Note: The following is article #29 in a series reflecting on chapters in John Piper’s book Future Grace. More information on the book from Amazon.com is available here. A list of all the articles in this series so far is available here.
Dying. It is something we will all face. And like every other part of our walk with Christ, His grace can infuse all aspects of our death, from attitude to expectation to the actual experience.
In Chapter 29 of Future Grace Dr. Piper discusses grace & death. He reiterates his aim for the entire book:
The aim of this book is to liberate people from fears and desires that enslave the soul and hinder radical obedience to Jesus.
Freeing us to live a radical life, doing whatever will advance the Kingdom and glorify Jesus– that’s why God gives us grace. But fear often stops us from radical obedience to Christ, and fear of death is among them. We fear the unknown, we fear the pain, we fear the disability, we fear the loss of death.
But if by faith we grasp that God’s grace will truly be with us, even in death, and if by faith we see beyond death to our eternal joy in Christ (Romans 8:18), then even death shall lose its power over us. Dr Piper states,
There is only future grace in front of us….if we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free. Free for joy. Free for others… when the future grace of dying in Christ takes hold of you, it frees from fear and gives courage to live the most radical, self-sacrificing life of love.
We need to dwell on God’s grace in death, and let it empower us, let it embolden us, let it fill our hearts with joy. We need to meditate on Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5 now, when we are young and healthy, and not only when we are dying:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Grace can indeed give us courage in the face of death. But grace does more. Paul saw that the actual process of aging and dying in itself was a means of grace:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Dr Piper comments that, “The unseen thing that Paul looked at to renew his inner man was the immense weight of glory that was being prepared for him not just after, but through and by, the wasting away of his body.”
As children of God, we can embrace all of life with grace, even death. As Dr. Piper states, our new heart frees us to lie awake at night not fearing eternity, but looking for it:
But if you find, written on the tablet of your heart, the truth that there is a Creator, and that you are created to have a relationship with him, and that what separates you from whales and dophins and chimpanzees is not mutations and chemicals, but personhood in the image of God, then you will probably lie awake at night and think about eternity.
We can hope & pray, as Christians have for 2000 years, for eternity to come, either by death or by Christ’s return. Either way, come, Lord Jesus.