The Inevitability of Death

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Edwin Lutzer; ©2003
Like it or not, at some point we will all face our own death. What comfort can Christians hold on to when that time comes? Dr. Ankerberg’s guest, Dr. Erwin Lutzer explains.

The Inevitability of Death

Dr. John Ankerberg: Erwin, you have a great story to illustrate that we will all face death at some appointed time and place. Tell us that story.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: John, today we begin with a fable that comes to us from the Middle East. The story goes that a Baghdad merchant sent his servant to the marketplace one morning to run some errands, and while there, the servant met Lady Death, who startled him. So the servant came back and said to his master, “I met Lady Death. I’m so afraid. Please give me a horse so that I can ride all the way to Summera tonight to get away from her.”

Well, the master gave him the horse and then later that afternoon the master himself went to the marketplace and met Lady Death and said, “Why did you startle my servant this morning?”

And Lady Death said, “Well, I couldn’t help it. I was so startled because I don’t know what in the world he’s doing here in Baghdad because I have an appointment with him in Summera tonight.”

Ankerberg: That’s a great illustration. But you know, Erwin, even though we acknowl­edge that our death is inevitable, few of us are really looking forward to it. What can you say to help Christians face death?

Lutzer: Well, whether it comes in an auto accident or a disease or however, death will come to us. It is absolutely certain. But I want you to know that Christians die within the context of God’s providential care and love. For example, in John chapter 11, Lazarus is sick. And the Bible says that Jesus stayed away two extra days to give Lazarus time to die because Jesus wanted to use Lazarus as proof of His resurrection power. But here’s what it says: “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.” Isn’t that wonderful to know that Jesus loved them and yet Lazarus died? The fact that somebody dies does not mean that God has ceased loving him or her. Indeed, God loves His people all the way to the end.

Paul says that, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities can separate us from the love of God.”

But what’s interesting in that story is this. You remember, Martha comes out of the house and she comes running and she said, “If you had been here, my brother had not died.” Mary comes out saying the very same words. Obviously, the sisters had been talking about this. “If you had been here our brother had not died.” If, if, if, if only!

I remember a woman who convinced her husband to go to a concert one night that he didn’t want to go to and en route they were in a car crash and he was killed. Do you know that for 14 years every morning that woman went to the grave of her husband to bemoan the fact that she had convinced him to go where he did not want to go and therefore felt responsible for his death?

My friend, that is foolishness. That kind of guilt comes from the devil! It does not come from God! Haven’t we all at times convinced our mates to go to places where he or she did not want to go and we could have been in a car crash? We are, after all, only human beings.

Another woman, her little four-year-old daughter looked up and said, “Mommy, can I

cross the street now?” The mother thoughtlessly said, “Yes.” The child darts across the street and is hit by a truck. If you are suffering from that kind of guilt today, I want you to know that is a false guilt. That’s not laid on you by God. You are laying that upon yourself.

Here’s what I want to emphasize. As believers, we die within the context of God’s provi­dential care. Perhaps some of you heard on the news of Scott and Janet Willis. That was way back in 1994 when they were on I-90 going up to Milwaukee with six of their nine children. A piece of metal falls from a truck; Scott is unable to avoid the metal and he drives over it, punctures the gas tank, the whole van is in flames. All six children die–five at the scene of the accident and the sixth died later.

We had them at the Moody Church as they explained to us the awesome sense of God’s presence. Do you know what Scott said to his wife as the van was burning? He said, “This is the moment for which we have been prepared.” Wow!

Isn’t it possible for that piece of metal to have fallen a half mile further along or a half mile before or to skid into the ditch rather than on the highway? What about my nephew killed in a car crash in Canada because a truck hit some ice? Could not that ice have been in a different part of the highway? Or if my nephew and his friends had begun that trip five minutes sooner or five minutes later they would not have hit the truck at that particular time? If, if, if, if only!

Ankerberg: That’s a good point. I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there who are con­sumed with the “if only’s” of a loved one’s death. How can you help them?

Lutzer: Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to take, as it were, in your mind a piece of chalk and take all of the “if onlys” and then draw a circle around those “if onlys”. The circle represents the providential care of God for His people.

You know, you may be acquainted with the hymn, “Day by day and with each passing moment”? That song was written by Lina Sandell Berg, whose father was on a ship with her and the boat lurched, a sudden gust came, and he fell overboard and she watched him drown. But listen to one of the stanzas. Isn’t this beautiful? Doesn’t this represent the kind of faith that honors God?: “The protection of His child and treasure, is a charge that on Himself He laid; ‘As thy days your strength shall be in measure,’ this the pledge to me He hath made.”

Did her father die within the providence of God’s care in that accident? Obviously. Could not that gust of wind have come earlier or later? Could he not have been in a different part of the boat? Yes. But, my dear friend, a man who is walking in the Spirit and walking with God, that was his time to die.

You know, death is the chariot which God uses to take us to heaven and He’s got all kinds of chariots that are available.

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