Woe to men and to nations when they assume that life is their most precious possession! On this premise the preservation of life is said to be the first law of nature. But such is not the case in the realm of the spirit, for there may come a time when choice must be made between life and death, and the right choice is death.
Many years ago a missionary and his wife were confronted with a decision in which their own lives and the lives of two small children were involved. During those crucial days they came across an article in which there was this statement:
“If for truth man should die,
’tis his perdition to be safe.”
The unknown author of those lines expressed a truth, the philosophy of which is based on the eternal words of our Lord: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
These words, of course, have a spiritual application. They also make it clear that there are things more precious than life itself.
Here in comfortable, satisfied America, we are prone to forget that even in our own day there are men and women dying for their Christian faith. In areas controlled by unrestrained communism, thousands have died rather than deny their Lord. Even as this is written such incidents continue to transpire.
What would you do if you were confronted with the choice of life or death, and this hinged on one spoken word of denial or repudiation of your Christian faith?
Church history is replete with the stories of those who suffered the loss of everything: who went to the lions, the flames, the guillotine, or the wrack with praise on their lips.
Life is a wonderful thing and its ending seems tragic. But life is a transient phase of man’s existence, and that one who is so engrossed with the present that he fails to see what lies beyond is to be pitied.
The “heroes of faith,” enumerated in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, were men to whom life was a matter of secondary importance. How our own generation needs a renewed sense of those values by which alone man looks up and beyond the immediate and sees with the eyes of faith the eternal, which changeth not and fadeth not away!
We are prone to view the tragedies of our world in terms of human suffering and want; and in so doing we tend to look for their solution at the humanistic level. By this we may bring some measure of relief to the body and superficial comfort to the mind, but we fail to bring that hope for the soul which is to be found alone in the death and resurrection of our Lord.
This preoccupation with bread and with the secular is insidious because, while it is right to be concerned about such matters, the danger is that our concern will end there.
Satan’s taunting accusation against Job: “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life,” is true wherever materialism prevails. But when Christian ideals dominate one’s philosophy of life, an adjustment takes place and these ideals become more precious than life itself.
The writer of Proverbs says: “There is a way which seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” The more man centers his affections on the material, the more he looks on life as an end in itself. He forgets that man shall not live by bread alone, nor can his soul be satisfied with those things which are certain to perish with the using.
It is at this point that we all need to evaluate the social implications of the Gospel. They are not an end in themselves, but are certainly the fruits of Christian love.
The humanitarian claims and social needs of mankind must be viewed in the light of the total man.
It is all too easy to see humanity in terms of this life alone. But what shall it profit us if we help to alleviate need and establish justice and peace, and then neglect man’s spiritual life which is not only for today but for eternity.
Furthermore, as Christians, it is our primary duty to point all men to the One who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” for the life of which He speaks begins now and lasts forever.
The inevitability of death should lead man to a proper evaluation of his present life in terms of eternity. That it does not do so is but additional evidence of the folly and blindness of unregenerate thinking. Life beyond the grave is a clear affirmation of the Holy Scriptures, and the empty tomb of our Lord is the assurance of hope to all who will believe. Even so, our primary concern is, more often than not, centered upon those things which never reach beyond the grave.
How few of us take seriously our Lord’s admonition: “Surely life is more important than food, and the body more important than the clothes you wear.” It is our preoccupation with living that beclouds our horizon and keeps us from looking to that city, the maker and builder of which is God.
Moses chose to renounce the privileges of Egypt that he might please the One who is invisible. Later, with the courage that comes only to those who are faithful, he stilled the terror of the Israelites with these words: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today.”
In secular literature we often read of a bravado that laughs at death, but this is not the Christian’s way. To the Christian this life is but the entrance hall into a glorious eternity. Life is something to be cherished, to be used for God’s glory, to be expended in accord with divine plan. Because of this there are many times when we must be careful to distinguish between immediate ends and eternal gain.
Poor indeed would this world be had there not been men and women through the centuries who saw life and ideals in their proper perspective. To these men and women who “loved not their lives unto death” we owe more than we can ever repay.
Our Lord said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
Now that, to moderns, hell is no longer a place of torment and separation from God, and Satan is no longer a personality but only the incarnation of evil influences life is often regarded as man’s most precious possession. But to God faithfulness is infinitely more important. To those who are faithful unto death, He has promised a crown of life.
L. NELSON BELL
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