The End of Death and Pain
1 Corinthians 15:51-55, We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… this mortal body must put on immortality… “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
When in medical school, I thought I wanted to be a Family Practice physician. As it turns out, I was not very good at it. I found it difficult to care about an abstract idea like high blood pressure if it did not make a patient feel sick. I was much more interested in a dislocated shoulder. The patient with such an injury has a tangible problem and is thus, much more in need of my help. This is why I ended up in the Emergency Room.
The more obvious or pressing the problem, the more I was interested in it. I was just not as interested in treating a disease that will hurt a patient someday. Though I am capable of abstract thinking, it is not what I am good at. If I cannot see, feel or taste a thing, it is just not as important to me.
Faith then, is hard. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Though I believe in the spiritual world, it is not nearly as obvious to me as the physical world. My flesh life, honestly, usually feels more real than my spirit life. My flesh life, in its realness, distracts me from faith as faith requires an acceptance of the intangible. If I could literally see God, He would not require my faith.
Paul, in today’s passage, promised that someday, all pain and suffering will come to an end as we depart from this flesh. Though the flesh life seems more real to us, Paul insisted that it is not our ultimate reality. Though we are flesh and spirit now, the flesh life will eventually end. The grave awaits us all. It is only our spirit life which is eternal and thus, more real in the end.
Paul promised that one day, all our pain and miseries will cease and we will, in our eternal spirit life, know ultimate joy and peace. As long as we remain in this flesh, we are subject to its decay, pain, death and sorrow. Though this life is not all misery, to live is to know sorrow and eventually death. Death, for the follower of Christ, is not the end. It is, rather, the beginning of our true life. When we are free from this body, we will be free from all pain, sin and sorrow. Even death will have no more power over us.
In pondering the life after death idea, I began to wonder if this passage encouraged an inappropriate fixation on death. Faith though, is not a death wish. Faith is living in this flesh with an appropriate focus on God’s spirit in me now. Though I live in the flesh, I am to keep my eyes on God, pursuing and loving him. In doing so, I come to know God’s perfect spirit life in me, even as I live in this defective body.
My job is not to hurry to the end of life. My job is to live this life to its fullest by walking in faith, keeping my eyes on God in me. Daily, I am to pursue not the flesh life, but the spirit life. Though the flesh often seems more real, I will come know the reality of God in me, if I will seek him. I may think this flesh life is the greater reality but in faith, I realize that it is not.