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Homeward Bound: Facing Death Unafraid

Philippians 1:19-21

Way back when my daughter, Meg, was a little girl, one of the things she loved to do was to jump from her bed into my arms. I remember one night, just about bedtime, she was in her pajamas and she was jumping up and down on her bed, bouncing there like a playful kitten. Meg said: “I’m going to jump to you, Daddy!” So I extended my hands and arms ready for her to leap. She said: “You’re too close, step back.” I stepped back. “Not enough”, she said. I took another step back. Bouncing up and down, gleefully, she said: “Still not enough.” I stepped back some more. “Another step”, she cried. I applauded her courage, and stepped back again. Finally, when surely I must have been beyond the reach of any mortal human, when surely I must have seemed but a dim figure on a distant horizon, she cried: “That’s enough!” Then she crouched and exploded into the air, the only thing flying higher than her body was her heart. For just a moment she was Superwoman without a cape…she was a sky-diver without a chute. And in that airborne moment, she was totally dependent upon the faithfulness of her father to catch her. If he proves cruel, she will crash. If he proves forgetful, she will fall. If he proves inadequate, she will be injured. But such fear she does not know, for her father she does. He has proven faithful, and so she jumps and he catches. And the two of them rejoice and celebrate at the wedding of his faithfulness and her faith.

So here we stand, not on the edge of a bed, but on the edge of life. At some point we shall have to make the leap into death. At some point, the sand will have dripped through the hourglass and it will be time to go. At that point, as we stand looking out over the canyons of eternity, we will never before have faced such a wide chasm. It’s the jump of a life-it’s the jump of an eternal life. Is the Father faithful? Are you afraid? Can fear you not know because the Father you do? Of course, the answer is that

Christians can face death unafraid.

While there is much we do not know about the little we do know concerning death, the little we do know is enough. We know that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, dying is not a closure for us—death is not the finality it so convincingly appears to be. Rather, it is the threshold to an exciting new beginning, a larger, deeper, and more joyous relationship with others and with God. Our African American forebears believed it and sang: “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.” Out in Chase County, Kansas, in a country cemetery, there is a simple gravestone which reads:

Margaret Repogle Shore
Thanks for stopping by. See you later.

That’s what I am trying to say to you today. Christians don’t have to be afraid to die. We may not want to die, but we are not afraid to die. We may be anxious about dying, concerned about whether we can cope, but if we give our dying to God, we discover that His arms are strong enough to catch us and His grace is sufficient to see us through. Did you know that when the early Christians gathered for worship on the first day of every week to worship in celebration of the resurrection, they would begin each service by shouting: “Death, we laugh at you!” Yes, Christians can face death unafraid.

And, therefore Christians can live life unashamed.

You see, once we are set free from the fear of death, then we are set free for a larger life. We discover what’s important, what really matters, and what really lasts in life. That’s what Peter means when he says that since we as Christians can face death unafraid, then we ought to be leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. And what does it mean to live holy and godly lives? It means to say NO to pornography, to say NO to addictions, to say NO to weekend rendezvous, to say NO to bigotry and racial hatred, to say NO to unethical business practices, to say NO to back-fence gossip and rumor mongering, to say NO to courseness of language and indecency of behavior. It means that some of the things the world loves we need to hate, and some of the people the world hates, we need to love. To lead a holy and godly life means to be set apart. It means to be different—not weird, not strange, just different. To do that sometimes you have to stand firmly against public opinion and peer pressure. Sometimes you have to take a stand when others sit, and you have to sit when others stand. You must be different. That doesn’t mean being miserable. It doesn’t mean being unhappy. It doesn’t mean having no fun in life. Mark it down, my beloved, there is a happiness and holiness which outweighs anything the world has to offer. Because we can laugh at death, we can laugh our way through life. Because we can face death unafraid, we can live holy and godly lives here and now.

Here then is the message for today.

First, a word to those who know Christ. Keep the faith. Someday you may corner me up in the kingdom of heaven and say: “Preacher, thanks for telling me to keep the faith. You see, as my life wore on, life took some things from me. I lost my money; I lost my job; I lost my spouse. Life took from me many things I hold dear, but the one thing life could not take from me was my faith.” Dear friends, keep the faith. And next, a word to those who don’t know Christ. Give serious thought to heaven. I trust your decision-making powers, so I will not try to manipulate you with emotional appeals. I am not going to leverage you with fear or guilt. But I am going to ask you one thing: Do you know how far you are from heaven if you don’t have Christ at the center of your life? You may be a thousand tickets away from winning the lottery. You may be 20,000 miles away from being President of the United States. But do you know how far you are from heaven if you don’t have Jesus Christ? You are one step! Just one step. He is right there. He has never moved from your side since the day you were born. He has been hanging around you waiting for you to turn your heart toward Him. One step. One decision is all it takes. Why not take the step now?


After my little girl, Meg, made the courageous leap from the bed into my arms, I put her back on the bed for another jump. Just then her little sister, Beth, came into the room. I said: “Meg, do you want to jump to Beth?” She replied, “No, Daddy, her arms aren’t strong enough!” Well there’s a truth in that. Our trust in the Father is in direct proportion to the strength in His arms. I suppose that’s why every so often God flexed his muscles. I suppose that’s why He slammed back the waters of the Red Sea. I suppose that’s why He shattered the sealed door of His son’s tomb—so that we would know just how strong His arms really are. Therefore, my beloved, when we face death in Jesus Christ, fear we do not know, because the Father we do……

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