What To Do About Death

what-to-do-about-death

“How do you feel about dying?” 

This is a question I asked Dave last week.

This week I watched Dave die.

As I watched my friend Dave die there in the hospital room, I saw something more clearly than ever before: Being ready to die is the most important thing about life!

“Scared…”

This was the first word of Dave’s answer.

This is how many of us feel about dying.

And if we aren’t scared of dying, maybe we should be.

The day before Dave died, I made a casual comment about “death.”

I was feeling sorry for myself and said to someone who loves me something casual about how someday I was going to die.

There was nothing casual about watching Dave breathe his last.

There was nothing casual about watching his wife and daughter say goodbye to him through their tears.

There was nothing “normal” or “routine” or “just another day” about the fact that I saw Dave’s heartbeat go all the way down to 0.

No longer was the room filled with the belabored sound of his breathing or the machine monitoring his heartbeat.  Everything was silent.

Dave’s soul just left his body to meet God.

Dave was right… death is something where it is right to be “Scared…”

I resolved right there to stop saying anything casual about death as long as I live.

I called my loved one to say I was sorry about what I had said because death is final.  It is separating.  I asked to be forgiven for speaking of it casually.

“Scared… but it’s a good kind of scared…”

Dave smiled at me when he said this part of his answer.

I met Dave a year ago when he came to our church with his family.

It became clear to me Dave had cancer but it was unclear how much longer he had to live.

It was also unclear if Dave was ready to meet God.

I began to go over to Dave’s house with the hope that I would catch him on a “good day.”  My hope was God would open up the door for me to talk with him in between his chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

As Dave and I talked it became clear he did not understand how to “repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).” We would talk about who Jesus was as the Christ and what he had done for us by dying on the cross for our sins and rising again to give us new life.  We would talk about turning from sin and trusting in Jesus.

Dave lived in an apartment with a beautiful view of the Seal Beach pier.  On the days when there wasn’t an open door to talk with Dave, I would take a walk down the pier and stare into the sea down below.  I would pray for things beyond the surface of what I could see, the things of eternity after this life.  I would pray for Jesus to “Save Dave.”

I thought the Seal Beach pier was such a great spot our church began to go there to tell other people the gospel.  We would park our ice cream truck right there next to the pier in downtown Seal Beach. While we were handing out free ice cream we would ask people what they thought about Jesus and tell them about the 3 Most Important Words: Gospel. Repentance. Faith.

All of a sudden I saw Dave walking towards our ice cream truck.  He had seen us out of his apartment window and wanted to come down and say “Hi.”  Dave was in such good spirits that day.  He grabbed the 3 Most Important Words tract out of my hand and began to explain to me what the gospel was beginning with the fact that Jesus was God.  He told me all about repentance and how we cannot keep living in the sin Jesus has died for.  He explained faith and that we are not saved by our works but the finished work Jesus has done for us.  I was overwhelmed with joy that Dave now knew what it meant to be saved!

But Dave went on to say that he did not want to give his life over to God.  Dave said, “As a man, I want to be in control of my own life.”

I had thought that Dave’s cancer had made it clear he was not in control of his life, but now Dave was feeling better.  My joy that he knew what it meant to be saved was crushed by the fact that he did not want to.  I was so sad after our conversation but that same day I was preaching at Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, the church that planted us here in Huntington Beach.  I could not stop thinking about Dave so I asked the entire church to pray Jesus would “Save Dave.”

Around the beginning of this year Dave’s cancer came back with a vengeance.  A few of us were talking about it at church on Sunday morning as Dave was on the way to the emergency room.  The end, it seemed, could be near.  So I went up in front of our church at our 11:00 service and asked everyone to pray for Jesus to “Save Dave.”  We all prayed together right there in our church for his soul.

That same day, one of the men at our church was moved in his heart to go talk with Dave.  He walked over to his house there overlooking the pier in Seal Beach.  He told Dave he needed to confess his sin and get ready to meet the Lord.  And on that day, just a few weeks ago, Dave was willing.  I got a call late that night.  Dave is saved!

I wanted to follow up with Dave myself and so I went to visit him in the hospital soon after.  Even though Dave’s health was deteriorating for some reason he was clear headed, his voice was strong and we were able to talk for a long time.  It became clear to me that Dave really had given up his life to the Lord.  He was no longer holding on to control himself.  Confessing his sins to Jesus had become his “cornerstone.”  Something had changed in his perspective.  He was thinking differently about dying.

I had one more conversation with Dave where I asked him “How do you feel about dying?”

It turned out to be the last conversation I would have with a man I would call my friend.

The nurses or “fan club” as Dave would call them kept coming in and asking for “donations.”  It was harder for him to talk that day.

“Scared… but it’s a good kind of scared…”

As we talked through his answer it became clear to me what Dave was saying,

It is scary or intimidating to meet God, but it is good if you know him. 

Dave was actually the second man from our church who died this week.  The first was Carleton.  Carleton is actually the man who inspired me to start writing this blog. When I was visiting him in the hospital he said, “WE NEED A REVIVAL!”  You can read about the impact Carleton’s faith had on me here!

Carleton’s memorial service is this Saturday (February 4th) at our church at 2:00 PM.

Dave’s memorial service is next Saturday (February 11th) at our church at 10:00 AM.

As I considered death this week, I am compelled to preach to our entire church at Compass HB this weekend: WHAT TO DO ABOUT DEATH from 1 Corinthians 15:50-57.

Death is not something we can ignore or think of in a causal way.  Every single one of us need to have an answer to the question:

“How do you feel about dying?” 

2 thoughts on “What To Do About Death

  1. I used this analogy recently with a friend whose husband was passing away who was saved. When most of us are getting ready to board a plane when we are leaving for a vacation, we have a little anxiety even though we know that we are going somewhere great. That’s kind of how I look at it. I have the Peace that knowing when I leave this place I will be present with the Lord. He will not look at me without seeing His Son. That is where my peace comes from.

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  2. I cried as I read this. So many tines in my life I’ve said I just wish I was dead. But do I really mean it. To see this man not wanting to give control over to God and almost die without God made me so sad.
    I’m glad that he found the Lord before he died. I’m scared too, to die. But I do know that one day, I , too will die.
    We do need revival that is for sure. People are souls and when I don’t share the Good News of Jesus to them, their blood is on my hands!

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