The Sting of Death

1 Corinthians 15:51-58(KJV) 51Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

It is said that death and taxes must paid by every person. The government will want its due, even after you are gone. And if you do not have a will, then the government has one for you… And they are the greatest recipient of your estate, not your family.

Yet, life must someday come to an end. And as you leave this world, there is a place of destiny that you are going to, whether you are ready or not. It’s like the kid counting with his eyes close in the game of Hide and Seek. “Ready or not, here I come” he cries and you must be hidden from his site less you be caught. One of these days death will cry out, “Ready or not, here I come…”

Death will produce one of 2 choices.

  • Heaven will be the greatest reward of the Child of God.
  • Hell will be the worst imaginable place for the person not prepared for death.

The question to me then is this… Am I ready for this life to end?

Again, my wife and I checked with each other about the others wish if one of us should die first. Where do we want to be buried? How financially stable are we that the other will not suffer needlessly? Have we accomplished all that we need to accomplish before that day approaches?

I ask you…Are you ready for death? No. But death will come at His own timing, and not at yours. So you would do well to be ready regardless of the when…

This past week, a few stories of death made themselves very real to me. Each for some different reason. But each one contained a moment of sting. But there is hope, that for the one ready we can say with confidence, Oh Death Where IS Thy Sting?

Let me share with you about 3 deaths…

Death Two Minutes Before Peace

I have found a CBC radio program that I have enjoyed. It is hosted by Stuart McClean, called “The Vinyl Cafe”. Though it first showed up on my radar just a few weeks ago while scanning the XM  dial in my wife’s car, I have since found it on iTunes and have downloaded their selection of past broadcasts.

While listening to their broadcast from November, 2008, about the time of Armistice Day (Veterans Day), I heard a poignant story that just spoke to me at an appropriate time. Let me sum it up for you.

On November 11th, 1918, Pvt. George Lawrence Price of Nova Scotia, Canada, was on patrol and came under enemy fire in Belgium. His squadron charged the house and found that the enemy had fled. They charged the next house and there too found the enemy gone. As they were coming out of this house, George took a shot in the chest and died. Exactly at 10:58 a.m., just 2 minutes shy of the Armistice that was signed just hours earlier in France, ending the war that would end all wars.

  • Just 2 more minutes and the war would have been over.
  • Just 2 more minutes and all could perhaps lay down their arms and return to their homes and loved ones.
  • Just 2 minutes.

This impacted me differently this week because I read the news report of our last surviving American WWI soldier who died at the age of 110, last Sunday, February 27, 2011, in West VA. Frank Buckles was just a few weeks past his 110th birthday.

There are two WWI soldiers still living, one in Britain and another in Australia… Frank was the last American.

Along with his death, I read and heard two different stories of the thousands who have died in the two great World Wars, and the Korean and Viet Nam wars, I realize that some went with no desire to fight, but they fought, and some died as a result. One man recently returned to the site of the early Normandy day battles with his family, sons and daughters who knew no war, and yet he was greatly impacted by the death of most of his company.

You see, death, though tragic, and oft times senseless, still produces great stings to the mind. One man wrote: “Memory is nothing but a net full of holes”, yet when you remember those who fought and died for your liberty, you remember only part of the suffering of all those who were there.

Oh for the end of war.

If only we did not have to fight the battles. If only we did not have to send our young men, and now women, into harm’s way.

But this is the way of the world. Wars will be fought. Young men and women will die. Oh, that they not die senselessly, or lost. I would that everyone of them find their pathway to God lined with praying mom’s, dad’s and churches.

Paul says we war not against flesh and blood, but our soldiers are warring in the flesh and paying huge consequences for their actions. We all war against principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places. Let’s not be defeated by the enemy and die a death ill-timed.

Death After Winning One For The Team

Last Thursday night, 03/03/11, a Michigan high school student made the winning score for his team in overtime. Wes Leonard’s game-winning layup, which earned two of his 21 points that game, led the undefeated Fennville Blackhawks to a 57-55 win over Bridgman High School. Teammates hoisted in him the air moments before he collapsed. “He made the shot and then the game was over, we had won, everyone rushed the court,” said Tobias Hutchins, a senior at Fennville High School who was at the standing-room-only game. “He did the team lineups where they all shake hands, the basketball team held him up, he started walking, then collapsed.” According to Dr. David A Start, the forensic pathologist and medical examiner of Ottawa County, the cause of death was cardiac arrest due to dilated cardiomyopathy — an enlarged heart. (ABC News Report)

Leonard was rushed to the hospital but died shortly thereafter… Just 16 years old.

I cannot diagnose someone else’s health. I cannot determine if someone will die prematurely due to some hidden medical issue. Yet I can say that there are some things that we will die of that will come with no warning. The main thing is to make sure you’re ready, regardless of the task you are involved in. I would admonish us to make sure that the thing we are involved in is worthy of our death.

She Died Ready For God

Over the years that I have been around Bro Cleveland Becton. I can tell you he was a gentleman and a very spiritual person. Behind every Good Man is a Better Woman. Sis Becton, in my experience, was always there and always supporting Bro Becton.

I did not know her, and for that matter, I did not really know him. My grandmother knew him so much better. He used to pastor in Texas and it was in the same area as the church my grandmother went to in Baytown, TX. Her pastor was V.A. Guidroz, the District Superintendent for Texas. He was always having men come preach and be with him. And, it seems, they always ended up around my grandmother.

Bro Becton might have had the talent, but Sis Becton was his strength. She passed away this past week, just a few months after he did.

I’ve thought a lot about our elders within this Pentecostal movement. We lost so many of them during the past few months and years.

  • Bro and Sis Pugh died within hours of each other.
  • Bro Hugh Rose.
  • Bro GA Mangum
  • Bro Murrel Ewing

Space would not permit me from adding so many other hundred names. Two others really impacted me that are now gone.

  • Bishop Franklin Jones
  • Pastor Daniel Calk

Along with these, my grandmother was a real special lady that I loved so dearly and remember as a woman of spiritual influence.

With fondness and gratitude we remember their job well done and the passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we honor them in memorial services across this nation. Let’s not let their leadership and passing be in vain. We should continue the torch bearing that they started and passed on to us.

Finally, I had a near death experience this week.

Most of you know I will not call after 9pm, or before 9am, unless it is an emergency. Last Thursday night, I received a call from Bro Peters about 11:45 p.m.. I awoke in a panic; you almost never get phone calls like that unless something is wrong. My hands were asleep and I could not grab the phone. Then my cell phone buzzed and he texted me. And my wife’s phone received a text from someone else. As soon as I could I called him back. He asked, “Are you okay?” Sleepily I replied “Yes.” We had a quick laugh because a prayer request made at another church by someone else sounded like it was “Bro Gurley” had had a massive heart attack.

I then prayed for whoever it was that suffered that night. Somewhat thankful that it wasn’t me.

Since we do not know the ending of our lives, we need to be ready all the time.

My wife works with a man who is allergic to shell-fish. While eating at a Tacoma restaurant this past Thursday, somehow something on his plate caused him to suffer and he went into paralytic shock. I suspect death was imminent, yet he survived. Just the night before he asked about the Bible story of David and Goliath, wanting some enlightenment on the Giant and how big he actually was. Always willing to learn and know more. Our prayers are with him and his family.…

We should not be caught as the Rich Man in the parable having squandered all his opportunity, but to find he didn’t make it, while the beggar outside his house made it. Who’s rejoicing now?

The only rejoicing for the sting of death will be for those who celebrate in the resurrection from the grave. Are you ready for that resurrection?