Summary: 3 principles from 2 Corinthians 5 will help us to face death with confidence (Material adapted from Bob Russel''s book, Take Comfort, from chapter of same title)
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has an exhibit of unique epitaphs. Give a few. Near Uniontown, Pennsylvania there’s a gravestone that reads, “Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. He stepped on the gas instead of the brake.” Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona, has an epitaph that reads: “Here lies Lester Moore; Four slugs from a .44; No Les, no Moore.” There’s a minister’s tombstone that reads: “Gone to another meeting.” Sympathize with that! A New England tombstone carries this epitaph of a woman who evidently was a big talker: “Beneath this sod lies Arabella Young, who on the 26th of May began to hold her tongue.” My all time favorite is one from a cemetery near Wetumpka, Alaabama: “Solomon Peas. Peas is not here, only the Pod. Peas shelled out and went home to God.”
We smile and laugh at those epitaphs, but death is a serious matter. Two extremes in this matter- one is that death is never mentioned and the other is that death is an obsession. My family believes that death is an obsession with me. Goth- makeup and clothing styles are a bit much.
Both extremes, never want to talk about death or the constant obsession, are indications that the fear of death still holds people in its grip. The writer of Hebrews describes the human family as “those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:15.
Paul has already talked with the Corinthians Christians about death in 1 Corinthians 15. The Holy Spirit there says that death is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Paul goes on to talk about the resurrection- first the resurrection of Jesus and then the resurrection of everyone else on Resurrection Day. Talks about the resurrected body because this seemed to be a difficult doctrine for the Corinthians. Now in 2 Corinthians 5 Paul discusses the status of everyone who has died in Christ until the Resurrection Day. Much like the Thessalonians they evidently had some mistaken ideas about the dead in Christ right now.
Thesis: 3 principles from 2 Corinthians 5 will help us to face death with confidence
I. Our present existence is increasingly difficult
The longer we live in this world, the less attraction it has. Twice in this passage Paul compares our lives to a tent. I love camping. I love spending time outdoors and spending time with people I love away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Even so, the older I get the more difficult camping becomes. Sleep is important to me and I have a hard time sleeping while camping. My CPap machine helped some but still hard to get comfortable in a tent. Imagine living permanently in a tent. Two words describe living in a tent.
1. Insecure. A tent is a poor fortress. We can’t bolt the door against intruders. Raccoons at night easily wreak havoc. If we have every spent the night in a tent in a storm with lightning and wind, we know that it can collapse easily. As a tentmaker, Paul had knowledge about tents. When he compared this life to a tent, he knew it is not secure. This life is uncertain. It can be destroyed in a second. We try to develop security through insurance and the accumulation of goods and support networks, but living in a tent is so insecure and uncertain. David said, “There is only a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:3).
2. Uncomfortable- Started with just a sleeping bag, now I have graduated to a blow up mattress. Even with that, when it is humid and the mosquitoes are biting, the more difficult sleep becomes. As I lie there in the darkness and the hours tick away, there is always somebody who says, “This is the life, isn’t it?” “Oh yes, this is what camping is all about.” The longer I toss and turn the more uncomfortable it gets. After 4 or 5 days, everything smells like socks and I am so tired that I can sleep standing up (which might work better?).
Spiritually, the longer we serve the Lord, the sweeter He grows. But physically speaking, the longer we’re in this world the more uncomfortable it is. “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened...” 2 Corinthians 5:4, NIV. Some of us know what it means to groan- I see it and hear about it every day from the patients and their families. So important to have the Lord in the years of our miserable lives. The Lord in our hearts and the love of brothers and sisters...
Even so,“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on... They will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”” Revelation 14:13. Rest- no more suffering