Do Difficult Things (& Die Without Regret)

 
 
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I don’t know how long I sat at the table staring at the words; time truly seemed suspended, with the noise around me of shuffling feet and brewing coffee muffled, as though they and the world were underwater.

"And the dead in Christ will rise first.”[1]

We would bury our matriarch later that day, and I would turn these words over in my insides again and again to cope with the salt burning my eyes and staining my cheeks. Inebriating grief blurred the hours; I don’t remember much. I did stare at her casket, the polished wood adorned with timeless bouquets, grateful the carpentry craft would one day splinter to the resurrection. God will dignify the bodies who fell special victim to death’s defiance of His design, and vindicate the grieving eyes of those who had to watch them lowered into the ground: the dead in Christ will rise first. Then everyone else will be caught up in a moment, nearly so fast we’ll be with Him before we realized the confidence of the seventh trumpet declaring the fruition of all His promises.[2]

It is helpful to receive such a stark reminder of mortality as a young adult; I had my degree in hand and was early in what has become my career. “The world was before me,” or so I’d been told; all the time it had was mine (another lie). But now our family farm is tilled by other hands with a different surname, it's soil now soaked with the sweat of another bloodline. My cousin inherited the table we’ve long gathered around, and I am grateful it survived a generational threshold. “There is nothing new under the sun,”[3] and neither anything eternal. Naked we came; naked we’ll go.[4]

The faith we profess, this saving substance ushering grace to us upon its wings,[5] traces its lineage back to a man driven by an almost foolish confidence that the Voice that had led him to Canaan would also pull dead bodies out of tombs and coffins.[6] It wasn’t only the apostles whose lives were revolutionized by the implications of the resurrection. Such decision-making began with Abraham. 

John, the thunderous disciple whose violent water was so transformed into gentle wine by the meek and mentoring love of Jesus, inked both John 15 and 1 John 2 into parchment: “Abide in Me because you’ll die if you don’t,”[7] and—years after he heard Jesus’ words as a young man, instructed the rest of us—“Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.”[8]

We know, eventually, our gracious God will wipe every tear from our eyes.[9] What I must wonder, though, given John’s language, is if those tears are not only those spilled for sorrow, grief, and torment, collected now by our attentive Father[10]—but if His hand will gently remove tears spilled in regret of what we’ll wish we had done. When Jesus returns and the lights are turned on and the cast of my life in this age is called to the stage to take a bow, will I regret anything?

How much of that can I see already?

We know our days are numbered,[11] and we have family graves to visit if ever we begin to forget. Even for those who have some kind of coasting childhood, adulthood will abruptly teach everyone how quickly and harshly seasons can change and life and lives can end. So we must live in light of eternity, and ask ourselves what testimony we want to offer Jesus when He arrives; what banner we’ll want to carry into eternity. Of all the idle words and nonsense decisions I’ll have to give account for,[12] do I want to wittingly add to the list? Already, I am humming “nothing but the blood” in gratitude for the “better word”[13] I will cling to at His coming. Yet I must soberly remember this: the One who gave His life for mine is the One who wrote with eternal ink: do not put your hand to the plow and look behind you.[14] Do not gaze longingly at Sodom.[15] Do not make decisions to make yourself more comfortable.

This is not to suggest we should live wrought with fear or let anxiety cripple our days and decisions. “When our hearts condemn us, He is greater than our hearts;”[16] He “knows our frame, knows we’re but dust”[17] and generously erases condemnation from our record.[18] He is a gentle Father.[19] And Jesus is due to receive preeminence in “all things.”[20]

So this starts with us today in our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies.[21] Every rotation around the sun bids us opportunity to build an altar that will stand as a memorial throughout the ages to the outstanding glory of Jesus—shouting forever that we could see His worth even when we couldn’t see Him[22]—rather than an altar to our own comfortable, anemic ambitions that He’ll have to tear down the Day He brings haughty things to the ground.[23]

Our breath and blood are gifts wrapped in the alabaster of our lives. They are ours to shatter and spill at His feet and soak into His head, into the very rocks of the "Place of the Skull."[24] We can made bold decisions and do difficult things with the same reckless confidence of Abraham, David, John, Peter, Paul, Mary of Bethany, and the “men from Cyprus”:[25] He sustains us now,[26] and will meet us at the finish line with medals and crowns.[27] Even if giving our lives to His precious Name costs us everything, we’ll be the first to splinter the wooden boxes and shatter the ceramic urns preserving our frames until the Son of Man comes on the clouds in glory.[28]
 

The dead in Christ shall rise first.

 

“Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that Day’ my Lord to meet,
and stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
only what’s done for Christ will last.
”[29]

 

 

DO DIFFICULT THINGS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Quick is a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. You can watch her films for free, read her books, and sign up to receive her ministry updates. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and browse the Covenant and Controversy film series and resource library.


 

[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:16
[2] See 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 11:15; 19:6-16
[3] Ecclesiastes 1:9
[4] Job 1:21; Ecclesiastes 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:7
[5] Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:1
[6] Hebrews 11:17-19
[7] John 15:1-11
[8] 1 John 2:28
[9] Revelation 21:4
[10] Psalm 56:8
[11] Psalm 90:12; 102:11; 103:15; Isaiah 40:6-8
[12] Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13
[13] Hebrews 12:24
[14] Luke 9:62
[15] Genesis 19:26; Luke 17:32-33
[16] 1 John 3:20-21
[17] Psalm 103:13-14
[18] Romans 8:1; Colossians 2:13-15
[19] Psalm 23:1-3; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:6-8
[20] Colossians 1:18
[21] Deuteronomy 6:1-5; Matthew 22:36-40
[22] John 20:29
[23] Isaiah 2:12-18; Romans 3:19
[24] Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8
[25] Acts 11:20
[26] Psalm 3:5; 55:22; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:16-17
[27] 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1
[28] Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 16:27; 19:28; 24:30; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 13:26; Luke 9:26; 21:27
[29] Studd, C.T. “Only One Life.”