I had quite an experience one summer when I was serving as a missionary in South America. I was with the Chayahuita in the middle of nowhere. It was my first trip and I contracted Typhoid. If I was playing Oregon Trail it would have been game over. But tragically, there were two men in the village where we were staying who died from Malaria during our time there. A day after my partner got Malaria, which made for an interesting first trip.
One of the people who died was a child of about twelve. It was so tragic and I remember seeing the child laying there and the mother weeping over him. What shocked me was when they buried the child as well as the other man. There was no service, no words of remembrance, no ceremony, no one wearing black. In fact I heard laughing when they put the body in the ground as if it was nothing special, and I remember thinking ¨how cold.¨
After talking with the boss of the team I was on, he made me realize that death in this village was just a part of life. It was something common and almost could be expected especially with a disease like Malaria. And so it made me think more and more about death.
Death is a part of life.
One can mostly see in the United States but hints and shadows can be found in all cultures the idea of maintaining life, of holding onto it until the very last breath. With more and more technology we are able to prolong life and stall the inevitable death a few more years. And though life is very precious how many of our decisions are made in order to avoid the risk of losing this life? We make our lives as comfortable as we can as if we were taking some journey whose end was so undesirable that we lose the true joy of the journey.
But what is this life that He has given us? A most precious gift He but also the very thing that He wants from us; that He demands from us. ¨If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel´s will save it.¨
God has called us to die and yet we still try to hang on.
I believe that the Lord has taught us contrary to this idea of holding onto this life. He not only taught this but lived death everyday as He gave up His own will to the will of the Father. This eventually culminated in His death on the Cross.
It is through this act that Jesus shows us how we can have life. Paul says that we are ¨always carrying in the body the Death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.¨ It is in the power of His death and of His resurrection that we can experience both and become more like Him. Paul continues, ¨For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus´ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.¨ We cannot have life without death.
On this journey to be more like Him He has called all of us to carry our crosses. This sanctification is not a onetime affair but a continual dying to ourselves; choosing His will above ours.
Death can manifest itself in many ways, whether it is to our pride, desire for glory, lusts of the flesh, unfaithfulness, impatience, or just our general indifference. Whatever part of us that is not wholly devoted to Christ must die. It is a daily war within.
We fear death, but it is only in this death to ourselves that we can be free, that we can truly live. Oh, how a painful process it is! Our flesh fights to hold on, and makes us believe that it holds life and in this delusion we do all in order to keep our identity, to keep our comfort, to keep our lifestyle of health and wealth. To use a line from Tyler Durden, we are ¨just polishing brass on the Titanic.¨
But once we finally let go, we put the sword to our flesh, and just die to ourselves the beauty of Grace reveals itself in the purest way to life unimaginable. For Christ said, ¨I am the Resurrection and the Life.¨ These powerful words hold the greatest promise. In every death, from the time we acknowledge our sinfulness and allow the Lord to take over, through every monotonous day that we must overcome all depravity that plagues our souls, to the very end of this temporal physical life, the Lord becomes our Resurrection. We rise from the ashes every time anew, and a little less like us and a little more like Him. It is only through death that we can truly become one with Christ identifying with Him. We then finally have an identity that gives us life.
And so let this be our anthem, sung to the Glory of God. We are dying men, and not in the sense of slowly dying a physical death from failing health, but that we die over and over again to ourselves in the spiritual realms to receive life through our Resurrection, Jesus Christ.