Death, Where is Your Victory?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It was a sunny Saturday morning, but for someone, it was all too soon irreversibly darkened. Traffic piled up as workers cleared away the broken glass. As I passed the scene of the collision, it was apparent that any survivors were badly injured. The smaller car was decimated, and anyone who had been in it was sure to be in critical condition. How many times have we passed such a scene on the highway? Cancer and heart attacks sadden us as we lose friends and family. Life is fleeting, and from fate the young and strong are by no means exempt. Where is your eternal destiny? There is a heaven and there is a hell. You will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and neither you or I have any guarantee of tomorrow.

We were once again reminded of how fleeting our lives are after we attended the Cedar Rapids Leather Jackets chess tournament in Cedar Rapids on February 4th. I had a rather poor tournament, winning only 1 out of 4 matches, but, regardless, I enjoyed myself thoroughly with my father and brother. There was pretty good attendance at the tournament, and it was good to see old chess friends there--including IASCA president Steve Young. Just before we left, I asked him how his tournament had gone: “One and a half points,” he told me. I told him that was pretty good; I only got one point. And then we left, never to see him again. Monday morning I sleepily logged on to Facebook to see the startling headlines posted on the Iowa Scholastic Chess wall by Jim Hodina: “It is with a sad heart that I share news of the passing of Steve Young. Steve was a wonderful organizer and coach for scholastic chess. Steve was also serving as the IASCA President. I understand that Steve passed away Saturday evening while at home from a heart attack. Steve played in a tournament I directed on that day and he appeared well. So this was sudden…” Yes, we will miss you, Mr. Young!

I had a rather close call myself in 2006 when on the way home from a concert--and only one mile from my home--the car I was in was totaled, but my life was spared. Each time we visit one of our nursing homes where we sing, a few of our old friends are missing--at Scenic Manor yesterday, the activity director told us that 2 of the residents had died earlier in the day. Friends, I want to see you again someday in heaven. I have accepted Jesus as my personal Savior, and to live or die, I am not afraid. I am ready when my time comes. Are you?

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

My family and I have an unusual pastime. On one of my brother’s birthdays, we visited the family graveyard in Union, Iowa where my great great great grandpa, Civil War veteran Eli Carson, and many others are buried. Often when we go on bike rides, we visit a peaceful little cemetery and see who can find the oldest gravestone. Today, we visited the grave of our friend Esther Pitts, who lived with us from 2002 till her death in 2009 at age 109. Last time we were at the Eldora cemetery, as I was wishing I could have met some of those people that I know no more about than date of birth and date of death, it struck me that the cemetery would be a really neat place to be when the resurrection happens. It didn’t occur to me at the time what was the most probable reason I would just happen to be in a cemetery when the Lord comes again…but what I really want is to be alive and watching. John 5:8-29 says, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Death is a sobering word. The last enemy to be defeated is death. But it too will have to flee as all our other enemies have--at the name of Jesus! For “He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:7-9). The Bible says that the hour is coming when all they that are in the graves will hear his voice and will arise… We Christians have nothing to fear in death. The sting of death is sin, but God has given us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. With Betsy ten Boom, we can say that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. Betsy died in Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp, but God was with her; and she was a thousand times more free than Hitler or Goering, servants--slaves--of sin. We’re talking about another type of liberty here--inner liberty--it’s a liberty none can shackle, a candle that not even death can dim. When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. We have the victory over death through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believest thou this?”
--John 11:26