingly said, “I’m going to live until I die”. Duh! This comment raised a few chuckles. I went away thinking about that last comment, and a crazy thought entered my mind. I turned the statement around to say, “I’m going to die until I live.” As I thought about it, I realized that this was as true as the original statement. However, even though all live until they die, not all die until they live.
An example of this truth came to me as I was reading the story of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27). Jesus was a man who went about helping lots of people, and when it was clear that he was about to die, he prayed for God to remove this cross from him. However, Jesus prayed that if God willed for him to die, he would accept it. God did not answer Jesus’ prayer as he asked, and I am sure many people experience disappointment when God does not answer their prayers for personal healing or protection from danger and they end up dying or being killed.
…he died to himself all through his life by giving up his life to serve others. This is a very true form of dying to live.
Jesus suffered much in this life. When he was on the cross, people taunted, saying, “He saved other, he can’t save himself” (Matthew 27:42). True enough, he could not save himself, but he trusted God to save him and God raised him from the dead to live forevermore (Acts 2:32). Not only did he die at the end of his life, only to live again; he died to himself all through his life by giving up his life to serve others. This is a very true form of dying to live.
Dying to live is an experience of those who believe in him and become his followers. This begins with a transformation from death to life, as Jesus taught, “the one who hears my word and believes him who sent me has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Jesus used phrases like, “whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24), and “”unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). In other words, life comes out of death. Jesus died to his own life and lived a life of service to the needs of others. To follow the example of Jesus is to die to self and live for God.
I asked my wife what she thought was the purpose of the church. Without hesitating, she said, “the church is where we learn how to die.”
I asked my wife what she thought was the purpose of the church. Without hesitating, she said, “the church is where we learn how to die.” This is a difficult lifestyle to achieve and we will never do it perfectly like Christ. However, we will grow more and more to live like this the closer we walk with the Lord. It was the apostle Paul who said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Paul also implied how difficult it was to find people who die to live. He wrote to one church that he had only one person to send them who was genuinely concerned for their welfare, “for they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:21). The church, to be effective in promoting the kingdom of God in the world, needs to develop a lifestyle of dying to live.
This can be a dangerous task. Oftentimes people are fearful of ministering to others because they sense that it puts their own life as risk. Knowing that God will raise our bodies to life, as he did for Jesus, can take away our fears and give us courage to help others. People also may fear giving up their life because they think that they will lose the kind of life they want. However, the truth is that there is no more exciting life to live that the life lived in Christ Jesus. I am writing this a few days after another school shooting, this one in Texas, in which at least 10 persons died. Is there no safe place in this world? The safest place to be is not to live until we die, but to die until we live.