2000-12-04 - Dying Christians
1 Corinthians 15:31, "I die daily."
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, something strange is happening to the country's executioners manning the gallows. Three people in the last two years have accidentally hanged themselves while clowning around. The most recent mishap occurred when the executioner prepared for an upcoming sentence and slipped the noose around his neck. Apparently he wanted pictures taken of himself standing on the gallows when the trap door gave way, breaking his neck instantly.
In the above verse, Paul says that he dies daily. In several ways we, like Paul, also die daily as part of the experience of living in faith. One way Paul daily died that most of us do not experience was in being in constant jeopardy of losing his life because of his occupation of preaching the gospel.
But there are other reasons why Paul uses this phrase. We like Paul die daily because our bodies are mortal. Death is invading us. Every year, every day brings us closer to the end of our mortal lives. We die daily.
Paul also died daily in another way that we should emulate. He died to sin. There is a great passage on dying to sin in Romans 6:1-11, which ends in verse 11 with, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." This is the discipline which is commonly called, "crucifying the flesh," or "Mortification," or "Sanctification." Paul engaged in this and we should also by dying daily.
Lastly, Paul died daily by being ready to meet death when it came to him. He died daily by his willingness and desire to die giving glory to God through his life. It has been said that the sum of human wisdom is to keep ourselves from being surprised by anything, but that the sum of divine wisdom is to keep from being surprised by death. I am not so sure about that but I am sure that when Paul was writing this verse he was much like us. He did not know when his death would take place. He did not know how it would occur. For many death does not always announce itself with a warning of sickness.
Charles V, Emperor of Germany lived out his final years in Spain. He had a large tomb constructed there. On a planned day he had all his staff march in a funeral procession to the tomb. The Emperor followed. When he arrived at the tomb he was laid in a coffin, the doors were closed, and he remained there for some time. Eventually he returned to his residence filled with reflective thoughts about his future.
Maybe Charles V, went a little too far, but the lesson he sought to drive home to himself is also useful to us. Death must take place for us. It is wise to think about it. It would go far in quenching our pride to take a moment and view ourselves as we will be viewed by others when we have gone to be with the Lord. These thoughts may even be used to lead us to use the time we have left more wisely.
In preparing to write this today I came upon a poem that was designed to be placed of a dining room table. It is by William Geddes who was a Pastor in Scotland and this is from a book a his poetic work printed in 1683.
Thou may'st well know by these thy fresh supplies,
Soli Deo Gloria,