There’s a grace to live. We all want to live, as pain free as possible. We try to avoid discomfort unless we believe there’s a reason for it, a reward, a promotion, a better life and future. But we often define better not only as having more of something but as having less – less of what makes me hurt, uncomfortable, unhappy.
There’s also a grace to die. Many close to death experience a peace, a joy, a contentment that baffles those who are far from death. It’s a grace the “living” can’t relate to, a grace they’re fearful of. But for those who trust in Jesus, death is a signpost to the “dying”: This way to life. Death reminds them, “This is the last time you’ll see, hear, feel, and experience things the way they’re not supposed to be.” Death is the last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).
There’s a grace to die. As Christians, the call of Jesus is to take up our cross daily and to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Such grace is expensive, not cheap. The idea of living for another is not a compelling picture. If Jesus comes to us and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?,” few of us would answer, “Give me a cross to carry.” More quickly we would say, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:36-37) We’re slow to understand.
There’s a grace to die. Our discipled life is disrupted. It turns out the American dream isn’t the Christian dream, and the Christian dream isn’t the American dream. The Christian’s pursuit of happiness is not the acquisition of everything needed for the good, carefree life. The Christian’s pursuit of happiness is to make ours everything for which Jesus made us His (Philippians 3:12), above all, that we “may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings” (3:10-11). He saves us and that comes to mean for us that if we have everything we want but don’t have Jesus, we’re miserable; and if we have nothing that we want but we have Jesus, we’re happy.
There’s a grace to die. Grace is a relational word. Grace draws us into the life of Jesus. Grace never leaves us alone or independent of others. It draws us into relationship, friendship, community. It’s good to have an empty room in your home to dedicate to Jesus, for those He will send to you to welcome, to embrace, to love. Many people are helped, but few are loved, and there’s a big difference. Jesus didn’t simply help us; He loved us by giving Himself to us and for us. We get many opportunities to help but far fewer to love. An opportunity to love is an opportunity to give yourself, not simply of yourself.
There’s a grace to die. And in this we find a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a hope that grows and strengthens more everyday, more every year. It is impossible to live for Jesus and for yourself. But it is possible to live for Jesus and for others. You discover that this grace to die is also a grace to live.
Jonathan Evans was raised as the son of missionaries in the country of Mexico. After graduating from Elim Bible Institute (Lima, NY), he moved to Oswego in 2000. He has been serving Elim Grace Church since 2000. He is married to Alissa-jae and is the father of four children. He loves photography, writing and music. He is ordained and has ministry credentials through Elim Fellowship.