I received a text two nights ago from a young man I care about. He is a hard worker and actually bought his own house at the ripe old age of 18. He has been struggling with addiction for several years, and when he asked me if I had time to call him because it was “kind of an emergency”, I took it seriously. When I dialed the number he gave me, his father answered the phone, thanked me for calling and then handed it to his son.
The opening words I heard were ones I will never forget. “Pastor Bill, I died on Friday night from an overdose. I was gone for 10 minutes and the EMT brought me back to life. I have checked myself into rehab for a 28 day program and you were the first person I had to talk to. I have to tell you what happened to me when I died. I want to come back to church but I feel so ashamed and don’t want people to judge me.” Those were the most terrifying and wonderful words I have ever hear. They spoke of total brokenness and the fearful, questioning hope he had when reaching out to the one person he still trusted.
His experience with death was one I have heard numerous times. In fact I have two very close friends in the ministry who have both been dead and come back to life. The first, Steve Fedel, died three times on the way to the hospital when he fell ill while ministering in France. Our church was the first place he preached when he returned to the US. His experiences change his life and ours, forever. The other is, Dean Braxton, whom I meet last year. Dean fell critically ill, and while in the hospital and was clinically dead for 1 hour and 45 minutes. To the shock of everyone, he came back to life and began telling what he had experienced during his time in heaven. Another man I know was revived and said he had been floating in the corner of the hospital ceiling. He described in detail what his father, the doctors and the nurses had all been doing during the time he was dead.
Over the past 30 years as a pastor, I have had the privilege and the heartbreak of being at the bedside of many who died and did not come back. The final moments of these is a unique blend of the life they lived and the beliefs, or lack thereof, that they held. Some were terrified and struggling with every last gasping breath, desperately trying to escape what they were being dragged into. The fear and absolute terror on there faces is something I can’t forget. These are the ones who lived life on their own terms and pretty much rejected the knowledge of God. Others, who I knew to be Christians, saw loved ones who welcome them home. Some were surrounded by bright light and indescribable music. Some felt overwhelmed by the absolute peace and love of God that embraced them. One lady I remember in particular, looked up into the air and began to smile. At the moment of death she lifted her hand and grabbed the hand of someone I could not see, and then she was gone.
I say all this to bring home a very important point. The fact is, you are going to die some day, and if you fail to take this seriously, that moment may not be met with the joy and anticipation you hope for. As I listened to this young man, the heart gripping sincerity of his experience hit me. Something in him had changed. While he was dead, he was forced to face a sobering truth: “I don’t know where I am going”. Fortunately for him he was given a second chance, but few get such a profound opportunity. I am pleased to say that he and I and his mother prayed together over the phone. I believe his surrendered life and the invitation he gave Jesus to take him over was real. My hope is that he will use this new lease on life to really become the man God intended him to be.
What about you? Do you know, I mean really know, what awaits you when death comes knocking at your door? You will have to answer that question……. eventually. More importantly, every one of you are going to experience it. The clock is ticking for us all, and that fact is inescapable. For some who are reading this blog right now, time may out in a few hours or days. For others it may be a few weeks or years and some may even have decades ahead of them. But, you don’t really know …… do you?
The solution to this all-important question is simply elegant, and it is filled with the sacrificial love of a God who cares for you more deeply than you can possibly imagine. What is it? …. Surrender your life to the love and forgiveness of Jesus. His death on the cross has the power to wipe away your sins and make you right before God. It’s a magnificent exchange… you give Him your sins and guilt and He gives you His righteousness and the power to live a life that is pleasing to God. It’s a deal unlike any other you will ever find on this earth. Best of all, it is a free gift, and the only one that can carry you through death and into the life that is yet to come.
How you face death is up to you. You can embrace it with joy and excited anticipation, or you can be dragged into it full of fear and the terrifying expectation of an unknown future. My young friend found his answer in Jesus, and discovered the peace He offers is as real as it gets. What about you? All I can say is, while the clock is still ticking be sure to make your decision the right one, because eternity for you depends on it! Want to know more about this? Feel free to send me a comment an I will get back to you. Have a great day!