I can feel the sand beneath my feet. Light welcoming the day anew. Ocean salt lingering in the moisture of a sky far removed from the plagues that touchdown on land. It’s seventy eight degrees on the Texas coast and I feel 180 degrees away from the frenzy of a world caught in paranoia.
God is not shaken by this pandemic and neither am I. The waves roll in with the tide every morning and back out to sea like the day before. It is not worried nor fearful. It’s ever present. Just as He is.
There’s something about being at the edge of the earth… so far from all. Yet close to everything… like I’m in a doorway to the other side of the universe… where Heaven awaits me… and Jesus is smiling through the clouds.
I think the apostle Paul felt the same.
“To live is Christ, to die is gain,” he penned in his letter to the Philippians, verse 1:21.
Paul saw Jesus with his own eyes and it shook his entire mindset… replacing it with an eternal one.
He knew death would only be a portal to life with Jesus in Heaven forever. So it kindled expectancy for the life to come and shattered every other fear in the current one.
Paul lived on the edge of the earth… it was his mentality.
His heart somewhere in between earth and Heaven. Unshaken. At ease.
Paul didn’t fear death… and he thrived in this matrix of death-defying zeal.
With the coronavirus circulating, the fear of death is ever apparent.
The world needs a dose of what Paul had… this “to live is Christ to die is gain” mentality… death defying zeal.
Schools, businesses, restaurants are shut down. The hashtag #stayhome is trending without introspection. We’ve ceased thinking about what is really necessary and what isn’t, because paranoia and cultural peer pressure has engulfed. All because we don’t want to get sick. Because we fear death.
Something embedded within the human psyche fears extinction.
When we let fear of death drive our decisions we stifle life itself.
Paul thrived in the life he gave to follow Jesus and make Him known because he abandoned his fear of what might happen to him along the way if he did.
It generated unstoppable power and purpose.
When we shatter the fear of death we unleash the power to live.
Our economy and world will flourish again if we embrace an eternity mindset rather than a here-and-now mindset.
The news can’t give it to you.
The media can’t give it to you.
The government can’t give it to you.
Your job can’t give it to you.
I know who can give it to you… Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. ❤️
“But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20
An eternity mindset is ever cognizant of the life beyond this one… life with God forever… in the New Heaven and Earth… drowning out the worries of this one because we know this is only leading up to our ultimate destination with Jesus.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
He loves you so much… that He took on death Himself… to defeat it… so that we wouldn’t have to meet it. We will be saved from death and sealed into Heaven with our love forever.
Jesus is not afraid of death.
In fact, this was the sole reason He came.
He walked right into it like a boss. Jesus’ strength and boldness is so captivating. His valor. His bravery. ❤️
In the gospel of Matthew chapter 16, Jesus begins to explain to the disciples this pathway towards death that He came for.
“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Matthew 16:25
Upon hearing this, Peter tries to rebuke Jesus and said “No! We can’t let you die Jesus…”
Jesus turned and said to Peter in verse 23, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
That’s interesting… Jesus called the one who wanted to save him from death “Satan.”
Jesus knew that Peters fear of death could thwart the rescue mission to save the human race from sin. So he calls out Satan. Not because Peter is Satan. But because the spirit that tried to speak inside of Peter was Satanic… rooted in a here-and-now mindset, not an eternal mindset.
Sometimes God purposes conflict with ours.
Death is a human concern not a God concern. Why?
Because death is not death…. not anymore… Jesus already died… so that when we die we don’t actually die. We immediately enter into eternity.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
There’s something Jesus knew about death that Peter did not.
Jesus knew dying was the only way to defeat death. Peter couldn’t see that because he only knew death from a human perspective. But Jesus knew about death from a God-perspective. Peter knew death as a bad thing… that’s understandable. He didn’t want to lose Jesus whom he loved. I like that about Peter.
But Jesus saw His death as the solution to the pandemic of our sin.
Sometimes death is the pathway of God.
The pathway of breakthrough.
Jesus goes on to say, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25
Courage often feels like death. Sacrifice feels like death. Doing something for someone else instead of yourself feels like death. Following what Jesus says over what the world says can feel like death.
We must operate according to what is right in the eyes of God even if it puts our life in jeopardy. Even if it’s difficult.
That’s when true liberation happens.
Then death doesn’t feel like death… it feels like freedom.
It feels like victory.
It feels like weightless wonder and audacious faith.
It feels like living.
Nothing has power over you when you don’t fear death.
Nothing but God and His Holy Spirit and “where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” as Paul speaks from experience in his own letter to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
That’s why Paul could say with confidence… to live is Christ and to die is gain. He believed what Jesus said. That death is not death.
He experienced how free and exhilarating is is to operate unhindered and unrestrained.
This past Christmas break I watched the documentary “Free Solo.” It captures the journey of Alex Honnold climbing up Yosemite’s El Capitan wall. Without rope. Yes, you read that correctly. Once I got past the insanity of it, I realized something… the human being is quite capable of great feats when we don’t fear of death. We can accomplish so much more than we realize. But fear often holds us back.
However, it’s important to think about why we do what we do. Climbing up the El Capitan is admirable but I personally wouldn’t give my life for that.
However, I must ask myself what am I willing to give my life for?
When we give our live to Jesus, we gain life in return. And we gain death defying zeal in every aspect of life.
Paul said, “If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”
2 Corinthians 5:13
Paul seemed out of his mind to those who knew him.
Because the old Paul died. Figuratively speaking. His old name was Saul… and this death was a gain for him. It birthed the new Saul… and he changed his name to Paul. Saul was a killer and heartless. But Paul was a teddy bear… in a matter of 3 days. And teddy bear Paul isn’t full of fluff. He’s made of diamonds, barreling through persecutions as if it was another round of dominos.
He sailed through shipwrecks, endured beatings, humiliation, all kinds of hardships and all because He couldn’t help himself but to tell people about this Jesus whom He met and so fell in love with.
“Now as Paul went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him… And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”Acts 9:3,20
the light that pierced me
met my heart
like rivers meet
the oceans deep
death can’t touch
this new life I breathe
Not only did Paul not fear death in the physical sense, but he did not fear death in the metaphorical sense either. Nothing that felt death-like shook him.
And anything that felt love-like became him.
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11-12
When I read this I’m so drawn to Paul’s loving heart here… and stunned at the contrast from what He used to be and what he is now. He used to hunt down Christians and murder them. Now he says… I can’t wait to see you just so I can strengthen you… it’s the most radical love ever. It’s atypical. It’s not natural.
Ever since Paul met Jesus, something happened to him.
There’s something about meeting Jesus intimately that radically melts you and emboldens you.
Paul became a radical lover and a fearless trailblazer. He took the gospel to the gentiles in a moment in history where that had never been done before. It wasn’t a smooth ride. But it was an incredibly satisfying and enriching journey for him because he didn’t fear what he was up against.
Paul didn’t become this on his own. He became this way because of His Father… God… Jesus… whom He met in person and so mirrored from that day on. Jesus heartbeat infused into his.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
Jesus asks us…
What do you believe?
How you operate right now in the coronavirus crisis correlates directly with what you believe.
We will either live out of fear or out of confidence.
I see that the uncertainty looming over death causes fear for many, because of the fact that no human being can give a personal testimony about what happens after they die. It’s understandable that there exists a heaviness surrounding it.
This is why Jesus is the only One we can trust in.
Jesus told us that when we die… we won’t die… His love drenched death in light, reawakened us to eternity to dwell with Him forever.
Death is not death.
Jesus is the only one who died and so came back to life forever… proving that death is not death.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
Jesus is preparing a place for us to dwell with Him in Heaven.
And He gives you that invitation to say yes to this dwelling place with Him after this life…
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God… There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Here at the edge of the earth this water glistens. Turquoise streams trickling into the blue sky before me. I feel the coolness in the air and I can’t help but wonder when our King will come again… His love for you is unending… His zeal for you will not stop until He awakens you to the fullness of life… let Him ease your heart today. For He cares for you.
liquid meshes in the sand
sinks under my feet
the sea will collapse
and the King will romance
the New Earth He loves
“come away with Me
I can hear the spirit sing
for life thrives
beyond what I see
“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Questions for Today:
- Why did Paul say to live is Christ to die is gain?
- What does the Bible say happens after death in this life?
- Why was Jesus not afraid of death?
- How does death-defying zeal unleash your power to live?
- What is the invitation Jesus gives every person to drink of His waters of life?
- What next step is Jesus asking you to take in your relationship with Him today?