PART 1 THE FACETS OF DEATH – Discovering the meaning of death and how we should perceive it.
For all of us, death is inevitable but unpredictable. When I was a young boy, I lived up the street from one of my older cousins, who was about 18 at the time. For some reason, he and my dad got along well and became excellent friends. It seemed like they hung around with each other quite a bit.
Word got back to me that my cousin had stomach cancer. As a young boy, I was unaware of how serious this was but hoped for his full recovery. It seemed within a short time of six months that he passed away. I became aware of this because I heard a loud noise in the apartment where we lived on a particular night. I didn’t know what this was all about and didn’t want to know. I put the covers over my head and went to sleep. The next morning, I asked my mother if she heard a loud noise during the night. She said it was dad. After my cousin died, he went to a local bar and got drunk.
How could this have happened to someone whose life was starting out?
My family was brought up Catholic. This faith’s belief in what happens after death was pretty straightforward. If you committed venial (small) sins during your lifetime, then following death, you would go to a place called Purgatory to receive punishment for those sins that weren’t confessed while on the earth. Once the determined penalty was satisfied, you would be allowed to go to heaven. If, however, a mortal sin was committed, such as murder, rape, incest, adultery, etc., the person would go to a place called hell unless confessed to a priest.
You might be wondering, why am I writing about this topic now? Long since have my younger years gone by. I am currently retired from teaching high school math after 30 years. I live on an island that has a bustling summer tourist population. And I am very fortunate to have obtained a taxi license, of which only 32 exist. Last summer, I had a couple in my cab who noticed a postcard of one of my religious books taped to my console. She recognized that it was of the spiritual genre and proceeded to express to me her adamant hatred of God.
I was taken aback by her angry tone and response. I asked her why she was so upset with God. She said that she lost one of her children at a young age and blamed Him because He didn’t intervene and save her life. I expressed to her my condolences but didn’t know what else to say. I thought at the time that I wish I had written a book on the subject of death so that I could have provided her with a copy of it. Perhaps this might have given her more understanding of the topic and what God’s role is concerning it. So, here I am undertaking this study.
I will present this study from a biblical perspective. Scriptures will be taken from the King James Bible. Don’t worry if you are not attending any church. This is not an issue. If you have lost a loved one and are blaming God for not intervening and changing the outcome, I encourage you to read this book. If you have long-held perceptions about death, whether true or not, then this book is for you.
Hopefully, what both of us will learn from this study about death is the following.
- At physical death, does life as we know it ends?
- Has God ever stepped in and prevented some people from dying?
- Has God personally got involved and brought about death upon certain people?
- For those whom God has brought death upon, should He be thought of as being evil?
- Why does God allow some to die, and yet at other times, intervene and prevent others from death?
- Is there something that we could do in the face of death that might persuade God to come to our aid and prevent us from dying?
- Should we attribute someone’s death as having deserved it because of the sinful life that they lived?
- While it’s true that none of us will escape physical death, is there another kind of death that leads to the fulness of life in time and assurance for eternity for both ourselves and our loved ones that we should seek after?
Hopefully, at this studies’ end, we will have learned whether to continue to hold God accountable for our heartaches and disappointments, thwarted desires and plans, and the loss of our loved ones, both young and old.
And might we rather become aware that there is another kind of death that leads to the fulness of life both now and eternity that we should set as a priority to receive for ourselves and share with others?
WHY DIDN’T GOD GET INVOLVED AND PREVENT ABEL FROM BEING MURDERED BY HIS BROTHER CAIN?
This is a story that I have read about on several occasions and have wondered where God was. Why didn’t He somehow warn Abel that something terrible was about to happen to him? This story is found in the book of Genesis.
Suggested Reading: Genesis 4:1-16; Genesis 3:21
Many of us have heard about the story of Eve being deceived by the Devil in the Garden of Eden and partaking of the fruit that God had commanded her not to partake of. That was followed by her husband Adam a short time later also partaking of this forbidden fruit. Because of their transgression, they were not allowed to remain in this place of a perfect environment. We don’t know exactly where they went after the Lord escorted them out of this place, but we know they had children. Their first child was a male, whom they called Cain. I’m sure this was an exciting time as this was the first record of childbearing. This was followed by a second child, another male named Abel.
Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
It appears there probably was some instruction given to both sons by their father of the need to offer God animal sacrifices at appointed times. The precedent for this sacrificial ritual seemed to have occurred when Adam and Eve were clothed with the skins of animals that required the shedding of blood just before they were required to leave the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 4:3-4a And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof…
We don’t seem to know when this offering by each of the two brothers took place or how often it was to take place. But what we do know is that for some reason, Cain chose to offer something that would not be acceptable to God. Did he know beforehand that God would reject his offering? Did he choose to disregard the protocols in this regard? On the other hand, Abel offered a sacrifice that he knew would be acceptable to God and pleasing to his father.
Genesis 4:4b-5…And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
It’s fascinating to notice what happened after each of these offerings was made. God conveyed verbally to each of the sons as to whether what was offered was acceptable or not. It was made abundantly clear to Cain that his type of offering was unacceptable. After hearing this, you think that he would have responded to God by saying something like thanks for letting me know I was wrong in this endeavor. Is it ok for me to have a redo and offer what’s right?
Cain talked with the Creator of the universe, yet he was upset with Him about the rejection of his offering. Scripture tells us that he was very wroth, meaning that he was burning with anger. Was Cain only mad at God, or was he also furious with his brother Abel? According to what happens next, we can conclude that he was angry at both of them.
Genesis 4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
At some time later, Cain talked to his brother Abel, and subsequently, they both went into a field. The word field refers to the countryside in contrast to the place where people live and farm.1 Whatever was communicated between them occurred in an area away from where their parents were located. This says to me that Cain’s decision to kill his brother was pre-meditated and out of sight. So, here is my thought on this tragic event. I’m sure God knew that Cain, at this time, was ready to kill his brother in the field. With that said, here is my question.
Why didn’t God intervene and stop this from happening?
Have you ever asked God a similar question?
If you believe the story about Adam and Eve, they committed a transgression in the Garden of Eden. Before this, they had daily fellowship with the Lord. When they found out about their younger sons’ murder, I wonder what thoughts were going through their minds. There must have been someone else that killed Abel. Cain couldn’t have done this purposely; it must have been an accident. God, why didn’t you let us know about this ahead of time, so that we could have talked to our son and work this out?
What do you think was God’s response toward Cain’s egregious action?
What Cain did appears to have been thought out beforehand. And not only so, but he never repented of what he had done. God spoke to him and conveyed what the punishment would be for his shocking sin. If he attempted to till the land for crop cultivation, nothing would grow. He would be cast forth from his home’s geographical area and be separated from ever seeing his parents again. A mark would be placed on him so that as the world’s population grew, it would be evident to everyone as to what he had done. There would also be a warning to others that if anyone decided to take his life, they would receive retribution seven-fold.
It’s hard to imagine what Adam and Eve were going through. They were removed because of personal transgression from a heavenly designated place on the earth to a place of corruption. Two beautiful sons were born, and now both of them were gone. Could their perspective of the God whom they thought was their best friend have changed?
Genesis 4:25-26 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.
If we had ended the story there, we could have concluded that Adam and Eve might not have a male heir. But Scripture tells us that they had another son whose name was Seth. Not much appear to be written about him even though he lived for nine hundred and twelve years unless we were to take a closer look at his life where it was disclosed that he had a son named Enos. After his birth, we are told that men began to call upon the name of the Lord. This is an exciting statement.
The words to call upon seem to have an expansive meaning, such as belief in Yahweh, worship Him through praises and prayer, and obey Him by offering animal sacrifices. Those who were of this persuasion were known as the sons of God. And apparently, those who wanted nothing to do with God were called the children of men.
I wanted you to notice that for someone to believe in Yahweh, the gospel of Yahweh had to be presented to them, which we could deduce was proclaimed by Adam, Eve, and their son Seth. The point I want to make is, even though Adam and Eve went through excruciating suffering in the loss of both of their first two sons, they continued with God. Did they ever question His integrity in their mind? I’m sure they did. Were they disappointed with God’s lack of preventative response in respect to their son Abel’s death? Probably. But not being given an answer from the Lord in this regard didn’t deter them. They were thankful that He provided them with another son, albeit one who followed Him.
As a result, others of their family came to know Yahweh and followed in His ways. No longer was Adam and Eve’s continual focus on the tragic events of the past but on sharing the gospel of Yahweh and being a witness of His life by obeying His ways and teaching them to their grandchildren.
What can we learn from what happened to this family?
It appears that Cain was brought up in a God-fearing home. I assume that both he and his brother Abel were taught about Jehovah-God and His ways, Whom each of them was asked to believe in and obey. Like many parents, they brought both of them up in the Lord the way they knew how. Each of their sons had a free-will to believe in Yahweh and follow Him or not.
I believe that there is a silver lining in every cloud if we keep our eyes on God. God will turn a tragic event into a blessing if we trust Him amid heartache. How wonderful it was for Adam and Eve to see their third son Seth believe in and follow Yahweh, and likewise their grandson Enos, and his descendants.
And whatever happened to Cain? Did he eventually believe in Yahweh?
We know that he definitely did not want to offer animal sacrifices as his brother did, and neither did he respond in a favorable way to the Lord’s correction of the gift he offered. His anger concerning the acceptance of his brother’s animal offering and the rejection of his own fruit of the ground offering was evident. Jealousy and rage predominated his mind. From what little evidence we have about his life, we could deduce that the answer is no; he didn’t believe in Yahweh. Isn’t this the ultimate decision for all of us?
People make mistakes. Some of which are incomprehensible. But God! God is ever approachable no matter what anyone has done.
What this story reveals to us is that jealousy is like cancer. If it’s not dealt with, it will permeate throughout one’s entire being until, unfortunately, it will lash out towards its victims, who might be considered the cause of such. What is the remedy that will allow someone who is controlled by such destructive characteristic traits to be released from their grip? The solution is believing in God as He is revealed and walking in His ways.
If something tragic has happened in your life, such as losing a son or daughter, go to God in prayer and seek His council. If He doesn’t answer you, seek out comforting or consoling verses for yourself to abide mentally in the meantime.
What I would like us to take a look at next is a story told to us by a Christian woman whose life was filled with self-centeredness, comparison, and jealousy. How did she overcome these carnal traits? Let’s read the article and find out.
HOW TO STOP COMPARING AND OVERCOME JEALOUSY
Comparison and jealousy are issues so many women deal [with,] and I hear about this struggle all the time in the Christian sphere; we feel we aren’t living up to the perfect ideal Christian [woman] when in reality, she doesn’t exist.
I [bet] even the Proverbs 31 woman made some mistakes.
Though we know we’re all sinful and fight our own battles, we still look to the girl next to us and wonder why our life doesn’t look like hers. Why aren’t we as pretty as her? Why are our friends not as caring as hers? Why is our marriage not as happy as hers? Why does Jesus seem to be blessing her more than me? Why doesn’t my life look like her Instagram feed?
I am a pretty blessed [lady,] and I still find myself saying these things from time to time. [Usually,] though, it’s because I’ve taken my eyes off of Jesus.
In Matthew Chapter 14, we see the story of someone else who took their eyes off of Jesus. During a particularly brutal storm, the disciples were on a [boat,] and Jesus went out to meet them. Peter says, “[Jesus] if you are really there, tell me to walk to [you,]” and Jesus beckons him out of the boat.
Peter experiences a miracle and begins to walk on water toward Jesus. But as he keeps walking, he notices the wind and the waves crashing around him and [takes] his focus off of getting to Jesus and begins to sink into the water.
The minute we take our eyes off of Jesus and get distracted with what is going on in the world around us, we start to sink.
The issue of jealousy and comparison can only be battled with devotion and discipline. To be content, joyful, unjealous [women,] we have to get our eyes fixed on Jesus and stop looking around at what He’s called other people to do.
Here are some practical ways to fight jealousy and comparison in your life.
- Take a Break from Social Media
This one is huge.
We are bombarded daily with updates and photos of what is going on in [other] peoples’ lives. We see their highlight reels and adorable family photos and announcements of babies and engagements and houses being bought and wonder why we’re so discontent.
The sheer number and frequency of these inputs is overwhelming. We don’t need all of this noise in our lives.
It is so incredibly freeing to unplug from the constant stream of news and Insta-worthy, posed photos and just be present for your own life. When we over engage in the lives of others via social media, we disengage from our own. We leave the people we love most starving for our attention in the name of keeping up with secondary relationships.
[So,] for the health of your mind, [body,] and spirit, turn the noise off. Try it for a few days, do a social media free [weekend,] and see how much it helps.
- Prioritize Time in the Word
In order to fix our eyes on Jesus, we need to spend time with Him. And not just a few minutes in the morning.
We need to spend quality, persistent time with Him.
I don’t mean you need to be in Bible study for hours a day, but we need to be constantly talking with Him and meditating on His Word. In order to combat jealousy and comparison in the world, we have to be in the Word.
It needs to be so rooted in our hearts that we carry it with us into battle in this world.
In today’s culture and time, we spend so much of our time in busyness and activity; we’re working or keeping up social engagements or with our kids’ activities. We are in the world so [much,] and that has to be diluted with stillness and worship. Equal to as much as we are in the world, we need huge doses of the Word.
This is achieved through regular study of the Bible, of course, but also through [scriptural] podcasts, sermons, listening to your audio Bible or worship music, memorizing [Scripture,] and discussing theology with others. We can saturate our lives with the Word and still get everything done that we need to.
And just maybe, by seeking God’s Word this much, we’ll realize we have a lot less that actually needs to be done than we think.
- Write Down Words of Encouragement
Have you had someone give you a compliment that really touched you? Or encourage you with Scripture? Or pray over you?
Start keeping a record of them.
A wise woman once told me to buy a small pocket journal and keep it in my purse or my car to specifically write down the words of encouragement or [comments] from the Lord that others spoke over me. She told me to keep a record of these, especially from strong women of the [faith,] and to read over them anytime I needed a dose of strength or a reminder of what God is doing in my life.
This practice has been incredible for me; it’s a living, breathing resource that I can turn to in times of weakness or jealousy of others. As much as we don’t need the approval of people, it does our heart good to hear kind words from others. It gives you a record of all you’ve been blessed with to read over when you feel comparison or [ungratefulness] creeping in.
- Speak Scripture Over Your Life
This tip may seem cheesy, but our words have so much [power,] and we should be using that for good. [So,] find some [Scriptures] that speak to you and remind you who you are in Christ and say them out loud, claiming them over your own life.
Some good choices would be:
Galatians 6:7 I am a Child of God and His heritage is mine.
2 Corinthians 5:17 My past has no hold on me. In Christ, I am a new creation. I have been made new.
Jeremiah 31:3 I am loved with an everlasting love.
John 15:17 I am chosen and appointed and have purpose in this world.
What we say to ourselves and about ourselves is what we believe. When we believe we are less than or not as good as someone else, that’s the message our heart receives. But that is not the message that Christ came to speak to us.
Speak the truth over your own life until you believe it so strongly that you aren’t affected by what someone else might be doing.
- Choose Community Wisely
Making friends as a young adult (or any age adult) is really hard, especially when you get out of college.
When you’re in school, you have easy access to people who have things in common with [you,] and that makes it a little easier to be selective with your close friendships. Once you’re out, that tap is turned off.
And especially if you don’t work, it can be incredibly difficult to find community. This can put us in a place of desperation, where we’ll let anyone in who shows an interest in us. If they don’t, we begin to believe we’re [unloved,] and we retreat further.
Community is so [important,] and who you let into your inner circle should be something you guard. We are called to love all people, but that doesn’t mean [you make] best friends with every person you meet. We need loving, encouraging, strong women of the [faith building] us up. We need our village.
But it’s not just about bodies or numbers; we need life-giving friendships, not just any friendship. [So,] when you are trying new small groups or getting to know a new lady, prayerfully pursue friend relationships just like you would with dating relationships.
Adult friendships work a lot like [dating,] and sometimes, that means we have to take some risks and get out [of] our comfort zones to meet encouraging women who are going to love us well and that we can let in.
- Seek Her Out and Lift Her Up
Is there someone in your life that you’re regularly comparing yourself [to]? A person you find yourself jealous of a lot?
You need to become her friend.
If this person is a celebrity or distant person, you have two choices: unfollow/unfriend them or choose to engage and offer them encouragement.
There are a few people in the faith blogging/business niche that I have been very jealous of; I’ve compared myself to them, wondering why I wasn’t growing like they [were,] and the Lord convicted me about my heart. He challenged me to seek them out, offer them encouragement, engage [with,] and share their content [and pray] for them specifically.
With one, He challenged me to reach out [to] them directly and offer a word of encouragement.
Let me tell [you;] my flesh wanted to do the exact opposite. But the more I obeyed the Lord in this matter, the more my heart shifted.
It may be a woman in your class, at your sorority, on your sports team, in your church, at your [job,] or in your mommy group. Or it may be a family member, a friend, or a distant person on social media.
Take a moment and seek her out; offer her a compliment or a word of encouragement and pray for her. I guarantee you the Lord will change your heart toward her and toward others. A mark of a mature woman in the faith is the ability to be truly happy for someone who has what you might lack.2
All of us have been jealous of others for one reason or another. This story is about someone, who is a believer in God, and yet her thoughts, words, and actions were contrary to the testimony that she was created anew at salvation. Her pursuit of reputation and status in other people’s hearts was the mindset that she was preoccupied with. As time went on, she began to realize that there were godly avenues she could pursue, which could help to bring her out from self-centeredness.
The first was to recognize that her thoughts, words, and actions were ungodly. Secondly, she went to God in prayer, asking for help. And thirdly, she learned the Word and expressed its character of conduct toward the person she was jealous of. Instead of being jealous of this person’s success and always questioning herself as to why she wasn’t receiving as much as her, she would congratulate her.
Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 15:2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
Fortunately for her, jealousy didn’t ultimately win out and cause her to do something that she would regret and bring pain upon herself, her family, and ancestors for the rest of their lives on the [earth,] like the example of the life of Cain.
In the next chapter, we will take a look at someone whom God knew in a personal way and had an opportunity to heal him of an illness that would otherwise lead to his death. Did God heal him? Let’s find out.
1UBS Old Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1978-2004 by United Bible Societies. All rights reserved.)
2“How to Stop Comparing and Overcome Jealousy,” 2019. Faithfully Planted. 05 February 2018 <https://faithfullyplanted.com/stop-comparing-overcome-jealousy/>.
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