While sharing his testimony, a man suffering from terminal cancer pointed out that even though many of us sing this chorus (right) in Sunday School, when the time comes, we show that we do not believe in it. Simply put, we are not willing to die. We are not ready to go to heaven.
For some it is because of duty: we feel that we still need to be around for our loved ones. Some may even have a conviction like Paul’s: “As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again.” (Philippians 1:22-26, MSG)
Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with glory and grace
I want to see my Saviour’s face
Heaven is a wonderful place
“As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again.”
Philippians 1:22-26, MSG
But if we were to be honest with ourselves, there are some of us who do not want to die because we are afraid. There is always a fear of what is on “the other side”. Even though we may believe in Jesus, we are uncertain that we will actually get there.
Death has a sting (1 Corinthians 15:55). That bite is not always instantaneously fatal. In fact, those of us who are afraid of death have already been bitten by it. Then there are those who suffer from it through disease and sickness, from which they may eventually die.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead cures us from that sting. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54- 55, ESV)
The writer to the Hebrews gave this perspective: “Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Saviour took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15, MSG)
Death was destroyed when Jesus rose from the dead. Finally there was someone who, instead of remaining dead, blatantly spited, defied and defeated death.
Going one step further, Jesus made this victory available to anyone else who wanted it. The secret is to be “in Him”, that is, to believe in Him.
By so doing, we enter into union with the One who is “our transport” (in the words of Fanny Crosby in her hymn, ‘To God be the Glory’), bringing us not just to our final destination, but riding along with us on that journey as well.
If the sting has been rendered harmless for those of us who believe in Jesus, then why do some of us believers still feel its effects? Why are we still afraid to die? Why are we still affected by the sting in all kinds of diseases, sicknesses and infirmities?
This is where we need to make a distinction between believing in Jesus and believing Jesus.
Believing in Jesus is our conversion. Believing Jesus is the commitment of a disciple. The first is just the start. The second is continuing to have faith in His promises, and aligning our lives accordingly in our walk with Him. The first is just an introduction to a friendship. The second is the ongoing effort taken to develop that relationship into one of love, trust and obedience.
Easter is a celebration of victory. Jesus gave us the antidote to the sting. The penalty for sin – that is, death – has been commuted. Life now reigns. Like those who have just been released from prison, it might take some time to adjust to a new beginning. And when we do, we will find that this new life is a wonderful place to be in.
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years.