Friday, September 28, 2012

The Death Bed Question

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,  for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.  Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."  Ecclesiastes 7:2

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin. 

The book of Ecclesiastes has been rocking my world these last few weeks.  Here's a little back-story of the book.  

The writer, King Solomon, was the wisest man to ever live on the Earth-- and also the wealthiest.  So I'm sure in that alone builds his credibility for him to be able to teach us a thing or two about life here on Earth. In the book, he actually tells us, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure." Ecclesiastes 2:10

So, the "Death Bed Question" was derived by yours truly when playing this game called "Hot Seat" with some friends of mine.  The game Hot Seat puts one person in a chair and the entire group asks them probing questions.  It can be a very dangerous game if played with the wrong crowd, but in our case, it was the right crowd.  So in my deep desire to hear people's hearts, I thought of this question, the "Death Bed Question". 

"If you were on your death bed, what is one thing you would want to look back and say, 'I'm glad that I did that." 

This question is usually a challenging one, because it makes people become vulnerable with disclosing their hearts deepest desires.  I think two it reveals even to themselves the things that would concern them most, and possibly be the cause of deep regret if they're fortunate enough to die in this expectant way.  

But from the question, I've gotten some very interesting answers.  Because when you get people to think about their death, you hear very interesting responses.  So, let's unpack this verse.  What King Solomon means is that it's better for us to go to the house of mourning, or the modern day term would be funeral, because of the effect death has on us.  Many of us can agree that when we're faced with the reality of death, a special concern for our lives arises out of nowhere.  Some common responses to death is that a person desires to make a lot of things right, usually with God or with family or with things in their lives.  A lot of people attend funerals with this realization that life is short and death is real, and their decisions should be taken more seriously.  So there's something about death that wakes us up, makes us realize that we're possibly not living to our fullest potential or capacity of enjoyment and fulfillment, or a term I like to us, living deeply enough.  All of life's shallow pursuits seem very meaningless when faced with death.  No one is thinking about their next drunken night or next sexual partner or disobedient action when sitting at a funeral.

And our wise brother Solomon is saying that it's better for us to realize that you're guaranteed death.  "For death is the destiny of everyone."  There's a lot of things in our lives we're unsure about, but death should not be one of them.  Whether it's tomorrow or when you're 30, or when you're 78, death is the end of us all.  So in this truth that it's unpredictable, and no one knows when they will die, King Solomon is saying enjoy your life and live deeply in God.  "The living should take this to heart."  

Better to be in the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting. Feasting in his culture and for the most part still in ours, usually happened at parties.  And there's a cloudiness that happens to us at parties or when we're enjoying life that we forget that we're fragile.  Have you ever noticed this shift in attitude?  When you're feeling 100%, you're not worrying about your health?  You're eating McDonald's every day and fried foods and walking out in traffic and jumping off roofs---but let that same person get sick.  They get more fragile with their health.  Every decision is carefully weighed.  Let that person have a near death experience, they're more fragile with life.  It's like in the midst of enjoyment and life is working well for us, we get this indestructible attitude.  But when death happens close to us, we're reminded that we're not so indestructible.  No human is.  

This is the response Solomon is wanting to communicate with us.  In times of feasting, it's easy to forget the fragility of life.  In times of fun, it's easy to lose the knowledge that it will end.  So here's what I'm submitting to you.

I'm not telling you that feasting is in itself wrong, or enjoying life in itself is wrong.  I'm saying whatever the product of your hearts desire when faced with death, enjoy life doing that.  If when faced with death you think about people, then enjoy deep relationships and friendships.  Be intentional with them, love them, serve them, give of yourself for them, go deep with them.  If when faced with death you think about making things right with God, then know this that you can be made right with God by receiving Jesus into your heart. Jesus is your righteousness and justification and how you're able to be made right with God.  Hey, and after that, enjoy your Savior.  Don't let religion sucker you in thinking you've signed up for a new lifestyle---no no no---please hear me.  You're signing up for life.  Yes, I'm saying if you're not living in Christ then you are dead.  You're not enjoying life foreal because you're not even alive.

So, this is to "the living".  Which means I'm talking to you because you're reading this.  Take heart that your destiny is death.  And if that scares you right now, that's the beauty of that text.  Now, don't ignore it, but respond to whatever turns up in your heart.  And remember this verse, also from the book of Ecclesiastes

"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?"  Ecclesiastes 2:24 

This verse is a reminder, that all pleasures and desires are from God.  So how can you fully enjoy the pleasure without the enjoying the giver of it?  So if you think you're enjoy life as dead, just imagine if you were to seek enjoyment in being alive?

So I'm asking you now.  If you were on your death bed, what is one thing you would want to look back and say, 'Hey, I'm glad that I did that.'?  Once you answer that, get to the root of those desires, and pursue it.  Stop wasting time missing out on enjoying life.  You're cheating yourself.

Without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  

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