January 19, 2009


Quotes from Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas

Chapter 8 -- Living in a Dying World: The Remembrance of Death

Fenelon believed we avoid the thought of death so we are not saddened by it. But this, he said, is shortsighted. "It will only be sad for those who have not thought about it."

Young people have a distorted view of life. We forget that funerals are waiting on the other end of weddings and baby showers. When we segregate ourselves -- when we don't know anyone who is suffering from arthritis -- we can be lulled to sleep.

The ancients found great spiritual benefit in looking death in the face, seizing its reality, and making it their servant. They used death to teach themselves how to live.

Remembering death acts like a filter, helping us to hold on to the essential and let go of the trivial. Climacus pointed out that "a man who has heard himself sentenced to death will not worry about the way theaters are run." His point, of course, is that all of us have been sentenced to death; it's just a matter of time, so shouldn't we live our lives accordingly?

Eternity turns everything around. I'm reminded of this every year when I figure my taxes. During the year, I rejoice at the paychecks and extra income, and sometimes I wince when I write out the tithe and offering... At the end of the year, however, all of that changes. As I'm figuring my tax liability, I wince at every source of income and rejoice with every tithe and offering check -- more income means more taxes, but every offering and tithe means fewer taxes. Everything is turned upside down, or perhaps more appropriately, rightside up... I suspect Judgment Day will be like that.

Death not only filters our priorities, it also filters our passions. Pascal wrote, "To render passion harmless let us behave as though we had only a week to live."

What person would risk entering eternity in a drunken stupor? What fool would ignore his loved ones and his God for one last night so he could make another quick ten thousand dollars just before he died?

It is only the denial of death that allows us to continue rebelling against God. It is only because we are presuming on some future time to set things right that we ever even consider letting them go wrong.

I want to enter death tired. I want to have spent what energy God has apportioned me... An eternal rest awaits all who know Christ, so why are we preoccupied with rest now?

The supreme way for a Christian to keep the thought of death alive is to remember the crucifixion of our Lord. Every time we take Communion we should do so with the awareness that, just as Christ's work on earth had a beginning and an end (as He ministered in a human body), so the mission He has given us has a beginning and an end.

"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart." Eccl 7:2

Chapter 7 quotes
(You can follow the link trail to prior chapter notes from there.)


1 comment:

Owl of the Desert said...

This post reminds me of a conversation Brett and I had once. He had been reading about the Samurai, and one of the things they mentioned was that a Samurai was supposed to live life with death always at the front of his mind. If I remember correctly, the point was that in doing so, they would be more likely to lead more honourable lives.

Thank you for continuing to post these inspiring tidbits from your book. I love them.