The Fear of Death and the Fear of a Wasted Life

I heard a message this week that touched on the life and death of the reformer, John Calvin. On the whole, Calvin was prone to sickness and suffered from various ailments. Yet, he would labor in the work of the Lord – studying, writing, and preaching while sick. He made his poor health subject to his insatiable desire to please Christ. It is said that he dictated his last commentary on the Book of Joshua while on his deathbed. And when asked to stop and rest, responded with these words: “Would you have the Lord find me idle?”

Calvin was not a man who feared death but rather – as it would appear – one who feared a wasted life. I used to fear death. As a child, I would have dreams of dying and going to hell – an appropriate (and even gracious) warning for an unregenerate girl. By God’s grace, those fears have now been silenced by my assurance of salvation in Christ Jesus. 

On this matter, the Scripture declares that: “The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56) And since my sins have been cast on Christ Jesus, the punishment for those sins – namely, God’s just, full and, eternal wrath in death – has also been suffered by Christ on my behalf. As such, death is not the beginning of suffering (or some dreadful unknown) for the Christian but rather the start of our eternal and glorious life with Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  “God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Our place is forever with the Lord; whether in life or in death, we shall be with Christ!

My prayer today then is to have an attitude like that of Calvin’s – a disposition that fears a wasted life over death. I want to do well for the Lord – an alert and useful servant who keeps a lamp burning and whose Master finds her dressed in the hour of His need (Luke 12:35-40). My prayer is that my heart would not be captured by dissipation, distractions, and the cares of life but would be consumed by a love for Christ (Luke 21:34). How ever many years there might be for me, I want to live each one jealously for His glory.

Now this isn’t the completion of some “I have to please God bucket-list of things to do” but rather a fixed gaze on the One who is faithful to complete the good work that He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6). My “work” in all of this is to actively pursue sanctification, growing in conformity with Christ as the Holy Spirit graciously enables me to will and to work (Philippians 2:12-13). So my sisters and brothers, let us cast away all fear – but the fear of Him – and run the race as though to take hold of Christ, our Imperishable Prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). And in the end, may our joy be the sound of His “well done” (Matthew 25:21)!