How will you die?
Whenever I hear stories of combat heroes, something resonates deep within me. I don’t cry often, but when I see a war movie, with brothers fighting alongside each other and paying the ultimate price, my eyes will start welling with tears. There is simply something right and just about the willingness to die with honor, fighting for what is right. In many ways I believe that this should be our ultimate aspiration while we are on this earth: a deep desire to die well.
Last week, as I was reading through the book of Acts, I came across these verses where Paul describes his willingness to die for the mission that God had given to him. The mission to share the gospel and build churches in areas that were hostile towards the message of Jesus Christ:
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22-24
In the next chapter of Acts, we find more similar dialogue between Paul and the local believers in Caesarea:
“When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’” Acts 21:12-14
Paul speaks plainly about his willingness to face hardship and even death for the Kingdom of God. He has a desire to die with honor, defending what is right, and acting in obedience with what God has asked him to do. Paul lived out a very difficult calling that God had given him. His obedience changed the course of history in this world, advanced the Kingdom of God, and inspired followers of Jesus for the next 2000 years.
His life sets the example for the only kind of life that I have found that is more aspirational than that of a war hero: a hero of the Faith. Someone who is not only willing to die for their belief, but proactively follows God into potentially dangerous territory and puts their life on the line.
The only reason that Paul’s mission is more significant than that of an American hero is because of who Paul was following: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person in history who lived a perfect life. He was killed to pay for the sins of the world, and then raised from the dead to ascend into heaven. He is personally inviting people into a relationship with God through faith in Him. This is the gospel, and truly believing in it is a quite radical concept in and of itself.
How will the end look for you?
Paul actually did end up dying for the gospel. He held onto what he knew was true until his last breath. Thousands of men have given their life for this country and died honorable deaths, dedicated to the cause of freedom. Similarly, Paul gave his life for freedom, but for an eternal freedom that can never be taken away. Not even death has a hold on Jesus Christ and the life that he offers in His Kingdom.
When the time comes, will I die well? At that moment, how I spent my life will mean more than anything else. Did I fully live out my calling, making disciples and obeying scripture? Did I love my family well? Were those around me pointed towards Jesus through knowing me? Did I take risks for the Kingdom of God? Whether it’s in my sleep at an old age, on some foreign mission field, or in a boardroom, it doesn’t matter. When the time comes I want to know that I went out well.
How do you want to die? It’s a question that requires significant contemplation and a serious answer.