The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: Death

Lent Devotional: Job 13-14

Job 13-14 (click here)
Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. (Job 13:15)

For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. (Job 14:7)

But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? (Job 14:10)

Job wants his day in court! He wants to stand before God and argue his case. Have you ever desired the same thing? Yet, even though Job feels wronged in his current suffering, he does not abandon his hope in God. In fact, even if God should bring his death… Job says he will still hope in God. Why?

It is because Job knows that God is sovereignly in control… that is a truth he expresses again and again. Further, Job never lets go of his belief that God is ultimately good. Even amidst all his pain and confusion… even as he would like to share his thoughts with God and argue his case… even through all of that, Job still believes that God is good. Therefore, even if God should bring death, Job hopes in him as the only one who has the power over all his suffering. God is the only one that can redeem and vindicate Job… even beyond the grave.

Like a tree that is cut down, there is still hope that it will sprout again. In that proverb, Job speaks more than he knows or understands. He can see hope for the tree, but not for himself. If he is cut down (dies), then he can no longer be vindicated this side of the grave… or can he?

Job is lamenting how hopeless his situation feels… that even a cut down tree has more hope than he… but even Job knows this is not reality… it just feels like reality. He will later express a deeper truth, namely, that God can redeem him beyond any hopelessness. God can vindicate him, even beyond the grave. Job has just as much hope as the cut down tree…actually…he has more hope. You have more hope! For a tree that is cut down may sprout again, but to what end?… to be cut down again and again and again? Yet, this is not our fate! In Christ, we have the promise that though we may be cut down by death we shall be raised unto eternal life (1 Cor 15)!

For this reason, I can say… I can even sing with joy… though he slay me, I will hope in him!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

Lent Devotional: Job 2:1-10

Job 2:1-10 (click here)
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” (Job 2:4-6)

Satan has been defeated once. He tried to show that Job’s faith was a frivolous response to the material blessings God had poured out on him. But now, all those blessings are gone and Job still worships the Lord. So…Satan changes tactics. Perhaps it’s not physical blessings, but physical health that causes Job to continue his allegiance to the almighty.

Satan is wholly self-centered and cannot imagine viewing the world another way. Surely Job, and all other people, value their own life and health above all else. We know that in many situations Satan is right, but with one (like Job) who truly holds the living God as their greatest treasure, health is merely a bonus, but not a necessity.

How can this be? It is because the one who truly worships God lives with a God-centered perspective, not a man-centered one. The most important thing to a worshipper is that God be shown to be glorious/loving/valuable as he is. Therefore, to lose ones health and still hang on to God only reveals that he is more valuable to you than your own well-being.

The thing that most of the world vigorously values above all, their own health and life, is nothing compared to holding on to God. Even more than that, we hang on to the promise of God that death is not the end for those who worship him! He has promised to destroy disease and death so we dare not let go of him, our ultimate hope! This is the perspective from which Job and we cry, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him!” (Job 13:15)

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

Meditating on My Mortality

Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. – Jonathan Edwards 

Do you ever think about dying? On the whole scale, I think our culture tends to ignore death as much as possible.

We idolize youth and do all we can to maintain looking young! We dye our hair, change our clothes, and even have surgical procedures to disguise the onsetting displays of our mortality.

Why do we do this?  Or…an even deeper question…what does living like this do to us?

284912-graveyard-1319926148-334-640x480I firmly believe that if we live in denial of death, we will not truly be living at all.

I think that is what Jonathan Edwards was getting at in his resolution to meditate on his own mortality. It wasn’t that Edwards was absurdly morbid or wanted to be depressed all the time…no…quite the opposite! He wanted to live fully, and he believed this could only be done (and would only be done) if one were constantly aware of the fact that their life could end at any moment!

Edwards wanted to ingrain into his everyday thinking the commonality of death and that his own would come in a common, most likely, unannounced way.  And, he was not the only person to think in this manner. Many pastors and theologians of old would keep a skull on their desk to daily remind themselves of their inevitable end.  In some way, they apparently found this to be both a helpful and wise practice.

mortalityThis seems so strange to us, but in my own experience I have found this to be extremely freeing and powerful, which is what I think Edwards intended.

I actually talk about my own death often with my wife, Holly, and early on in our relationship she found it to be quite disturbing…but over the years I think she has grown more accustomed to my meditations on mortality and seen what I mean when I say that God uses such reflections to fill my heart with freedom and power.

I feel freed from false priorities. There are so many things that seem so important until you focus on the reality of death. This has a way of rearranging and reorganizing your priorities and it nearly kills your pettiness altogether.

I feel freed from anxiety. There are so many things that I worry about which have no eternal significance. Meditating on my mortality helps me to keep these things in perspective and approach accomplishing them out of a sense of freedom…not fear.

I feel freed from self-importance. It is so easy to have an inflated view of myself. Instead of seeing that I am a part of God’s grand story, I tend to see him as a part of mine. Death has a way of crushing such a perspective. When I think of “great people” in Scripture and how commonly their deaths are reported…it is really humbling. Great people, used in great ways…and in a verse they are gone and the story goes on, because the story is ultimately not about them, but about God! Thinking about my death helps me keep that perspective…it helps me have a right view of God and of myself.

I feel empowered to live. I don’t live each day in a hazy false reality of supposed immortality. No. I live each moment to it’s fullest knowing that it could be my last (or at least this is my goal). Such a perspective does not negate living responsibly and wisely. However, it does free us from many false notions of responsibility and wisdom that are really nothing more than fear. To think often about my death doesn’t depress me, it empowers me to live life fully while I still live.

I feel empowered to love. Each moment I have with people is a precious gift from God and I want to love deeply. Mortality has a way of minimizing the things my kids do to annoy me…it has a way of making my arguments with my bride seem so trivial…and in place of my pettiness, meditating on death has a way of awakening new depths of love within my heart for these amazing people that I did not even know possible.  Thinking about the brevity of life helps me to get over silly little things that so often steal time and energy from my relationships. It empowers me to love.

I feel empowered to laugh at death. If you are still thinking this all sounds way too morbid…consider this with me for just a moment. The real reason reflecting on death is a positive experience for me is because it has been conquered by Christ. Death is not natural! There is a reason we don’t like it and don’t like to think about it…we were not created for it! We were created for eternal-joy-filled living in relationship with God. Death is an unnatural interruption. Yet, Christ has conquered death…it has no victory for the Christian. So I can laugh at death, because it cannot even do to me what it is designed to do! Death is supposed to end life, but for the Christian…death transfers us from life to life. We move into the presence of God…into eternal life. Death cannot even deliver death anymore! The joke is on death and we get the last laugh! Therefore, meditating on my mortality helps me to live life to the fullest now, knowing that true life can never be taken from me!

So I am resolved to mediate on my mortality…for only in light of the fact of death can I truly, fully live.

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