Did you ever hear a person pray this way:”Lord, teach us that we are going to die”?
If would be natural for you to say that you have not heard that prayer, for it is not a common prayer. What would be the purpose of praying it? We all know we will die one day.
But do we really?
If we know we are going to die, then why do we live as though there will always be a tomorrow?
King David, Israel’s king, prayed that prayer. Listen to his words:
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:4-5).
Of course we know we are going to die. James says that we are a mist for awhile, and then we vanish. Jesus says, “Take no thought of tomorrow.” We already know all of this; so why do we live as if there will always be a tomorrow?
As we look at pictures of our children when they were young, we see evidence of life’s brevity. Those children are now middle-aged, and we think how it seems like just yesterday they were little. The same thing is happening to us. Some drastic changes take place in our bodies and minds between the ages of 70 and 85. Yet we postpone a trip to see a relative for another five years. This is living like there will always be another tomorrow.
This is Tiger Woods’ and Phil Mickelson’s day. Not too long ago it was Jack Nicklaus’ and Arnold Palmer’s day. Before that, it was Babe Ruth’s and Joe Dimaggio’s day.
This is a truth we must understand Ð not only intellectually, but also personally Ð as we live out these days.
Today I am alive. For me, this is the day that I have the privilege to care for my wife. Tomorrow she or I might no longer be here. God help me to understand this.
Today, for many of you, this is a day to see some of the great sights of history. Maybe it is a trip to the Holy Land so you can walk where Jesus walked when he was on this earth. Or perhaps it could be a trip to Wittenberg, Germany to stand by the castle church door where Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses, which were the basis for the Protestant Reformation. Or it could be to sit in Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, two of the last historic baseball parks left, and see where the greatest players have pitched their no-hitters or hit their home runs.
Do it. Don’t save it for retirement because retirement may never come for you and your spouse. Or if it does come, you may not be physically able to travel. Don’t live as though there is always going to be a tomorrow. It just is not true.
Nevertheless, you will never be able to truly enjoy today if you are not prepared for eternity. There is a life beyond the grave. It will either be spent in heaven or in hell. The Psalmist understood this. He writes, “My hope is in you.” It is not our financial statement that saves us. Those dollars can take us to Jerusalem to see the Holy City of which we have sung, but Christ, who is our hope, will take us to the new Jerusalem that knows no end.
“Save me from all my transgressions.” Our sins are serious, even though we might try to explain them away or even laugh at them as though they are not very serious. They can separate us from God forever. However, Jesus can take these transgressions away through his suffering, death, and resurrection, and we can be reunited with him to live forever.
“I was silent; I would not open my mouth.” Until this guilt is taken away and I have opened my mouth and confessed my sins, there is no lasting peace. We are not prepared to die. How can we stand before a righteous God? Dare we be foolish enough to think we can plead our own case?
In Christ we can say with St. Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In him we can sing, “O Lord, what a morning” as we greet the new day. But we can also say, If this is my last day on earth, tomorrow will be better, for I have learned that I am going to die. There comes an end to our tomorrows.
Death is no respecter of age. We pray for a long life, but some of the best days might be before us. After my brother-in-law died, his daughter wrote to us: “Those days were packed with emotion. We stood in dad’s room and watched him say goodbye to each of his loved ones. He wanted to be sure that, as he left them for his heavenly home, he could rest knowing Jesus was their Savior.”
Pray with me, Lord, teach me that I am going to die. Don’t let Satan and the world convince me that there is always a tomorrow.