Death and Life and Eternity 2

That the agency of God is concerned in every instance of bereavement. As it belongs to God to give and to preserve live, so it equally belongs to Him to take it away. He constantly carries the life and death of every individual in His sovereign hand. Though men are surrounded with a multiplicity of natural causes which have a tendency to destroy life, these cannot destroy it without the agency of God. For He can preserve the life of whom He pleases, in the midst of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. And though men are surrounded with a multiplicity of natural causes which have a tendency to preserve life, yet these cannot preserve it without the agency of God. For behold, He taketh away, and who can hinder Him? Whether death comes by disease, or by accident, or by old age, it always comes through the agency of Him in whose hand our breath is. Hence everyone who is bereaved of a friend or relative has reason to believe and say, The Lord hath done it. (Nathanael Emmons, Instructions to the Afflicted, International Outreach)

The sovereignty of God is not just the subject in dry and dusty books written by the Puritans or stuffy theologians, it is the deepest truth of all life. While many think that death is the sole work of the devil or just the result of natural causes, it is not. God is sovereign over every instance of every single thing in all of life. Acts 17 is quite clear that it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being. How hard it is to come face to face with the true sovereign hand of God and know that each person can only be sick or die when He brings it to pass. Another way of looking at it would be that He has no obligation to keep us alive and our lives are in His hand each moment of each day. We only live each moment because in His sovereignty He decides to keep us alive.

It is exceedingly hard to come to grips with this basic truth. God is not just sovereign in the creeds and books on theology, but He is sovereign in truth and in all reality. What is hard to do, however, is not just accept this as a truth, but for the heart to submit to this each moment. This is part and parcel of what it means to bow in humble submission to the sovereign Lord. God is sovereign over all things that happen to us whether large or small or even what we may think of as tiny. It belongs to Him to give life as He pleases and to preserve life as He pleases. The life of every person, animal, and even plant is in His hands to dispose of as He pleases. As such death comes and can only come when God is pleased to bring that upon a person. The testimonies of men and women in history are replete with those who bowed in sweet submission to the sovereign hand of God and kissed the rod as they died.

This great and glorious truth is at the foundation of reality and of Christian humility. We are the Lord’s in all ways and all things and all times. He can do with us as He pleases and when He pleases. The true Christian is the only one that can and should bow to this and see this as a sweet and pleasing truth. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yet we look to the One in whom our life is held into being at His mere pleasure. Nothing can take us out of this world until He is ready for us to leave it. All that we think of as natural causes could combine against us and yet until the Lord is willing we will live. No bullet can strike us and no disease can hinder us and nothing or no one can take us out of this world until the Lord is willing that it would happen. As said centuries ago, we are immortal in this life until God is finished with us.

On the other hand, while it is a dark and grim truth to many, there is the truth that when God is finished with us in this life then we will die in terms of this world. Not only is it true that we cannot die until He is ready, but we cannot live if He is ready for us to die. How is it that some men can go through horrific car crashes and walk away unscathed while others can have just a minor car crash and they die? Both are because of the purposes and eternal plans of God. Some live through terrible landslides with huge boulders crashing around them while others are taken from this life by a rather small and single falling rock. All of these things are in the hands of the living God.

Each death and each illness as well as all life is from the hand of God. Regardless of the assigned reasons of death, it is ultimately from the Lord and in His sovereign hand. If the breath of each human being is in His hand, then nothing can take that breath until His hand is willing to give it up. The person who is sick and dying can know that is true. The friends and relatives of those people can know that it is true. The Lord reigns in all things and all ways and it is no less true when people are sick and when they die. For the believer, this should be an unspeakable comfort. For others, this should be an unspeakable horror. My life is not in my hands to do with as I please, but instead it is the Lord’s. For the believer, whether we live or die we are His. This means we are to live for Him and die for Him. All we do is to be for His glory.

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