“We think of the cross as being at the very center of Christianity—and it is. And yet, apart from the resurrection, the cross stands for death, not life. It is possible for us to stand on the wrong side of Easter and look at the cross all our lives and never be redeemed or saved.”
Those words taken from the following sermon by Billy Graham.
We Can Face Death With Confidence
Physical life is a possession we all hold on to, and yet we know that sooner or later we will die. Death hangs over our heads from the cradle to the grave. The Bible teaches that death is no respecter of persons. Death enters the home of the rich as boldly as it enters the humble apartment in a ghetto. It brings down the final curtain as swiftly on the famous as it does on the unknown. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die.”(1) Our appointment with death is as certain as sunrise or sunset. Before this year ends, many of us will have kept our appointments with death.
A Message by Billy Graham
The Scriptures talk a great deal about the end of the world. But when we die, that is the end of the world to us. We can’t bargain with death. When Queen Elizabeth I lay dying, she whispered, “All my possessions for a moment of time!” But she couldn’t strike a bargain with death.
I have learned that you can tell how a person values life by his estimate of death. What a person believes about death shows what he thinks about life. Over the years I have had opportunities to talk with people who were facing the possibility of death.
One man who had always been healthy had never given a serious thought to death. Then one day he had a pain in his side. He went to a doctor who discovered that the man had cancer. The man said, “Immediately my entire world changed. The things I valued most became worthless, and the things that I considered of little value are now the most important things in the world to me.”
There are at least three philosophies about death that people hold today:
In the first philosophy about death, a person says, “When I am dead, I am dead. I will take my chances with the hereafter.”
Those who hold that kind of philosophy see the drama of life to be without plot or purpose. They see life as a meaningless puzzle, and to them life is a maze in which they wander aimlessly throughout their lifespan and never once catch a glimpse of a higher destiny.
Jesus told of a man who thought that earthly existence was the chief end of man. This man did not believe in life after death, nor did he have any faith in God. This man toiled and prospered, and he became famous. But he also grew old. The only “heaven” that he had hoped for was security, and he had attained it. He said, “I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”(2) He said, “I will take my chances.” He gambled, and he lost.
How different that is from the triumphant statement of the Apostle Paul who said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”(3) The writers in the Bible were looking forward to death with keen anticipation. They knew that this life is only a dressing room for eternity.
The Bible teaches that this life is short and that we can never know when the moment of death will come. Therefore we should be prepared at all times to meet death face to face.
In the second philosophy about death, a person says, “I believe in life after death, but I am not concerned about crossing that bridge until I get to it.” This philosophy was expressed in a newspaper column some time ago. The writer said, “I have come to believe in life after death, but I am not going to worry about it until I face it.”
How strange that people should spend 20 or more years preparing for life’s vocation, and not take so much as five minutes to prepare to meet God! The Bible urges us to “prepare to meet thy God.”(4) We are so taken up with building a good life here that we have forgotten about eternity. C. S. Lewis once warned that when we become so preoccupied with this life and lose the value of eternity, then we lose this life as well.
Some years ago a rich man died, and his servant was asked: “Did your master go to heaven?”
“No, sir,” came the reply. “My master always made careful preparations when he was going someplace, and I didn’t notice him getting ready to go anywhere. No, sir, I don’t think he went to heaven.”
Nothing in life is more important than your appointment with destiny and your date with death. Are you certain that you are prepared? This month, by the time we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands of people will have died. I cannot help but wonder how many of them will be prepared to meet God.
In the third philosophy about death, a person says, “I stand with Christ, the Lord of life and death, and rest my case in His hands.” The Psalmist David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”(5) Here is the trumpet of hope that has echoed down through every cemetery of the world; it has made the experience of death not a bitter end, but a bright dawning.
Jesus Christ, who Himself went down into the grave and came forth with “the keys of hell and of death”(6) in His hands that first Easter, said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”(7)
Victor Hugo in his old age said, “When I go down to the grave, I can say, ‘I have finished my day’s work,’ but I cannot say, ‘I have finished my life’s work.’ … The tomb is not a blind alley; it is an open thoroughfare. … The tomb, which closes on the dead, opens the firmament. And that what on earth we call the end is the commencement. Death is the portal of life.”(8)
We think of the cross as being at the very center of Christianity—and it is. And yet, apart from the resurrection, the cross stands for death, not life. It is possible for us to stand on the wrong side of Easter and look at the cross all our lives and never be redeemed or saved.
No other word in all our vocabulary is more expressive of the message of Christ than the word “resurrection.” At Calvary the little band of disciples watched their Lord Jesus die, and they saw His broken body taken from the cross. Earlier, one of them had betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. Another had cursed and had sworn that he never knew Him. Most of them, turning and running for their lives, had forsaken Him. When Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb and the stone was rolled against it, it seemed that this was the end of all their hopes.
Then came Easter morning, and the midnight of despair was turned into glorious dawning. It was the resurrection of all their hopes.
But Calvary does not tell the whole story. Jesus died for all our sins, but the Bible says that Jesus “was raised again for our justification.”(9)
Several years ago I talked with Chancellor Adenauer, of Germany, and he asked me, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive?”
I replied, “Yes, I do.”
He said, “So do I. If Jesus Christ is not alive, then I see no hope for the world. It is the fact of the resurrection that gives me hope for the future.” As he spoke those words, his eyes lighted up.
Indeed, the resurrection of Christ is the only hope of the world: “If Christ be not risen, then our hopes and dreams and faith are in vain.”(10)
“The resurrection of Christ is the only hope of the world.”
But Christ is alive. And because He is alive, that makes all the difference in the world. In His resurrection evil has been defeated, Satan has been defeated, death has lost its sting, love has conquered hate, God has accepted the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and all of creation bursts forth in a new song. Because Christ is alive, we can face death with confidence.
As we look at the world today and see what is happening, only those who are foolish could be undisturbed. Scientists say that mankind faces the possibility of destruction. Economists say that the world is in economic trouble. We hear dire predictions of the future.
But the resurrection of Christ tells us that if we believe in Him, then we need not panic. We need not wring our hands, asking, “What shall we do?” It is true that we are concerned and burdened, and it is certain that we will pray to God, but we do not cry out in terror as others do.
Is the hope and peace and joy of Christ yours today even as you contemplate death? Can you face death with full confidence that you will enter into the presence of Christ? You can have this hope if you are willing to turn from your sin and receive Christ. You can do it now. The Bible says that “if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, then we shall be saved.”(11) Will you be saved?