Psalm 23:4a RSV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me.
There are very few Americans, believers included, who are simply (if they were honest enough to admit it) petrified to die. It’s why “staying young” is a multi-billion dollar industry. Plastic surgery, health care, exercise clubs… even the insistence that 50 is now the new 40!
We are afraid to die.
But I was ready something this morning in Spurgeon that hit a note with me:
“The journey of death may be dark, but we may go forth on it fearlessly, knowing that God is with us as we walk through the gloomy valley, and therefore we need fear no evil. We shall be departing from all we have known and loved here, but we shall be going to our Father’s house…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, February 7, morning).
John 14:1-3 RSV
“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Both of my parents are gone, but if they weren’t, I wouldn’t be afraid of going to their house. Even if they had moved to a new home in a new city in a new country—to a place where I’d never been—I wouldn’t have a lick of fear in going to their home. I would know that there, in their home, I would be safe, protected, loved, made over, totally surrounded by their love.
And yet, within each of our hearts, we entertain a fear of dying? Is it because we’re not really convinced that God is our Father?
I think we are afraid to be in the presence of One Who, to put it simply, we don’t know very well. He isn’t familiar. Rather than being the father with whom we’ve grown up, He’s the father that we don’t know at all (or not very well). For many of us, at (spiritual) birth, rather than remaining in His presence to learn, to grow, to mature, we simply . . . walked out. We have become convinced that “getting saved” (being spiritually born) was enough and we left His home to go back to our previous, more comfortable, lifestyles. We are afraid to go to His home because, simply put, it is so unfamiliar to us as to be scary. And while we cannot “literally” be in His home (yet), we can be there in the spirit through prayer, through the study of His Word, through worship, through the fellowship of other believers (fellowship that is focused on Him).
The sad fact is that even for those Christians who are regularly involved in a local fellowship, most of us aren’t really seeking God’s presence. What we want is some kind of mystical experience that will melt away the hardships of life and allow us to rest in ease (rather than resting in the arms of Jesus while the storm rages). We aren’t seeking a true experience with Father God because we are setting the perimeters of our experience rather than simply throwing ourselves on Him in trust and allowing Him to determine what we experience.
We are afraid . . . to die, to suffer, to lose. We want the joys and irresponsibility of youth rather than the suffering and duty of maturity. And by embracing that, we lose. We lose the fullness of interacting with our Father on any kind of significant level. We lose developing and growing a trust that comes with a mature faith.
Jesus said to His disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” This isn’t some kind of empty saying; it’s a statement of command given to His disciples (including us): Do not let your hearts be troubled. Don’t allow it; don’t entertain it; don’t live it. How? Believe in God. Do we truly believe in Him? Do we trust Him? Do we believe His promises are authentic? If so, then we will look forward to death and heaven with anticipation and open arms. We will truly know that we are going to our Father’s house, there never more to leave.