Facing Death with Hope!

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The life of the Apostle Paul was bound up so with Jesus that he could announce "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). This actually became his theme for living, as well as for dying. Since living was Christ for Paul, Christ was the beginning of life for him. He could recall the experience on the Damascus road as a time of great change. Christ spoke directly to him, challenging him to be a witness of what he had seen and heard, to be an apostle, and a missionary of light to the Gentiles (Acts 26: 14-18). Paul had surrendered completely. Christ was the continuance of that life. There had not been a day that he had not lived in the presence of his Lord. A quote from Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me". The dynamic, motivating force in his life was the Saviour. If Christ were taken out of his life there would have been nothing left. Christ was also the end of life. In the Roman prison as he was writing the letter to the Philippian Christians, he faced realistically the prospect of death. He felt that he was moving toward the goal that Christ had set for him, yet in life or in death, he was ready for whatever the Lord willed. Paul explains this dilemma as he faces life and death in Philippians 1: 23,24. He is caught between two desires. For him, death would be gain; but his work of teaching was still needed. Roy Loren expresses well Paul's feelings. Death for Paul was a certainty, not uncertainty. It was conscious existence, not unconscious oblivion. It was far better, not dreadful or tragic. It was a beginning, not an ending. It was a commencement and not a ceasing to be. His greatest desire was to depart and be with the Lord. This word depart can mean that as a tablet dropped into the water dissolves, so in death life disappears, but is not destroyed. The form of life changes. It can also refer to the lifting of an anchor so that the ship can move out. We can watch the ship across the horizon until out of sight. So, in death, we move out from one shore to another. Alfred Lord Tennyson expressed this idea in a poem he requested be placed at the end of his works:

Twilight and evening bell And after that, the dark ! And may there be no sadness of farewell When I embark. For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place, The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar. It can further be used for the striking of a tent, loosening the pins and ropes in order to break camp. When our pilgrimage is over here we will leave behind our earthly tents and move on to our heavenly home. (II Corinthians 5: 1). In the spring of 1870 as Robert E. Lee lay dying, the final words he uttered were typical of his long military career. "Strike the tent". He realized the time to move on had come. With this kind of thought the child of God does not fear death and can even look forward to it. During World War II, the Royal Air force of England sacrificed many pilots in the process of defending their country. Yet instead of reporting that they were "killed in action", the notice always read, "posted to another station". And this can be true of the Christian.

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