Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

A Precious Life

A Precious Life

Recently our culture has been shocked by the recent suicides of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion icon Kate Spade. What seems to puzzle many people is that two people who seemed to have so much to live for decided to end their own lives. It was not that these individuals were advanced in age or in poor health, living on the streets, penniless and without a friend. Bourdain was only two years older than myself (61) and Spade was 55.

Outward Appearances

From all outward appearances these two individuals seemed to have wonderful lives:

  • They were very successful. They were in the top one percent of wage earners. Money was not a problem.
  • They were surrounded by many friends. When they threw a get-together, people canceled other plans to attend their functions.
  • They received a constant stream of affirmation from adoring friends and fans. They were repeatedly told how important, awesome and unique they were.
  • They occupied places of power and influence. People called them and came to them for help and advice.
  • When they attended an event or were to speak, thousands showed up to hear them.
  • They had people who loved them and who depended upon them. Kate Spade was married and Anthony Bourdain, while twice divorced, did have a daughter.
  • They could afford all sorts of pleasurable experiences. They could travel the world, eat at the finest restaurants and enjoy things that many people only dream about.

What Might Worry People

Our culture has repeated told us that if we just have enough money and are able to achieve a position of fame and power that happiness will be the result. That the goal is a comfortable lifestyle, good food, good friends, and lots of travel. Yet these two individuals had all of that and decided to end their lives. I wonder if either one of them had a Solomon moment:

“All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which many hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

When you reach the top and have everything in terms of material success that can be achieved, it is a scary moment when it dawns on you that real happiness had eluded you in the process. If all this stuff and fame has failed to make me happy is happiness only a cruel mirage that is always just a little outside my grasp?

The Thirst Was Not Quenched

Every one of us is made in the image of God (James 3:9) and the Bible states that God has placed eternity within our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Thus, all of us are souls or spirits in a body of flesh and we should never be surprised when earthly pleasure, and even a whole boatload of earthly pleasure which has been indulged in for many years fails to fill the soul. In that sense, neither of these people is that much different from anyone else. Jesus told the Samaritan women who had went through five husbands (John 4:18) that He offered a water than could quench the thirst of men and women (4:14). 

What a Tragedy

Many have noted what a loss this will be in both the fashion and food world. That these two individuals were tops in their fields and cannot simply be replaced. While that is probably true, there is even something more tragic here. What was really valuable about these two people were not their earthly talents, rather it was the fact that they were the creation of God. That Jesus had shed His blood for their salvation and both of them had apparently failed to make use of that blood. 

It is So… Permanent

There are a number of theories in the world concerning the after-life. Some believe that you are reincarnated and thus return to give life another try, and that eventually you figure it out over millions of life-times and get it right. Others believe that after death God gives you another chance to obey the gospel. Others think that eventually even all the people in hell will finally bow the knee to God in submission, they will finally get the point, learn the lesson, renounce their rebellion and that eventually everyone will be saved, even the devil. Yet the Bible presents a very different and clear picture:

Hebrews 9:27

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment”

  • So there is no reincarnation or return to earth to do better next time or take care of any unfinished business.
  • There is no mention of another chance to obey or repent after death, but rather judgment.

Luke 16:19-31

  • The rich man was not given another chance to repent, in fact, he was denied even the smallest consideration of mercy (16:24).
  • Jesus is the one who gave this teaching and He has Abraham making it very clear that death eternally separates the faithful from the unfaithful (16:26).
  • Obviously Jesus is not passing on inaccurate information about the after-life.
  • Once again we learn that death fixes the eternal destiny of the individual. If I die outside of Christ, there is no way to change that situation. I cannot alter my destiny after death and the living on earth cannot alter than destiny.
  • The lot of the righteous is infinite happiness while the lot of the unrighteous is indescribable suffering.
  • The Scriptures are a clear guide to all human beings, so that one can be prepared to face God in judgment (16:29-31).
  • The rich man does not ask to escape his fate, he only asks for his brothers who are still alive. Evidently the rich man knew that no eternal change of residence was possible for him.
  • Observe that the rich man might have had many friends. When he died many might have attended his funeral and said some wonderful things. The rich man might have been described as unique. Friends might have said that God broke the mould when He made him. That he got things done, enjoyed life, and lived life to the full. Yet none of those words mattered or changed the reality of the situation.
  • Often when people are leaving comments on some message board when a famous person dies they will say, “Rest in Peace”. Yet in Luke 16 there is no resting in peace. Only the righteous are allowed to rest in peace (Revelation 14:13). Everyone else will have an eternity to reflect upon missed opportunities, foolish choices, short-sighted living and their failure to acknowledge and honor their Creator.

Luke 13:24-28

  • When someone asked Jesus if only a few are being saved, He did not say “Of course not, most or just about everyone makes it”.
  • Observe that Jesus pictures the window of opportunity closing being saved, “and shuts the door” (13:25).

Matthew 8:29

The demon-possessed men who encountered Jesus did not view eternity as a school in which they would eventually suffer, learn obedience and be saved. Rather, they said, “Have You come to torment us before the time”?

I know that it sounds very spiritual to say that there are no fences around God’s grace. Yet Jesus places a chasm between the rich man and God’s grace. In fact, we are exhorted to take advantage of the time we have today to respond to God’s gracious and clear offer of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). Let’s not waste any time responding!

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017