Dementia is a hideous condition to witness. Those who suffer most are the ones who must watch the dismantling of their loved one, memory by memory. The person they knew crumbles before their eyes and is replaced by a shadow, confused and helpless.
Grandma June was dying of cancer, it had spread to her brain and was wreaking havoc. Grandpa could not take care of her and she was moved to a nursing home where she would stay for the next year of her life. I would often travel with my mother to Pleasantville, Iowa to visit and help care for her. Mom made the long trip once or twice a week for months. An example of love and self-sacrifice in itself.
For his own purposes God decided this strong woman I have been describing to you this past month, must spend her last days as a deteriorated human, unable to care for herself or think properly. I remember my mom’s tears overflowing as she frequently wondered out loud why her mother, who had had such a difficult life (I have only told you portions) now had to also have a lengthy, difficult and undignified death.
But was it undignified? We must always remember that our lives are not our own. The reason for life being placed in bones and flesh is not for the benefit of the bones and flesh. What a pointless waste of a soul that would be! We live to display the everlasting glory of God, our lives should point to God. “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7.
In the last year of Grandma June’s life she displayed a beauty that I will never forget: the Word of God remained in her. It was an amazing thing. She couldn’t brush her own hair or remember the faces of her family, but she remembered God’s Word.
During church services held at the nursing home, the pastor would mention a scripture reference and Grandma June would recite it out loud, word for word. The pastor would ask a question about the Bible and Grandma June would respond. I remember one pastor saying with a smile, “June always knows it!” God’s Word had not left her heart and it still came out when nothing else would.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8. Grandma June was a human example of this verse. The dust that was her body was failing, the Word of God which is eternal stayed, a magnificent gift from God.
Was the end of Grandma June’s life undignified? Certainly difficult, yes, but not undignified in the way that matters. To be used as a conduit of God’s living Word is a blessing; truly a treasure in a very broken jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). He did not have to allow it, but he did. Grandma June provided evidence that she had spent her life well. She had spent it pursuing her Savior and treasuring his word in her heart.
What will be the evidence of a life well lived when your final days come? Will you be surrounded by worldly treasures and trophies, with the accolades of others ringing in your ears? Or will others around you be able to observe that you have spent time with God? The choice is made every day and every minute. Live for God… or live for dust. Which are you doing at this very moment?
Grandma June lived for God and all the trials she faced are long gone now. She would be among those who heartily agree with 2 Corinthians 4:16-17:
Grandma June’s life displayed God’s glory, not in a way that she (or any of us) would have chosen, but in the way that God chose for her, therefore the best way possible. She is now reveling in that sweet glory for all eternity. She lived her life on earth for the life to come, not for the life that was. It is evident in the words she would write in the Bibles she gave to others: “Read this, obey it and meet me in Heaven. We’ll sit under the tree of life a thousand years and eat the fruits and drink of the living waters flowing from the throne of God.”
I look forward to singing beside Grandma in Heaven someday soon. I can’t help but wonder if God gave her a perfectly tuned voice to sing his praises when she got there… or if it had been perfect all along.
I may seem like a very mild-mannered, gentle lady, but sit down across from me at a board game, deck of cards or anything slightly competitive and you will see a whole other side to me. Just ask my husband what I’m like to play Ping-Pong or air hockey with. I just love winning. You get to see a glimpse of this today.
Several years ago a former pastor of mine who liked using football analogies said in a sermon that there were no sidelines in life; everyone is on the field playing on one team or the other. Being someone who also loves football, the visual stuck with me.
No sidelines, no benchwarmers, no plank riders. Everyone in the world is on the field playing for one side or the other at this very moment.
People like to think that they are “on the fence” and undecided about this Jesus person. When they are ready, they will make the choice to take him or leave him. The truth is found in John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
If not currently playing on God’s team, you stand condemned just as you are (on the other side of the ball). By not making the decision to follow Christ, you have decided against him. You are wearing Satan’s jersey and fighting side by side with demons. This puts you in a very dangerous position; you are fighting against God as his enemy (James 4:4). The wrath of God remains on those who do not obey him (John 3:36).
For those who have been drafted and have decided to accept and follow Jesus, are you an active player or more of an obstacle to work around? Are you following the playbook (the Bible) God gave you to equip you and sustain you? Are you talking to the only one who can help you through the struggles of offense and defense?
C’mon, Ladies, this ain’t no powder puff game! Put the eye black on and get in on the action. Fight for your God and the teammates around you. Put all you have on the line for the one who gave his life so you could be his and have eternal life with him in glory.
The awesome part of all this is knowing Jesus has already won the victory for us. He accomplished this long ago on the cross. He allows us to share in this victory if we accept what he has done for us. I plan to be a part of God’s team and do all I can to increase our team numbers for the glory of God. Hey, I told you I love winning.
This game does not last forever, there is an end coming. The losers get an all-expenses paid team bus trip to Hell. The winners get to go to Paradise to live with Jesus. This seems like quite the easy decision to me.
As the football hype peaks this weekend, let it be a reminder to you to check your jersey. Make sure you are playing for the winning side and being an active participant. I may talk like this is a game, but it is a matter of eternal joy or eternal torture. Don’t allow Satan’s heavy, stinky jersey to stay on you another second, the Hell bus is warming up. Rip it off and choose Jesus. He will make you into a new creation and give you the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within you. Yes, it is a very nice recruiting package indeed.
I have already offended many of you with just with my title alone, but I don’t believe there is R.I.P. or “rest in peace” after death. This phrase alleges that after you die you can relax and take it easy after the busy or painful life you left behind. Like you can finally take that nice long nap you have always wanted. What a great picture for the rest of us left on Earth to imagine, it simply makes us feel better about this whole dying thing.
So here’s my beef, the Word of God tells us that there are only two options after death and neither involves nap time.
Option 1: Easy Street to Hell - This is the more popular option and many take this route. I hesitate to say (because it hurts) that the vast majority decide to take this option. This road is well paved and easy to travel on. It has been used many times before and will be very comfortable. You will have many friends and family traveling this road with you. It is nice and broad and can accommodate a wide variety of people. Don’t just take my word for it, Matthew 7:13, “…For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
The main problem with option 1 is the final destination, which is Hell. Hell is a real place. Here are just a few descriptions you may find in the brochure:
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 2 Thessalonians 1:9
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:50
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Revelation 14:11
So if you go with option 1, there will be no resting in peace. You will be too busy weeping and gnashing your teeth in the tormenting darkness away from the Lord, never allowed to close your eyes in sleep again.
Option 2: Hard and Rocky Road to Heaven - This is a much less popular option and not many choose it. The path that leads to Heaven is narrow and difficult. Matthew 7:14 – “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” The trail is bumpy and usually doesn’t seem to make sense. There are twists and turns, ups and downs. Sometimes you feel like you are the only one on it. Your friends don’t understand why you would choose such a path; it doesn’t make any sense to them. Many times the path can be dangerous. But then there is the final destination…Heaven!
Now if you think you are going to rest in Heaven, you are oh so mistaken. The last thing on your mind will be rest. You will be so energized by being in the presence of your Savior that you will never want to close your eyes again. You will never be able to get enough of Jesus and you will be too full of joy, love and yes, peace to take a nap. Trust me…it won’t even cross your mind.
So there is no R.I.P. in the worldly way of looking at things; no naptime and no eternal slumber. But you can have rest from your struggles and know true peace by being with your Savior in Heaven. In Heaven there will be no more troubles, fear, pain, or cancer. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4. This is a solid promise from God, but only for those who are in Heaven. Only those who have travelled the narrow path while here on Earth.
So, how do you find the narrow path? Well, for starters, it’s not a place, it is a person. John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The narrow path we must travel is directly in step with our savior, Jesus Christ. We must believe in him and receive him and then are given the gift of being adopted as a child of God (John1:12). When you are part of the family you get to live where the Father lives, in Heaven.
Whether you know it or not, you are already on one of these paths. Check under your feet, are you planted on the solid rock of Jesus Christ or are you just “going with the flow”, agreeing with the world and strolling along Easy Street toward Hell? Choose quickly and choose wisely, your final destination matters.