Faithlife Sermons

Death for a Christian

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Questions:

1. . What does it mean the “valley of the shadow of death”?
DR. DONALD GREY BARNHOUSE was one of America’s great preachers. His first wife died from cancer when she was in her thirties, leaving three children under the age of twelve. Barnhouse chose to preach the funeral sermon himself. What does a father tell his motherless children at a time like that?
On his way to the service, he was driving with his little family when a large truck passed them on the highway, casting a shadow over their car. Barnhouse turned to his oldest daughter who was staring disconsolately out the window, and asked, “Tell me, sweetheart, would you rather be run over by that truck or its shadow?”
The little girl looked curiously at her father and said, “By the shadow, I guess. It can’t hurt you.”
Dr. Barnhouse said quietly to the three children, “Your mother has not been overrun by death, but by the shadow of death. That is nothing to fear.” At the funeral he used the text from the Twenty-third Psalm, which so eloquently expresses this truth. That illustration from Dr. Barnhouse’s own experience has been used by countless preachers to help other families face their fear of death.—Billy Graham
4. Would you like to know when you are going to die?
In the mid 1970s, high-tech workers in Los Angeles began constructing a new generation of spaceships. The first to be launched was the Space Shuttle Columbia, the flagship of NASA’s new fleet.
Columbia blasted off April 12, 1981, and orbited the earth thirty-six times. Twenty-seven missions followed, but Columbia’s final trip was a flight to tragedy. While reentering earth’s atmosphere at nine o’clock (EST) on the morning of February 1, 2003, the shuttle broke apart. A piece of insulating foam the size of a small briefcase had peeled off during launch sixteen days earlier and punctured one of the vessel’s wings. The intense heat of reentry caused gases to penetrate the wing, triggering the catastrophe that killed the seven astronauts. Debris fell across large parts of Texas and Louisiana as thousands of people gazed upward in horror.
Several years later, a poignant report emerged about the destruction of Columbia. While the mission was in progress, NASA specialists studying the punctured wing questioned whether the damage was fatal. Wayne Hale, the space shuttle program manager, recalls these words of flight director Jon Harpold: “You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS [thermal protection system]. If it has been damaged it’s probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don’t you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?”[126]
Harpold’s question was a speculative one—should the crew be told if it was determined that the damage meant doom. Further analysis, however, led mission control to conclude that Columbia’s reentry would be safe. The crew was given a full report of NASA’s conclusion, and no one on the ship or on the ground had any expectation that the damage would prove fatal.
So neither NASA nor the Columbia crew ever knew the situation was hopeless before their spacecraft broke apart 207,000 feet above Texas. Evidence shows that even in the final moments of the flight, the crew was still desperately trying to regain control of the ship and safely reenter the atmosphere.
But the hypothetical question raised by Jon Harpold remains a haunting one. What would you do if you knew the crew was doomed? Would you tell them, causing indescribable mental anguish but giving them time to say their good-byes, reflect on life, and perhaps make peace with God? Or would you remain silent, making their final hours a time of exhilaration and anticipation of reunion with their loved ones? [127]
In a way, the plight of Columbia resembles our own: we’re flying through space on a spinning planet, and every person is subject to sudden death at any moment. None of us will escape. The difference is, we all know we are going to die, and we have the opportunity to prepare!—David Jeremiah
. Most of us feel a little queasy about death now. How will we feel five seconds after we die?
According to , your soul and body separate: “as her soul was departing (for she died).” Angels take/escort you to heaven (), and you immediately enter the presence of God: “… to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” ()
. What are some things people do to deny the reality of this verse?
. What are some things people do to deny the reality of this verse?
We live in a death-denying society.
Even the language and atmosphere of funeral homes denies death. A person who has died is said to have “departed.” The person is stripped of his or her name and referred to as a “loved one.” There are persons who are specialists in applying makeup to a dead body to make it appear as if the person is only sleeping.
Advertisers do all they can to help us deny the ultimate fact of life. Billions of dollars are spent on a cosmetic industry that promises creams and lotions will slow the aging process and make the user look younger. Joggers line the roads, often before dawn; and workouts at health clubs have become popular ways to keep the body in shape to prolong life. Fiber is an increasingly prevalent part of some people’s diets as physicians tell us of its ability to reduce the risk of cancer. Many people are giving up smoking to reduce the possibility of heart and lung disease.
But the irreversible fact is that no matter what your diet, no matter how much you exercise, no matter how many vitamins or health foods you eat, no matter how low your cholesterol, you will still die—someday, some way. You may add a year, or even a few years to a life that could be shorter had you not been concerned about your health, but in the end death will conquer you as it has every person who has ever lived.
If you knew the moment and manner of your death in advance, would you order your life differently? If so, when would you do it … right now, or would you wait until the day before? And then what would you do to right the mistakes you made during your life?
Unfortunately, no one knows the day or the hour of his death, which is why it is best, in the words of the scout motto, to “be prepared.”—Billy Graham
Have you known anyone who believed in reincarnation? It seems to be making a comeback. Why do you think the belief is so attractive to some?
. How did Paul feel about death?
. What does he mean, “better by far”?
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