Preparing to Die Well
Within the first six months in my current congregation, I did two very challenging funerals. One was for a twenty-something girl, cut off as she looked forward to what her life was becoming. The other was for a ninety-something ruling elder who had lived a full life of service to others. While I have done a lot of funerals since then, the juxtaposition of these two has stuck with me.
That’s because these two funerals teach that “man does not know his time” (Eccl. 9:12) and that we must not “boast about tomorrow, for [we] do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27:1). These two funerals remind me that our deaths may cut us off early or late; we simply do not know. But these funerals also teach that because we do not know when we will die, we must always be prepared to die well.
How is it possible to make sure that we are prepared to die well whenever our dying day comes? The Apostle Paul points us in the right direction when he writes, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). We are prepared to die well only when we live each day knowing Christ for us, in us, and through us.
Living each day for Christ is possible only when we know Christ for us. God looks at us in Jesus and sees us united to Him—all that is true of Jesus in His humanity is true of us by the Father’s declaration. He became to us “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Those who know that we live as believers not clothed in our sins but in Christ’s righteousness are prepared and ready to die and face God’s judgment.
In addition, daily living for Christ is possible only when we know Christ in us. The gospel teaches us that the “riches of the glory” is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). By Christ’s Spirit, our Lord lives in us, so that the life we live is by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:20). Those who know this glorious reality—the power of Christ in us—are able to live each day ready to die because they have the hope, the expectation, of future glory.
Finally, living each day for Christ means that we know Christ through us. As we love others not only in words but also in concrete actions, we do so in the power and name of Jesus. He is living through us, transforming us so that we minister His grace and His mercy. Believers who know “Christ through us” in their daily lives will be ready to see Christ face to face when they die.
Thankfully, both the twenty-something and the ninety-something were ones who lived Christ. Their deaths, while causing grief, were gain to them. The question for us is this: Will our dying days be likewise? Are we prepared to die well?