How do I overcome this nagging feeling that there must be more to life than death?
Image: (two minute video clip of Movie deaths and followed by fears from the congregation)
For your information those fears listed at the end of our video this morning were fears we texted that we hoped and prayed for God’s strength to overcome them. You see, we all walk around life with fear. We are all very similar in this. The difference we have as Christians is that we are willing to address our fears. We share our fears. We even pray for God to release us from these fears. And we have seen God act in these requests.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Pastor Bob. I am one of two pastors’ on staff here at WSC. We are church with a mission to love God, love others and change the world. We hope that after hanging out with us a while you will realize that we really are not all that different from you. While we come in all different shapes and sizes, we have the same hopes, dreams and fears.
Fear is defined as an anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.
Psychology tells us there are 5 basic fears we all possess. They are:
1. Extinction. Fear of death.
2. Mutilation or loss of bodily structure, losing the integrity of our body, mind, natural function. Fear of bugs, spiders & generally creepy things.
3. Loss of autonomy: fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or being controlled.
4. Separation: fear of abandonment, rejection, loss of connectedness, someone giving us the 'silent treatment.'
5. Ego-death: the Fear of humiliation, shame, or any mechanism of profound self-disapproval.
Over the course of this message series we have been briefly touch on all of Psychology’s fab five as a point of awareness because awareness is the first step in solving the problem. Fear is a problem because it keeps us from what God has created us for.
Today, let’s finish our walk through fear by digging into the grand daddy of all fear: the fear of death. Technically, it’s called: Thanatophobia. The fear of death, dead things or anything associated with death.
Alfred Krupp, the famous Prussian ammunitions maker, lived in constant fear of death. Everyone throughout his entire company was strictly forbidden to refer to the subject of death in conversation. He ran from his own house because a relative of his wife's suddenly died there. And when Mrs. Krupp objected, Alfred became so enraged that he initiated what was to be a lifelong separation. During his last sickness, he offered his doctor a million dollars to prolong his life. But, of course, that was impossible. Death has very real power. A God with Heart, Ron Luchies, Christian Globe Networks, Inc.
Death ranks number one among all fears and it strangely is lessened the closer to it we become as we age. There is no real cure to the fear of death but it can be lessened by our understanding of the meaning of death and our view of what comes next.
Kelli Swazey, an anthropologist, in her 2013 TED talk tells of her experience with her husband’s culture where living with dead is the norm. In his homeland in eastern Indonesia, it is normal to live alongside the dead. They literally live with the dead. The dead person is referred to as sick. The people live with the deceased as they slowly ritualize and minimize the effect of their transition to the afterlife. You see, the family and community believe the person is not officially dead until the funeral has taken place in front of the whole community. It is the event that ties people together in that society. Until that point, which could be a month or even years, the dead person is held in the house. The culture of death as it is called by anthropologist includes elaborate funeral ceremonies which can go for days and even weeks depending on the families’ excitement about the person’s life. The funerals become incredible times in which the dead aren’t only honored but are ushered into the next part of their journey. This passing on as a social process has profound effects on their lives and even the meaning of death. What if we grew up in that sort of environment, where death was not a singular event to mourn but a important social process that ties families, the person’s history, the view of the future and even society together? How might that change our perspective?
The reality is we all will someday face death. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:26) tells us the last enemy is death. There is no avoidance. No one gets out of this game alive. The larger question becomes, what happens next?
This is where I believe the power in the fear of death resides. Fear of death is actually the manifestation of not knowing what comes next. And scripture is really helpful with making what comes next, clear. Over the course of the last few weeks, we have been covering a lot of the book of Daniel. In it, we find all fab five fears and we see how Daniel and his friends have been able to overcome. This week is no different. The fear of the unknown is revealed in Daniel 12. In verse 2, it says: <slide>
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, (will be) like the stars forever and ever.
In Daniel’s prophesy, which has a link to the New Testament prophesy on Rev. 20, we come to understand that at the end of this physical life, there is a spiritual life which continues forever. We also learn that our choice to believe and then live out is intrinsically linked to the next life. The last verse in Daniel speaks to this powerfully. The angel says to Daniel and really all of us:
“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
While we don’t live in a culture of death, like those individuals in southern Indonesia, we do know that death is part of the larger journey and that each individual on earth has a choice to make. Jesus Christ came in part because God looked down from heaven knowing humankind could never keep a covenant which would make them righteous enough to enter into his presence. Jesus came as the one and final sacrifice for all of our sins. He lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death and rose again for us. It’s a sign for us. The good news for us is that it our way into the kingdom and it is a promise that there is new life at the end of this physical life - A life with the creator of the universe, a paradise for those willing to repent of our sins and chose Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And make no mistake it is a choice - a choice to believe, be forgiven, and partner with Him now. This is really important: every human makes a choice about where their Spirit will spend the rest of eternity. God has given you the opportunity to choose. It’s a gift from God through the blood of Jesus which he allows us to choose to either accept or reject in this realm where we will spend the rest of our lives?