SHAPED BY DEATH!

I deal with death a lot, and I am grateful for that. Yes, you heard me right. I am grateful for the fact that I deal with death so often. I didn’t say that I enjoy it, but I am grateful. Death has a way of focusing you like nothing else can. Why do people decide to turn their life around after the loss of a loved one? Why do folks, who have never cracked open a Bible or darkened the doors of a church building, suddenly do so when it’s discovered that they have a terminal disease? Why do people draw closer to God in their time of grief? Why? Because their destiny is in plain view. Death is the destiny of all of us, and that reality should shape how we live.

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 7, Solomon writes:

1 A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart (Ecc. 7:1 & 2).

Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s diary; his memoir. As you probably know, Solomon was once considered the wisest man on the face of the earth. God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wished and instead of requesting long life or to win the lottery, he asked for God to grant him wisdom and knowledge so that he could be the best leader for God’s people. I picture God responding like a proud father, a tear streaming down His face, thinking to Himself, “Isn’t he such a good boy?” God grants Solomon wisdom, but also grants him abundant wealth and honor and possessions since he was so selfless in his request. But, it turns out that the wealth and honor and possessions would cause this wise man to do some really foolish things. Notice how Solomon’s diary begins. Chapter 1:1—”MEANINGLESS! MEANINGLESS!” And…”Utter meaningless!” Solomon is coming to the end of his life, and what do people often do as they approach the end? They reflect. That’s what Solomon is doing. He’s reflecting on his life—the wealth, the honor, the possessions—and he’s reached a profound conclusion–NONE OF IT MATTERS!

It’s in this time of reflection that Solomon writes, “A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” When a baby enters into this world we celebrate. We cry tears of joy. We take pictures and plaster them all over social media. We give gifts. In fact, in the months before they are born, we have showers, we make doctor’s visits to listen to the heartbeat and, perhaps, find out what the sex is. We have a party where we invite our family and closest friends over and come up with some creative way to reveal the gender. However, when someone close to us dies, we do the opposite. We console the family by saying, “It’s going to be alright. Don’t cry.” We encourage them to move on and get over it as quickly as possible. But Solomon says, “The day of one’s death is actually better than the day of one’s birth.” The one caveat being that it’s only better if the person was a Christian; if they had a good name. A person who lives an empty existence and dies with nothing but wealth, honor, and possessions dies miserable. But for the child of God, death is an exciting time. If a Christian can’t celebrate his death, then what can he celebrate?

After stating that “the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth,” Solomon says that it’s better to go to a funeral than to a party. Show up to a funeral. Look around. See the people mourning and grieving. Pay attention to their tears. While you’re there, reflect on your own life. Think about the fact that someday, maybe soon, you’ll be in that casket and people will be crying and grieving over you. For many people, life is one big party. It was for Solomon. Going to a party doesn’t really teach you anything. Parties are fun and festive and, at times, depending on the type of party, they’re occasions in which people do unrighteous things in excess. Partying is for those who want to live for the moment. Solomon says, “Go to a funeral!” Why? Because you are born with an expiration date. Death is your destiny, and you need to live life in view of your destiny. Solomon doesn’t say that this is fun. He says it’s better. It’s good for you.

Do you look at life through the lens of death? Every time you face a major decision in life, do you say to yourself, “I’m going to die, so…” When I die, what’s really going to matter? When I die, will I care about this? Ask yourself, “Is the way that I’m currently living going to get me to heaven?” Are there things that I’m currently doing that could keep me out of heaven?” We don’t talk like Solomon. We don’t invite conversations like death. We don’t want to think about our own mortality. Even when we do start talking about it, inevitably someone will say, “Please stop. I don’t want to talk about this.” We do our best to avoid death at all costs. But Solomon says, “Don’t! It’s good for you to live your life through the filter of death.” The wise person spends time thinking about death and lives life in view of their destiny.

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