Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
The nastiest jokes I’ve ever heard in my life I’ve always heard told in the church foyer on Sunday mornings. Now don’t act so surprised for I know you’ve had the very same experience.
Two Christians are conversing. One of them has just got out of the hospital or has received good news back from some worrisome tests. The other asks them: “How are you feeling now?” The first one responds: “Oh, I’m still ailing some, but it sure beats the alternative!”
Yes, I understand that it’s meant as a joke, the “alternative” being death. But what I’ve never understood is that this is a conversation between Christians. That is, it’s between people who believe (?) Jesus has risen from the grave, conquered death, promises to take his people home to be with him and who introduces us to the God who will reward me with a crown I do not deserve, a crown of righteousness. So please, do explain to me how anything could possibly be better than that?
I believe I’m in good company in having a serious problem with this sort of humor; I believe the apostle Paul would agree with me. For when the time was coming close for his death, Paul had a spirit of complete confidence, assurance, hope and peace about it all. It’s not all all too much to say that he looked forward to dying in Christ for he knew that was a “far better by far” (cf. Phil. 1:23) alternative to living here. Here what he has to say again:
“… there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day …”
So let me ask you a question:
Do you “long” for “his appearing” – that is, to die and be in Christ’s presence – or do you merely long to go on living here as long as possible with the maximum number of your troubles making their disappearance?
Do be careful now how you answer for it may tell more about the reality or depth of your faith than you’re willing to admit.
Heavenly Father, give me this grace – when my time comes, may I face death the way Paul the apostle faced it – with ease. And until that time, Father, may I never leave the wrong impression with others about the beauty and supremacy of him in whom I place my faith, Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all who will rise from the dead. May my life become much more than just a bad joke to all who know me, whether they be Christians or those yet to believe. Remind me often of the surpassing worth of what is in store for me in my having an eternal home with you. May I be found ever shining up the brightness of the hope that lives in me. Amen.