The Christian's View of Life And Death (1)
(2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10)
Don R. Hastings
Dade City, Florida
How do you view your life? Do you believe that your existence will end at death so you should try to enjoy as many pleasures as you can? Do you think your main purpose in life is to accumulate wealth? Do you see looking out for yourself as your primary responsibility? Could your disposition, generally, be described as cheerful or despondent? Are you contented, or discontented, as a person?
I recently spoke on this topic at the funeral of a very close friend. Her body was "eaten up" with cancer. She struggled for many years to keep on breathing. What enabled her to smile through the tears? How could she speak so pleasantly when she was in tremendous pain? What kept her from becoming bitter and despondent? The answer lies in the fact that she was a Christian, who possessed the proper view of life and death. It was the same attitude toward life and death that enabled the apostles to rejoice when they were beaten (Acts 5:40,41).
How wonderful it is that God has made known truths which will enable all of us to be happy, and content, even while we suffer persecutions from afflictions, disappointments, and trials of all kinds. In our text, God has revealed, through Paul, what should be the Christian's attitude toward life and death. "No finer description of the proper perspective or outlook one can have in life can be found in the entire scriptures than Paul's statement from 4:13 and 5:11 " (Truth in Life, New Testament Survey, Part 1, by Roy Cogdill, p. 63). We should not "faint"; that is, be discouraged or downhearted, but "always of good courage," because:
We have an eternal spirit which shall be resurrected (vv. 13-15). Paul had the same "spirit of faith" as the Psalmist who had to speak in spite of afflictions because he sincerely believed (Psa. 116:10). Does your faith move you to proclaim the good news of salvation to others? I know that I speak what I sincerely believe is God's word. I speak because I believe. Even if the teaching of God's word brings persecution, we must speak it because we are going to be resurrected and judged (text; Matt. 10:27,28).
Jesus was resurrected by the power of God and His resurrection is our assurance that we will, also, be resurrected (John 5:28,29; Acts 17:30,3 1; 1 Cor. 15:20-22). We can be happy in spite of our earthly troubles because we know that we shall be resurrected to be with Jesus and fellow-saints (text). This knowledge gives us a peace of mind that others cannot have who fail to know, or believe, this Divine truth!
"The whole gospel ministry is for the sake of the believer, for the believer is the recipient of the grace of God, and the returner of thanks to God. God is glorified in him both by the grace which he bestows upon him and the thanksgiving which he receives of him. It therefore follows that the more believers there are, the more grace there is bestowed and the more thanksgiving there is received, and hence the more God is glorified" (Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, by J.W. McGarvey, p. 191).
Our "inward man" is becoming more lovely and more glorious as it is renewed by the word of God (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24; Tit. 3:5). The "outward man" is going back to the dust of the ground from whence it came (Gen. 3:19). The "outward man" may appear to be in the prime of health, but in reality he is decaying. All the health foods, exercise programs, and cosmetics in the world will not stop the body from aging. Brother Gardner Hall, when in very poor physical health, was asked the question, "Gardner, are you still in the world of the living?" He replied, "No, I'm in the world of the dying, but it won't be long before I'm in the world of the living" (Quoted from Bob F. Owen, Florida College lectureship, 1984).
We should give more time and care to our eternal soul which can grow stronger and purer. We can "always be of good courage" if we will view our afflictions as "light" and "for the moment" as Paul did.
How could Paul view his afflictions as light (2 Cor. 11:23-28)? They were "light" by comparison to the "weight of glory" they would bring him if he remained faithful to God (2 Thess. 1:3-10; Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 4:13). Since God is no respecter of persons, they will bring us the same 44 weight of glory" if we endure. "All the service God calls on us to perform, every burden he lays on us to bear, every affliction which we endure are intended for our good, and, if received in the spirit of obedient and faithful children, will fit us to enjoy the richest blessings God has in store for them that love him" (Commentary on New Testament Epistles, by David Lips6omb, Vol. III, p. 68).
All that we can see will some day perish for it is only temporal (2 Pet. 3: 10; text). We do not become heart-broken, and filled with despair, when we lose that which we can see. I am not saying that we will not be hurt, but we should not be overcome with grief to the point that we become bitter in spirit and quit serving the Lord. We already know that we will be parted from it sooner or later - our health, physical life, wealth, loved ones on earth, jobs, houses, etc. When we lose these things, we can still be happy because we have not lost that which is important to us - the love, favor and fellowship of the Godhead and our eternal home for our soul.
If we ceased to exist at death, then our afflictions would be very painful and profitless. We would "of all men be most pitiable" (1 Cor. 15:19). But thanks to our wonderful Father that such is not true! Because of Jesus dying on our behalf, we live with the blessed hope of going to heaven! However, if you are not a faithful Christian, you do not have this living, sustaining hope. Will you become one now and know the joy of being in Christ and living with Him? You, too, can smile through your sorrows. You can look forward to death. You can rejoice through your many trials (Jas. 1:2-4). Why not be baptized and receive forgiveness of your sins?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 22, pp. 694-695