Whether I am old or young, wise or foolish, healthy or sick, wealthy or poor, academically brilliant or lacking in understanding, I am going to die at an unsuspecting time. I may die on my usual car ride home today, leaving behind my children, wife, family, and church. I may find a year from now that I have a debilitating disease that will slowly degrade my health and mental faculties. I may live until I am 100. In all of this, I have no clue when the Lord will remove me nor can I be prepared for the route I am to take. The older I get, the closer I come.
The one true commonality all men share is death. It is, to borrow a popular phrase, the great equalizer. No matter the recipient, it is always faithful to deliver. Whatever feelings we have about attending funerals, the scriptures declare them to be good for one simple reason: they succinctly display our mortality.
Of all the feasts I have attended, whether a wedding, potluck, party, or the annual white elephant gift exchange in my community group, I cannot remember a single time where I was not joyous and left refreshed. The feasts I enjoy the most are with those whom declare Christ as Lord and Savior, as I enjoy the sweet fellowship, laughter, and good food and drink with them.
Yet, while I live – the memorial service I attended last week is declared to be better.
The sorrow I felt for my friend in losing his sister; the tears that came to me as I watched a father weep bitterly over losing his little girl; the common man and woman whom I’d never met sobbing without a care to dignity over the loss of their friend; all of this was better than my joyous feasts.
For those in the crowd who were in Christ, this time, as bitter as it was, reminded them of the immense beauty found in the gospel. For the father and family, it gave them assurance in knowing that their daughter believed the gospel and that one future day, they would join her in paradise.
It also reminded all of us of the promises we have in Christ; one day pain, death, sickness, sin, misery, and all the like will be fully done away with. We will join Christ in sweet, full fellowship. No hindrances; nothing that slows us down; no more race to run, fight to fight, and faith to keep. The gospel in all its goodness will be realized in us and we will be cleansed with fire, entering into the presence of our beautiful Savior for all of eternity. For this reason we rejoice in the midst of sorrow.
Yet, it also reminds the believer of the need for repentance. It reminded me of my desire to pastor, and my need for greater maturity, devotion, and discipline in my life. If we rejoice in the midst of sorrow and neglect sober reflection of our own position, we may well miss a chance to grow in wisdom.
The scriptures are replete with what the believer is responsible for, yet witnessing death brings such things to light very suddenly and fearfully if we are not found in obedience to them. Very plainly, death causes us to realize just how stiff-necked and human we really are. It reveals the consequences of sin.
I addressed how this affects the believer, for I fear that often those in Christ will point to how an unbeliever needs to focus on death because of what awaits them. While this is absolutely correct, the author of Ecclesiastes does not separate the godly from the ungodly in their need for reflection. All should take it to heart and search themselves in order to bear fruit in repentance. All should take it to heart and search themselves to see whether or not they are in Christ. All should take it to heart and recognize that though “life moves on,” death is in no part the way it was supposed to be.
All should take it to heart and see that though we may die in the flesh, that is not the end; for though death is the great equalizer, what comes after surely is not.