In 2005, about a week before Christmas, my mother died. She was 85 years old and very weak but fortunately when the hospital called I was able to go and spend the last few hours of her life with her. I held her hand and spoke gently to her and at 4:30 in the morning I watched her take her last breath.
I mention this because her death, so suddenly reminded me once again of my own death one day and how I will prepare for it. You see, the only sure thing in life is that it will end one day.
Both my parents have died right in front of me (my dad of a heart attack when I was 15, and my mother last week) so I know for sure that life ends at some point.
You may ask, "Why am I talking about this now - during the happy Christmas season?" I'm doing this now because I want all of us to be ready for death no matter when it comes. It was Christmas for my family too - but my mom still died.
Preparing For Death.
You see we prepare for happy things like Christmas, for birthdays, weddings, or vacations but rarely prepare for sad things. And yet, nothing is as sure in life as death but so few are prepared. With this thought in mind therefore, I'd like to share a few things that each of us need to do in order to prepare ourselves for the end of life all of us will one day face:
1. Prepare Your Physical Departure Today.
Ten years ago when my mother was healthy, independent, and could think and act freely she made a will, signed over to me a power of attorney in case of illness, and gave me precise instructions as to her funeral etc. She wasn't sick back then, didn't have Alzheimer's, made all of her own decisions but she prepared with me (her only son) for the day she might not be well enough to decide. Ever since I was small she always said that she would live to be 100 years old; she really believed this. So at 75 years of age, she thought she had plenty of time left and was getting these things ready for the far off future.
- But 5 years later I had to take over her affairs because of Alzheimer's and then 5 short years after that she died.
- It happened a lot sooner than she thought.
You know, people are more careful when they plan a trip to Disney Land than they are in planning for their trip out of this world. No matter how young or healthy you are, you're never too young or healthy to prepare yourself and your family in case of your death. Hey, we're all going on this trip, we just don't know when we're leaving! In my own case (I'm 58) but many years ago I planned for my own eventual departure in the following way:
A. I prepared a will detailing who would inherit what I left behind.
I made sure to describe the special things I left each of my children so there would be no jealousy or bad feelings among them. I also made provisions for one last offering to the Lord. 10% of my entire estate will, insurance, house, etc, will go to the church. The balance to my wife and children.
In the event my family dies before me then 50% of my estate will go to the church and 50% will go to a Christian college to provide scholarships for ministry students. Why should the government, or lawyers, or unbelieving family members use my money for themselves on things of the world? I want a good portion of what God has given me in this life to go back to Him after I die! In this way my death serves to honor Him one last time.
B. I've also prepared a power of attorney that gives my wife and/or children the right to manage my affairs if I am not able.
This is so helpful with the hospital, bank, government etc. Otherwise everything is frozen or the government takes over if you are sick but have no designated person to sign for you.
C. Both Lise and I have pre-paid funerals.
- This leaves more money in my estate and controls the cost of my funeral.
- It also guarantees that my funeral and burial will be carried out in exactly the way that I planned it.
It is also easier on the family by giving them instructions to follow instead of having to make decisions while they are grieving. Doing these three simple things now will prepare your family and your own body for the day of your death.
A Second thing to do in order to prepare for your death is...
2. Live A Good Life Today.
When I say live a good life, I'm not talking about "the good life" in the world. In the world, the "good life" is a life free from cares or pain or worry because we have money, health, and many satisfying things to occupy us at work and play.
A. The Good life I'm referring to is a truly good life; a life that is good in God's eyes.
As Peter says in II Peter 1:5-7 ".. applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love."
This is the kind of good life we need to live today as a preparation for death tomorrow.
- Set Christ as your example, you're hero, your model.
- Stop sinning, do better and you'll feel better spiritually.
- We're Christians, we've been called to better things after death.
We are truly prepared for death's experience if we are experiencing the good life as disciples of Jesus Christ. Lives full of purity, mercy, love, and humility.
B. When we're talking about living a good life, let's also remember it's a good life - Today!
So many put off living a good life until tomorrow because they want to enjoy a life of sin today for just a little while longer! But today is the only life we have, the only life we can offer to God. We need to let the Holy Spirit strengthen and guide us in the doing of what is good and right today! Putting things off, making promises of repentance for tomorrow - this is Satan's ploy.
At some point death will be part of your day and you will be able to face it with courage if you are living a good, Spirit-filled life on that day, not the next day.
Finally, to prepare for death..
3. Make Peace With God Today.
The Hebrew writer says,
"It is given to man to die once, and then comes the judgement."
- Heb 9:27
Now it's not necessary to know this scripture in order to know the truth it teaches.
- That God will judge us is hardwired into our being, it's part of our spiritual and emotional DNA.
- It's the reason we know intuitively that we ought to know and do right and we should avoid doing wrong.
- We know as humans that there is some divine justice that will eventually be done.
This knowledge of judgement is the reason why people of every nation and tribe from the beginning of time have seared for God. They want to make peace with Him for what they have done wrong.
This search takes many forms but the outcome is always the same. Give God something, do something, be some way that will get God to forgive or be at peace with, or bless and accept us. Thankfully God revealed to us how He has resolved the issue of man's imperfect life and His perfect eternal justice. Through Jesus Christ He has informed us that He Himself has paid for, or taken care of all the wrongs ever committed by human beings.
He's wiped these offenses and debts away by offering His Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice or payment for sins. And He graciously makes peace with (or forgives) all the guilty people who believe in His Son, Christ and obey Him in faith. It's a simple plan:
Because of His kindness, He offers forgiveness and mercy through Christ.
Through our belief (expressed in repentance and baptism) we receive that forgiveness and the peace that this forgiveness creates in our hearts.Of course, the offer is only good while we are alive, it is no longer valid after we die because two things happen after we die:
- We can't choose or believe after we die. We lose this power.
- The judgement comes into effect immediately after death.
Even if we could respond to God - there's no time. You see, God makes this offer today because we may not be there tomorrow. Each time you refuse to make peace with God today you risk losing your eternal soul because God does not promise us tomorrow - only today. You may have a nice life and your will and funeral may be ready but unless you've made peace with God in the water of baptism - you're not ready for death.
If you remember one thing, one word from my lesson, remember the word, "Today"!
Today is the day of salvation and God is calling you today to make peace with Him.
If you refuse Him today there's no guarantee that you will be able to make peace with Him tomorrow.
Today is the time for right living, not tomorrow.
Start being the disciple you're meant to be, the disciple Jesus called you to be today! Forget yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, today is what counts.
Today is soon enough to begin preparing yourself and your family for death.
If you love your family you will help them deal with your passing by preparing the legal details (funeral) ahead of time. If you love your church you will make provisions that it can continue its work and growth after your gone. In this way you will die the way you lived - faithfully serving God.
If you do this it will be a much better legacy than having your name on a building or having your in-laws buy themselves a new car with your insurance money. The only time we have my brothers and sisters is today, let's be sure we are ready if the Lord comes for us today.