READ: Psalm 84, Hosea 13, Luke 12, 2 Corinthians 3
Pilgrimage is a good thing. Our ultimate destination (the unbroken and unrestrained presence of Jesus) requires us to pass through the valley of death, not just its shadow. Heaven is real and most of us are going to have to die to get there. Referring to heaven as “Glory” has fallen out of use, but perhaps we should revive the term. Going from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7) and from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18) is both cyclical and linear. Our renewed strength and refined glory has a destination–Heaven!
Jesus instructed us not to be afraid of those who “kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). Fear of death is the most common and most senseless of the Christian’s fears. Why are we afraid of waking up? Why are we afraid of entering life? Why are we so desperate to prolong our veiled sleep–especially when our dreams are so prone to nightmares? The great hope of what lies in wait for us after physical death makes the Christian the most fearless of God’s creation. If the worst our enemies (sickness, age, tragedy, persecutors) can do to us is help us take that final step to glory, then they are to be thanked, not resented. There is no need to fear (or hate) those that help us in our pilgrimage.
If the ministry of death is glorious, if what is passing away was glorious, “what remains is much more glorious” (2 Cor. 3:7, 11). Referring to life as prone to nightmares does not diminish its beauty or the joys abundant in our pilgrimage, but it does remind us that this life’s passing glory is nothing to compared to resurrection life when death is plagued and grave is destroyed (Hosea 13:14). We are not supposed to have an anxious mind about this world or the things in it, for this world will be taken away from us in a moment (Luke 12:20); therefore our diligence should be directed to being rich toward God (v. 21). Heart follows treasure (v. 34) and if our longing, hope, anticipation, and desire is to be with Jesus, then death is a good thing–it leapfrogs us towards the very thing we want the most.
This transformation into God’s image by the Spirit of the Lord is a process completed by death but actively working in the present (2 Cor. 3:18). This is why daily dying to self is so important and should be rejoiced in. Daily deaths, common disappointments, little rejections, surprising rebukes, unexpected failures, and deserved discipline all are part of the “glory to glory” process. When something is taken away from us (pride or possession), we should rejoice. People and circumstances that help us die are our friends. Our life gets better the more we lose it; we become stronger the more we die.