O Death, Where is Thy Sting

 

A man had a friend who enlarged his business.  His sales had increased to the point that a larger warehouse and sales office were needed.  Even though the move was a rather complicated and burdensome process, it was really a thing to be celebrated.  For this reason, the man sent his friend some flowers on the day of his grand opening. The flowers, however, were poorly handled and the businessman received a bouquet that was intended for a funeral.  It was accompanied with a card which said:  "My deepest sympathy during this time of sorrow." When the man called his friend on the phone to wish him well, he was confronted with the error, "Why in the world," said the businessman, "did you send me these sympathy flowers?"  The man went immediately to the florist to demand an explanation.  The florist met him outside the shop and was obviously upset.  "I am terribly sorry about the mixup with the flowers," he said, "but I hope you will be understanding. Your situation is not half as bad as the one down at the funeral home. The folks there received your flowers accompanied by the card which said:  BEST WISHES IN YOUR NEW LOCATION."

 

I looked closely at Sherry’s dad. He actually looked better in death than when he was alive. There were no more oxygen tubes in his nostrils and the sound of the oxygen being metered was gone. This seemed surreal to me. It was then that I began to ponder the mystery before me. How could this man be dead when he looked so good? Clearly, at least to me, this was a natural event. On the other hand God sustains all His creation yet this man was no longer being sustained.

 

What actually happens when we are overcome by death? Or perhaps the question is better stated as what actually happens when we become a living soul?

Is birth a miracle?

What about death?

*   (Gen 2:7 KJV)  And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

*   (Job 12:10 NIV)  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

*   (Lev 17:10 NIV)  "'Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood--I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. (Lev 17:11 NIV)  For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.

 

What do these say about abortion?

Why are people born? To satisfy God’s ego?

Isn’t love something to be shared? (1 John 4:16 NIV)  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Isn’t life something to be treasured?

*   Life is a gift … (Rom 6:23 NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is God a family name or a descriptive name or what?

*   (Rom 8:19 NIV)  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

*   (Gal 3:26-27 NIV)  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

*   (1 Pet 4:17 NIV)  For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Why must people die?

*   (Gen 2:15-17)  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. {16} And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; {17} but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

*   (Gen 3:1-5)  Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" {2} The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, {3} but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" {4} "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. {5} "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

 What happens when someone dies?

*   (Eccl 12:1-7 NIV)  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"-- {2} before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; {3} when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; {4} when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; {5} when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. {6} Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, {7} and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

*   (Eccl 9:5 NIV)  For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.

*    (Eccl 9:10 NIV)  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

And then what? Is that all there is?

*   (Heb 9:27-28 NIV)  Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, {28} so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

*   (1 John 3:2 NIV)  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

*   (Rev 21:3-4 NIV)  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. {4} He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

So what must I do?

*   (John 13:15-17 NIV)  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. {16} I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. {17} Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

*   (Acts 2:38 NIV)  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

*   (John 6:40 NIV)  For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

What is the lesson?

*    (2 Pet 3:9 NIV)  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

*   (1 Cor 15:54-57 RSV)  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." {55} "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" {56} The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. {57} But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Some “Practical” advice. From a series of pamphlets, CareNotes, dealing with the death of someone you love.

*   Face your loss. Acknowledge the many levels of loss.

*   Turn to God in prayer. Pray your pain.

*   Picture God on your side. Turn to Him for strength.

*   Draw on faith for healing.

*   Trust God’s nearness and goodness (Godness)

*   Look for God in unexpected ways.

*   Tend to your own needs.

*   Let others help you.

*   Reach out to friends. Let them know what you need.

*   Treasure your relationships.

*   Do not dwell on regrets.

*   Take steps to relieve loneliness.

*   Recognize and deal with feelings of guilt and betrayal.

*   Be patient, gentle, and realistic with yourself and with others.

*   Allow the tears to come, but look for joy amidst the pain.

*   Trust that the pain will pass.

*   Respect your emotions. Accept your feelings.

*   Realize that grieving can be constructive.

*   Celebrate your memories and treasure them.

*   Adapt cherished traditions.

*   Cultivate an appreciation for solitude. Solitude is not synonymous with loneliness.

*   Establish new routines.

*   Let yourself feel good again.

 

And finally, remember the lesson?

*   (1 Cor 15:54-57 RSV)  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." {55} "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" {56} The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. {57} But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 


As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

   Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

 

 Because through death alone we become liberated,    I say it is the best of all the things created.

      Angelus Silesius (1624–1677)

 

Death is as necessary to the constitution as sleep, we shall rise refreshed in the morning.

   Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

 

Death is God's delightful way of giving us life.

   Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

 

Death is not a journeying into an unknown land; it is a voyage home. We are going not to a strange country, but to our Father's house, and among our kith and kin.

   John Ruskin (1819–1900)

 

In my end is my beginning.

   Mary Stuart (1542–1587)

 

(1 Th 4:16 NIV)  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

 

(Rev 20:4 NIV)  I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

 

(Rev 21:1-3 NIV)  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. {2} I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. {3} And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.