As the year of our Lord 2022 has commenced, I have reached an age (75) when several friends and colleagues and contemporaries have begun to meet their inevitable appointment with the death of their earthly bodies that all of us will experience unless the Lord Jesus returns first.
All of this has caused me to ruminate on the subject of my own mortality (an experience that I find most often an unfamiliar activity for baby boomers such as myself). My first reaction to pondering my own mortality was to be grateful for the good gene pool I inherited from my parents, both of whom lived into their 93rd year and both of whom were in relatively good health until the last year of their lives. My generally good health has probably been aided by the fact that I have not been a consumer of alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs.
Second, I found myself expressing gratitude to my Heavenly Father that in His providence I was born into a family with a dedicated Christian mother who always taught me that Jesus loved me and He had a wonderful plan for my life and that I could know that tailor-made plan if I confessed my sins to Him and trusted Him as my Lord and Savior.
I am so grateful that I came to know Jesus as Savior, Lord, Friend, Counselor, and Life Coach at an early age. As a consequence of my faith relationship with Jesus, I have never feared physical death (although you cannot be in the ministry for any length of time without understanding that there are some ways of leaving this life that are far less pleasant than others).
I firmly believe that “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). I have always had a confident conviction that I would not die until God’s plans and purposes for my life were fulfilled.
Why do I believe that? Because the Bible tells me so. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he informs them that Christians are saved by God’s grace, not our works, but that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God has a unique plan and life purpose for every human being and no one can fulfill that plan and purpose as well as that person can.
Christianity has a worldview and a philosophy and is a way of life, but first and foremost it is a personal relationship between the Lord Jesus and each individual who has trusted Him as their Lord and Savior. Real, true Christianity involves a person knowing Jesus in a first-person relationship as “my” Savior, rather than merely a third-person relationship as “the” Savior.
For those of us who have entered into the personal one-to-one relationship, death is a release from this earthly body to immediately be ushered into eternal life (I Cor. 15:51-58).
Of course, all of us know that the journey from this life to the eternal one is an unknown one where our Savior is our salvation captain. As the writer of Hebrews declares:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor: that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons into glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:9-10).
Additionally, none of us know with any degree of probability God’s timetable for any one of us, so death could come at any moment.
So, how do we want to be remembered? How do I want to be remembered? Every one of us leaves behind a legacy of how we have impacted loved ones and those with whom we have interacted in this life.
As my appointment with my earthly death draws inevitably closer with each passing day, I have made it the settled goal of my life to keep my eye on the prize of finishing well and hearing, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”
How do I make that goal a reality? How do I make it the settled goal of my life to faithfully fulfill God’s providential plan and will for my life as a minister of the Gospel, as a husband, as a father, as a son, as a brother, and as a disciple of Jesus?
An Old Testament character provides a clear and compelling answer. In the book of Ezra we are told that Ezra was used mightily to fulfill God’s purposes because “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” (Ezra 7:7-10, italics supplied).
Ezra was a “Scribe” in Israel which means he was a man who possessed an enviable reputation as an expert on God’s Word. Yet, he made it the settled goal of his life to know the Word of God, then to do it and then to teach it.
Ezra was described as having “the good hand of his God upon him.” Ezra was God’s man, on God’s mission, in God’s time, with God’s power and blessing because he had made it the settled purpose and goal of his life to seek to know God’s Word, to be obedient to it, and to share it with others.
I pray that God will give me the faith and discipline to follow Ezra’s example and finish well. If I am able to fulfill that quest, it will be because He has enabled me to do it. And I will give Him all the praise and glory.
May all of us who name the name of Christ as Savior and Lord present the lives we live as an act of worship to our Lord and Savior.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.