There is a great scene in The Fisherman’s Lady by Scottish author, poet and preacher, George MacDonald. Malcolm, the fisherman, and his friend, the schoolmaster, are sitting in a graveyard following the death of a local woman and discussing dying.
“But, sir, isn’t death a dreadful thing?” asked Malcolm.
“That depends on whether a man regards it as his fate or as the will of a perfect God,” said the schoolmaster. “Its obscurity is its dread. But if God be light, then death itself must be full of splendor–a splendor probably too keen for our eyes to receive.”
“But there’s the dying itself; isn’t that fearsome? Malcolm questioned. “It’s what I would be afraid of.”
“I don’t see why it should be. It’s the lack of a God that makes it dreadful” replied the schoolmaster. “And you would be greatly to blame for that, Malcolm, if you hadn’t found your God by the time you had to die.”
This reminds me of Paul’s affirmation, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1;21)
On the Friday Jesus died it was a dark day. Literally. During the six hours Jesus hung suffering on the cross, the sun was darkened for three hours. It seems symbolic of the dark deeds done by the devious and distorted religious leaders.
Evil hearts moved with envy to kill Christ. A covetous Treasurer conspired to sell out the Savior for 30 pieces of silver. His most loyal proponent became fearful and denied His Master and mentor 3 times. A cowardly Governor signed the death sentence of him in whom he said was no fault. And wicked hands crucified the Lord of glory.
A dark day indeed.
Jesus suffered mentally. Emotionally. Physically. And even spiritually. It was gruesome and ghastly beyond our comprehension.
What gain could possibility be in such a death?
What was an apparent loss on Friday became a “gain” on Sunday. It was Jesus’ triumphant resurrection that provided “gain” for all mankind. His victory over death and the devil forever changed the foreboding prospects of death’s chilling hand.
Paul could confidently say that his death would produce a gain for him. Not everyone can say that with assurance. But when we live for Christ instead of self, worldly pleasure or selfish ambition, death can be a benefit.
Death is gain when we live with an eternal perspective. When we live a committed Christian life with our focus on the reward of glory and not the trials of life, death will result in gain.
Death is a gain when we live for an enduring purpose. Luke wrote, “ “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers, God had a purpose for David. For Paul. And for you and me. Purpose in life is wrapped up in Jesus. When we work to develop our potential, grow in our spirituality, and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we can find our purpose.
Death is a gain when we live because of an effectual pardon. Christians are not perfect, just pardoned. Not sinless, but saved. Not faultless, but forgiven. Jesus’ death and resurrection makes pardon possible.
What gain is there in death? A better body. A better home. A better Fellowship. A better inheritance. And our inheritance? Peter says it is incorruptible. Undefiled. Unfading.
Truly the Psalmist was right, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Indeed to die is gain!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman