Where’s God When I Fear Death?

Is death the #1 fear people have? The simple and complicated answer is: It depends. Fear of dying is a BIG fear in those that statistically are the least likely to die: the young. But fear of dying is very LOW for those on death row, the elderly, and the terminally ill.

I hope to convince you of a fourth group that shouldn’t fear death. It’s a group that all of us can be a member of: Those who understand that physical death is not the end. 

In the Garden of Eden, God planted one tree that was off-limits, and He said that the penalty for eating from this tree was death (Genesis 2:16-17). satan tried to get Adam and Eve to doubt what God said, and after they ate the fruit, it appeared satan was correct—they didn’t die. At least not physically.

But their sin did something far, far worse—it separated them from God’s presence. Now when God appeared, Adam and Eve hid in fear. In fact, Jesus even told His followers that the greatest fear wasn’t physical death but spiritual death (Luke 12:4-5). 

Jesus came to lift our hope to something beyond this physical world. He said, “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

Famed atheist Bertrand Russell said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” 

On the other hand, Jesus DID die for His beliefs and proved He was right by His resurrection! 

Friend, listen to me—We’re definitely not living our best life now. We are all terminal. Unless Jesus returns, the chances of our physical death are 1-in-1. 

But physical death is not the end! Death of the body means freedom for the soul. Jesus has defeated Death once for all! “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” Jesus said (Revelation 1:17-18) 

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) 

Invite Jesus into your life right this moment!! 

Once you have invited Jesus into your life, and your sins have been forgiven, and your destiny following your physical death is assured, this is how you should now live: 

  1. Live in joyful hope. Not optimism—that’s just the belief in what you think you can do. But hope is the belief in what you know Jesus has already done!
  1. Live free of all anxiety and the fear of death. Because nothing can separate you from God’s love and presence (Romans 8:38-39).  
  1. Live telling others about your Risen Savior. It’s the most loving thing that you could do for anyone. 

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful of death is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too! 

We can live this way because Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins that separated you from God, and He was resurrected back to life to assure you that your eternal home in God’s presence is secure!

Leaders Listen

“The moment you wake up each morning your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other Voice, letting that other, stronger, larger, quieter Life come flowing in.” —C.S. Lewis 

“God said, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Yes?’ answered Abraham. ‘I’m listening.’” —Genesis 22:1 

Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak. I’m Your servant, ready to listen.’” —1 Samuel 3:10 

“How much of God are we missing because we don’t stop to listen to the many voices God uses to speak to us?” —George Washington Carver 

“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” —Proverbs 18:13 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” —Winston Churchill

A mark of a godly leader is one who listens to the counsel of other godly leaders. 

“Wise, godly leaders know they must listen to the counsel of wise, godly leaders.” —Craig T. Owens 

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” —James 1:19 

“There are none so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear, none so ignorant as those who will not listen… and none so foolish as those who think they can change those who will not see, hear, or listen.” —Warren Bennis

“Correct the wise, and they will love you.” —Proverbs 9:8 

“What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? … He is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.” —Jane Addams, in a speech about George Washington 

“People don’t lose intimacy when they stop talking, but when they stop listening. Leaders seldom realize how much their listening empowers the other person. Because they are leaders, the sheer act of listening speaks volumes that even a great speech can’t communicate. …   

“A leader’s communication must be consistent, clear, and courteous. But leaders must also be good listeners. When leaders don’t listen: They stop gaining wisdom. … Leaders listen; leaders learn; and then leaders lead.” —John Maxwell 

This is part 43 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Whose Fight Is It?

In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups… (Genesis 32:7). 

Jacob’s brother Esau is approaching with 400 men! 

Esau is the man who sold his birthright to Jacob, and then had his father’s blessing swindled away from him by Jacob. And now he is rapidly approaching Jacob and his entourage. 

Jacob’s natural response is, well, natural: great fear and distress grip his heart (v. 7). In his agitated state of mind “he thought” of a strategy to try to appease his brother and save as many of his family members and possessions as he could. 

And then another strategy popped into Jacob’s agitated mind: Then he prayed (v. 9). He concocted his own plans first and then he prayed. Prayer should have been his first response, but at least he finally did get around to praying!

In his prayer, Jacob twice reminds God, “You said” (vv. 9, 12), and in-between those reminders he confesses to Him, “I am afraid” (v. 11). 

As he speaks to God, reminds God of His promises, and confesses his own heart-quaking, knee-knocking fear, God says:  [crickets chirping in the warm evening]. 

God is silent. 

So Jacob returns to his own strategizing—once again we read “for he thought” (v.20)—until he is utterly out of options. All he can do now is wrestle with God (vv. 22-30). All out of his own options, Jacob now tenaciously clings to God and will not let Him go! 

In the Hebrew language, the name Jacob means a man who struggles, thinks, and strategizes using his own abilities*. 

After finally submitting to God, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel**. Now Israel lets God do the strategizing and the fighting. Jacob tried to figure things out on his own; Israel lets God’s plan prevail. When Israel bought his first plot of ground after his name had been changed, he built an altar there and named it El Elohe Israel—The Almighty God is my God (33:20). 

Israel now says, “I’m done striving with men on my own. I’m done fighting people and trying to figure out how to make things happen for me. From now on I will only wrestle with God, and I’ll let Him fight the battles for me!” 

How often do I strategize on my own first, and only after I have run out of options do I run to God in prayer? This is a Jacob spirit in me! I don’t want to live this way. I want to be like Israel—clinging to God as my first and only Source of help. 

How about you?

* In the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible, there is an interesting note on Jacob’s name. For instance, when Esau says, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob?” (Genesis 27:36), the FSB editors offer this commentary: “Esau uses the Hebrew word ‘aqab here, which is a wordplay on Jacob’s name in Hebrew, ya-aqov. … Esau suggests that Jacob’s name actually has to do with him being a person who supplants or cheats other people.” 

** Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel (Genesis 32:28). The FSB commentary points out, “Jacob’s name must be changed due to its association with his misdeeds. Here, the reasoning for the name Israel (yisra’el in Hebrew) is the verbal phrase ‘you have striven with (or struggled with) God.’ This suggests the name derives from the Hebrew verb sarah, meaning ‘to struggle,’ ‘to strive’ or ‘to fight.’ The name yisra’el itself could mean ‘God will struggle,’ ‘May God struggle’ or ‘God fights’….” 

What’s In A Name?

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son… (Genesis 29:32). 

Jesus said that ALL the Scripture pointed to Him (John 5:39). That means even the various names of people in the Scripture give us some insight into the nature of Jesus. 

Consider Jacob and his sons, who become the fathers of the tribes of the nation of Israel. Jacob the deceiver is transformed into Israel the guileless, and the names of his sons point to what Jesus does to transform all of us into His righteous brothers and sisters. 

[Check out the links posted below to read all the Scripture references.]

Reuben—God sees my misery and sends His Son (Genesis 29:32; John 3:16). 

Simeon—God sent His Son when I was unlovable (Genesis 29:33; Romans 5:6-8). 

Levi—after I am saved from my sins, I am joined to God (Genesis 29:34; Ephesians 2:1-5).

Judah—my salvation brings praise to God (Genesis 29:35; John 15:8).

Dan—God has vindicated me in Jesus (Genesis 30:6; John 8:11).

Naphtali—Christ’s righteousness has given me victory over my struggles (Genesis 30:8; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56). 

Gad—God’s favor now advances toward me like an unstoppable troop (Genesis 30:11; Romans 8:31-39). 

Asher—I am now able to enjoy God’s happiness (Genesis 30:13; Matthew 25:21, 34). 

Issachar—God IS my reward (Genesis 30:18; Revelation 3:20-21).

Zebulun—my Husband (Jesus) honors me (Genesis 30:20; Ephesians 5:22-23; Hebrews 2:11).

Joseph—God has taken away my disgrace and added His blessing (Genesis 30:24; Romans 8:1, 32).

Manasseh—God has made me forget my past (Genesis 41:51; Psalm 103:12).

Ephraim—God has made me abundantly fruitful (Genesis 41:52; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Benjamin—I am God’s son (Genesis 35:18; Ephesians 2:6)! 

God has done ALL this—and more!—through Jesus! 

When you read the Bible, don’t rush through it. Slow down. Meditate on it. Soak in it. And then see how the Holy Spirit will illuminate truth to you. 

[Please check out the Bible references I’ve listed above for yourself. All of the Genesis references are here, and all of the other references are here.]

God Keeps His Word

…as He had said… (Genesis 21:1-7).

This thought—and even the phrase itself—permeates the Bible. From the very beginning of Time itself, whatever God says—happens!

His word is His bond: What He had promised (v. 1b). There are no loopholes, no equivocations. When God says it, it is signed, sealed, delivered!

When is His word accomplished? From the moment He says it. His word cannot be altered nor delayed. We simply wait for its fulfillment: At the very time God had promised (v. 2).

This also means that I must obey what God says. If His word is immutable, my faith and obedience must be just as steadfast. Just like Abraham: Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him (v. 4).

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would help remind us of everything God has said. The same Word that tells us God’s promises is also the same Word that sparks the faith to believe His Word (Romans 10:17). 

Get God’s Word.
Believe He will fulfill it in His timing. 
Obey everything He says.
Laugh in joy when you see His word accomplished: God has brought me laughter (v. 6)! 

All Of HIStory Is His Story

There were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned (Genesis 36:31). 

When Rebecca was pregnant with twins, they jostled each other in her womb. God said this was an indication of what was to come of the two nations that would arise from her sons. God also said that the older son would serve the younger son (25:23).

The nation of Edom was a fierce but unstable people. Just take a look at the succession of their kings to see the power struggles at every transition. But eventually, King Saul would war against Edom, and King David would subjugate them—making the prophecy true that the older son served the younger son.

What went into the fulfillment of this prophecy?

  • Esau (also known as Edom) short-sightedly sold his birthright
  • Jacob and Rebecca conspired to get Isaac to bless Jacob instead of Esau
  • Esau married Canaanite wives, which disappointed his parents and strained relations with them
  • God blessed both Esau and Jacob so that Esau had to move to the region that would eventually bear his name: Edom

Along the way, Esau had a son with his Canaanite wife named Eliphaz. Eliphaz had a child with a concubine named Timna—a son that grew into one of Israel’s most deadly foes: the Amalekites!

Yet all of this was foreseen by God and fulfilled His pre-ordained plan. Once again: All of History is His story. There is never any need for us to worry about turmoil—political or otherwise—because God is in sovereign control… always! 

(By the way, this is not an isolated incident. There are countless examples in the Bible of how God’s sovereign plan is fulfilled, despite man’s best efforts to derail it. Check out another example here.) 

God’s Blessing On A Good Attitude

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… (Genesis 39:2).

This idea is repeated throughout Joseph’s life:

  • the Lord gave him success in everything he did (v. 3) 
  • the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph (v. 5)
  • the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden (v. 21)
  • the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (v. 23)

For 11 years as a slave in Potiphar’s house and 2 years as a prisoner in jail, God not only blessed Joseph but He also blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph. 

This wouldn’t have happened if Joseph had been bitter over his situation. 

He didn’t demonstrate a bad attitude, but an outstanding work ethic. 

He didn’t look for opportunities to subvert and scheme, but he submitted and served. 

These principles are echoed in the New Testament as well:

  • Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
  • Slaves, obey your masters with respect (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Work well whether your boss is watching you or not (Colossians 3:22-23) 
  • Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Live such good lives that others may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12-20)

[check out all of these verses by clicking here] 

This attitude is one that receives both God’s blessing and man’s favor. When we steward this blessing and favor well, we bring even more glory to God! 

Whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a prime minister, God blessed Joseph and He blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph’s attitude. Can the same be said of our lives?

How Foreigners Pray

I am a foreigner and stranger among you… (Genesis 23:4). 

Abraham and Peter remind us that God-fearing people are foreigners; they are not citizens of Earth. Christians are respectful of the people, laws, and customs of the land in which they sojourn, but they know that this land is not their home. 

Abraham wanted his son to have a wife who was of the same mindset—not attached to the place of sojourning but looking forward to Heaven. Abraham knew how an earthly–focused wife (like Lot’s wife) could distract her husband, so he sent his servant on a mission to find a heavenly-minded, godly woman for his son Isaac.

This servant was a godly leader in his own right. He was loyal and loving to Abraham’s family. Abraham gave him two simple boundaries: don’t take a wife from Canaan, and don’t take Isaac back to Mesopotamia (the land from which God had called Abraham). 

Notice how this godly leader undertook his mission:

  • He prayed a very specific prayer for success (24:12–14)
  • After praying, he “watched closely” (v. 21) to see how God would answer his prayer
  • He praised God when it appeared that his prayer has been answered (vv. 26, 27, 46)
  • He shared his answer to prayer with others to get confirmation (v. 50)
  • He quickly followed through with what God had provided (v. 56)

A mark of a godly leader is one who bathes his activities in prayer.

When God calls us to live in a certain way, it is fitting that He will answer our prayers that align with that way of living. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to “ask for anything in My name.” 

This is part 42 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Justice And Love

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). 

There are consequences for sin (because God is Just) and there is a remedy for sin (because God is Love). 

Adam and Eve sinned. 

They lost their innocence before God, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they would experience pain in childbirth, they would have to scratch to provide their food, they would experience relational turmoil, and most devastatingly of all, they faced the potential of being separated from God’s presence forever. 

These are all just penalties for sin. 

But don’t miss God’s love in this too—

  • God came to them in the cool of the day, not in the instant of their sin 
  • He came walking in the Garden, not hurling lightning bolts of judgment 
  • He came with questions, not accusations 
  • He cursed the devil and the ground, but not Adam and Eve 
  • He provided for the final defeat of satan, not the final defeat of mankind 
  • He killed an animal to clothe their nakedness, not leaving them vulnerable 
  • He didn’t allow them to become immortal while still in their sin

There are painful consequences for sin—this is Justice. 

But even in justice, never lose sight of the fact that GOD IS LOVE ❤️

Run To Wait

My wife is a fan of the TV show (and movie) Downton Abbey, which means I have come to appreciate it as well. I think Mr. Carson, the head butler, gives us some great insight into a Christian’s prayer relationship with God. 

Mr. Carson has a lot to oversee with the house, the staff, and the needs of the family members and their guests. Everything needs to be tidy and ready at all times for both important guests and the Grantham family. That means Mr. Carson has to have a schedule and routine for everything. 

He doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for someone to tell him what to do—he gets up and gets to work. He’s a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. But can you imagine if Lord or Lady Grantham came to him with a request and he responded, “Not now, I’m too busy with my To Do list”? No way! He’s their servant, so he quickly responds, “Yes, my lord.” 

Christians can so busy and hurried with our own “To Do list” that we miss out on what’s really important. As Rick Warren then noted, “Hurry is the death of prayer!” 

The dictionary defines hurry as acting in haste, usually in a state of urgency, or feeling rushed. Notice the word “urgency” in the definition. Far too often we confuse urgent things and important things. It’s not that what we’re busy with are bad things, but perhaps we are busy with things that are keeping us blind to the important things. 

Long before Mr. Carson, there was another notable servant named Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). God showed up and Abraham wanted to be in His presence. So notice that Abraham had to run to wait to God’s presence—the narrative uses words like hurried, “quick” and ran.  

Abraham was quick to get into God’s presence SO THAT he could linger in God’s presencehe stood near Them under a tree: that’s the posture of a servant-in-waiting. 

In the NIV translation, the text says Abraham hurried, but almost every other translation says he ran to meet Them—this is an important distinction. Hurry speaks to things that are urgent, but run speaks to things that are important. 

Stephen Covey has a great diagram that helps us identify four important quadrants in our life:

As you place items from your life on this grid, our Prayer Coach—the Holy Spirit—can help us identify the time-wasters. The key is to find time to wait in prayer. The best place to make time for Quadrant II prayer comes from Quadrant IV. As you eliminate those time-wasters, you will be able to spend health-enhancing time in prayer, worship, planning, and self-care in Quadrant II. This will also better equip you to handle the Quadrant I crises as they appear.

Ultimately, like Mr. Carson, we need to be both proactive with our schedule and responsive to the requests of our Lord. A good daily posture for all of us is “If the Lord wills” (James 4:13-17). But we have to not be so distracted with unimportant things that we can hear what God is speaking to our hearts.

Please join me next week as we continue to uncover things that could derail our regular prayer times, and then strategize a plan for dealing with them.  

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