Today, February 2, 2014 was a great day in so many ways. My family and I spent some real quality time together and I wrapped it up by watching the Seahawks spank the Broncos in the Super Bowl. As I enjoyed the game I engaged in harmless banter with all the other Facebookers that were providing a running dialogue about the game. The game ended, then I saw it. In very short order, I became aware of two deaths that occurred today. One this morning and one this evening.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
First, I read that this morning the Academy Award winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed away, most likely of a heroin overdose. He was not portrayed as a junkie. Rather, he was portrayed as a man with a lot going for him, but was struggling with a drug problem. People were pouring out condolences all over Facebook for this national celebrity, loving father and gifted actor/director. Many mourned the loss of this familiar face in the entertainment industry.
The second death that I read about regarded a man that worked as a fire equipment operator for the High Point Fire Department in High Point, NC. He also worked for Guilford County EMS as I understand it. His name is Todd Martinez. Todd was not a national celebrity. In many ways, I am sure he considered himself an average joe. But, to those that knew him well, he was a local celebrity. Many knew him and many loved him. According to an article I read, along with the many, many posts on his Facebook page, I understand this man to also have been a wonderful father and husband as well as a joy to work with. He seems to have been an unsung hero in the eyes of those whose lives he impacted. Sometime in the evening while we were all preparing for or watching the Super Bowl, Mr. Martinez was out riding his bike when he was struck by an automobile. Despite a valiant effort by Fire, EMS, and Moses Cone Hospital Emergency Department personnel, this dear man did not make it. His seemed a life well lived and a life that will be missed.
Below the surface.
So why tell all this on a blog? What point am I trying to make? Well, we have all heard the phrase "life goes on". Shucks, a song was written with that title. There was a television show with that title. And it's true, life does go on, whether we want it to or not. But below the surface of life's continuing fast pace, is death.
Most people are not very aware of it. We prefer not to think about it unless we absolutely have to. By that point, we have spent so much time avoiding the uncomfortable truth that all people die, sometimes suddenly and tragically, that we don't know what to do with it when it smacks us between the eyes. However, there are a few of us, in particular lines of work, who face death all the time and are aware that it happens all too often and quite often, far too suddenly and tragically. Those in roles such as emergency workers, police, pastors, and employees of morgues and funeral homes. We do not have the luxury of ignoring death as a reality not to be faced unless absolutely necessary. It is always lurking as a truth that cannot be avoided and may very well be around the next corner.
I work in the Emergency Room at Moses Cone so I can tell you first hand what it must have been like when Todd Martinez was brought in. I can also imagine what it was like to potentially observe the heartbreak of the family, as they tried to wrestle with the idea that their loved one was gone. Oh yes. Life goes on, but death is not far behind it, and no one knows when it is coming.
WOW! Really! Your really morbid Josh!
Not really. So why in the world am I delivering this grim message you ask? I will tell you. I believe we all need to be given reason to spend a little time considering the brevity of this life. Even those of us who face it everyday have mechanisms in place to protect us on some level until that moment that we come face to face with it yet again. Believe it or not, death, loss, and grief, while never easy, are easier to deal with if you have given your response to them some thought before they happen. In fact, scripture suggests a particular attitude that we should have toward this life and it's certainty or lack there of.
James 4:13-15 gives us these instructions. James says, "Come now, you who say, "today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit", yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. instead you ought to say, "if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that".
A Word of Encouragement
I want to encourage you. I am not drawing attention to these things as an opportunity to preach or fuss. NO. These men's lives deserve the honor of not simply being used as a tool. We need to honor them by living our lives with death in mind. We need to, as the song says, "Live like we were dying". Life is short and we are but a vapor. God is in control and only He knows and controls when we will leave this earth. He calls us to live in the now. So love your families. Kiss them, hug them, bless them with kind words, and please never cease to ensure that they know by your actions and your words how much you love them.
Even more than that. Honor them by making a difference with your life. By showing love to those whom you don't know and have no specific reason to love. And if you are a professing Christian, love your enemies. Our idea of what an enemy is varies but whether it is someone you don't know well, or if it is that spouse that you can hardly stand the sight of, God still commands us to love them like Jesus did. In light of this topic we would be foolish not think on this for a moment.
Hope in Death through Christ's example.
Jesus gave it all. Jesus died for those who would believe while they were still sinners. He died for them while they were still as enemies to God(Romans 5). He did not wait for them to fix their wrongs or change. That is what Jesus asks of us as believers, to strive for unconditional love. However, once you are a believer, repentance and obedience are key evidences of true faith.
If, when you think about death, you are gripped with fear, it may be with good reason. The bible says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"(Romans 3:23) and that "the wages of sin is death"(Romans 6:23). If you or your loved ones do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord in a way that is evidenced by repentance from sin and obedience to His word, then not just physical, but spiritual death and eternal suffering are the end you will face. You and your loved ones have much to fear without faith in Christ. Eternal death does go on.
However, if you or your loved ones have placed your trust in Jesus and are following Him and repenting of your sins, then you have much to rejoice over. You don't have to fear death for yourself or for those you love. If you and those you love have placed your faith in Jesus then death for this mortal body is nothing more than simply stepping over the threshold of a door into an eternal dimension where there is no more pain, suffering, or sadness. You see while Romans 6:23 states that "the wages of sin is death", it also states "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". That is Good News that, when properly understood, can bring peace and joy even in life's most difficult trials, including death. Even in physical death, through Christ, eternal life does go on.
Put your trust in Jesus
So, if you don't know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then cry out to Him to save you and start reading the Gospel of John in a bible. He will change your heart and give you "joy unspeakable and full of glory"
(1 Peter 1:8). You will repent of sin and pursue obedience willingly out of your great appreciation for what Christ did for you on the cross. If your loved ones don't know him then, once you have been saved, introduce them to Jesus in God's word and wait for God's Spirit to do the same work in them that it prayerfully has done in you.
If you are already a believer then rejoice in life and rejoice in death for both are covered by the blood of Jesus. And, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven"(Matthew 5:16).
In Jesus name,