September 6, 2023
Death has a powerful sting . . . or does it? Today's stories have a common thread of just how fragile life on Earth can be, but we will prepare ourselves for those stories with a reminder that death has no claim on us! Thank you for being a valued member of The Equipped community!
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Escaping the Sting of Death
For as long as mankind has walked the Earth, we have tried to escape the grip of death. We’ve built towers in an effort to reach the heavens, searched for fountains with healing waters, and explored the wonders of medicine in hopes of staving off the inevitability of death. While some of these efforts have contributed to the seemingly perpetual march of human progress, none have succeeded in changing the inevitability of death. Each of us will still face an appointed day where death will overtake our human bodies (Heb. 9:27).
The reality that this ongoing quest for immortality has been utterly futile makes the discussion about resurrected life in 1 Corinthians 15 of paramount importance. If our death is certain, questions about resurrection are essential. The chapter focuses on the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection of the body. Because we are primarily a community of Jesus followers (though we welcome you if you have not yet embraced Jesus as your Savior), and because we are still living, the last of these three resurrections—that of the body—is our focus today.
As we will see in our news stories today, there is an inescapable reality that our current bodies are perishing (v. 42), which leaves us again grappling to understand how the promise of eternal life will be fulfilled (v. 35). It is against that backdrop of grappling that we read verses 42-45:
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
My friends, there is a veil between our current reality and our eternal destiny. It is one we cannot fully comprehend, and yet what we do while in this perishable, weak, often dishonorable body can—and WILL—one day be redeemed in an imperishable, glorious, power-filled form! The body in which we currently reside will not endure—that living being will pass away, but in its place will be a life-giving spirit!
It is that life-giving spirit—that replacing of the perishable with the imperishable—that incites verses 54-55 to proclaim that the words of Isaiah and Hosea have come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Here is the glory of this conclusion. You will not escape death of the body. But that death has no sting in your life, because it has been swallowed up in victory and replaced by a spirit that infuses life into those around you! Even more glorious, when you live as a life-giving spirit, you can pierce that veil of death even now! You can today make investments that escape the sting of death! So let nothing move you from operating in a life-giving fashion, because that is what makes your work not in vain (v. 58)!
Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region as a Category 3 storm with heavy rain and winds topping 125mph. While the sparsely-populated nature of the Big Bend region reduced the number of residents directly impacted by the storm, those who were in its path were still subjected to very devastating conditions. One early evaluation conducted by UBS estimated the property damage at more than $9 billion. The storm was unique in that the Big Bend region is not often in the path of major hurricanes, as most storms in the Gulf of Mexico track further south or west.
Eternal perspective: Somewhat ironically, I found myself on the Gulf coast about 250 miles west of the storm as it made landfall. The morning of the storm, I was struck by the comparative calm of my surroundings while violent destruction was taking place a relatively short distance down the coastline. I was also again reminded to focus in on that which cannot be destroyed by earthly forces. Matthew 6:19-24 describes those destructive forces as “moth and rust” and “thieves,” but the spirit of the passage certainly includes the destruction caused by hurricanes.
“Focusing on the eternal” probably sounds obvious, and a storm like Idalia might add clarity to our realization that earthly things can vanish in an instant, but how exactly do we convert this idea into tangible action? I find it helpful to begin with a clear understanding of what is eternal, and God clearly tells us that His Word (Ps. 119:89; Matt. 24:35; Is. 40:8) and the redeemed souls of men (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 6:23; Ez. 18:4) will live on into eternity.
With this in mind, if you will focus on hiding God’s Word in your heart and on investing in the souls around you, it will dramatically shift where the impact of your life lands. It will move your impact away from things that will soon pass away and toward things that cannot be destroyed! As we pray for those impacted by Idalia, and as we seek out ways to meet their tangible needs, let’s also take stock of how we can more fervently focus on God’s Word and on the souls of our neighbors.
Coup in Gabon
The expelled president, Ali Bongo, came to power in 2009, and his father held the office for more than 40 years prior. The new president, General Brice Oligui Nguema, led the coup and used his swearing-in ceremony to declare liberation and promise sweeping governmental reforms.
Analysis and eternal perspective: The coup in Gabon is the eighth in the African region over just the last 36 months, and it remains to be seen whether the newly installed government will survive, or whether its promised reforms will be delivered.
As Jesus followers, we should rejoice when the oppressed are truly liberated (Is. 58:6), but it can be difficult to ascertain the future prospects for citizens under a newly installed government that came to power through such chaotic and hostile means. As we pray for the people of Gabon to experience earthly freedom, let us also look for ways to offer the true and eternal freedom that can only be afforded by the redemption of the soul.
Health Challenges in the U.S. Senate
There is growing concern about the physical health of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after a second instance where he appeared to freeze up for an extended period of time during a press conference. These episodes, coupled with at least two recent falls, have caused some to question whether the 81-year-old will be able to serve out his Senate term, which runs through 2026.
Analysis and eternal perspective: As we’ve discussed previously in The Equipped, there have been several recent health concerns for U.S. Senators. Leader McConnell’s episodes are the latest to make the news, and he is the most senior member of Senate leadership to experience this level of complication in recent days, but Sens. Dianne Feinstein and John Fetterman have recently traversed prolonged absences due to health challenges. In a legislative body of only 100 Senators, every absence changes the dynamic significantly.
The Bible is clear that we benefit from the wisdom of our elders, and they should hold a place of high esteem in our society (1 Tim. 5:1-2, Pr. 20:29). It is also a benefit when servant leaders look to invest in the next generation of leadership. I regularly return to the biblical example of King David in 1 Chronicles 28, as he imparted his mantle of leadership to his son, King Solomon. As we pray for the wellbeing of Sens. McConnell, Feinstein, and Fetterman (1 Tim. 2:1-2), let us also strive to be a people who respect our elders and work to invest in those who will come after us.
Honey from the Comb
One of my favorite things is eating honey freshly harvested from our hive (a sample of which my wife, Brooke, has beautifully captured here).
May we as The Equipped community be likewise drawn to growing in the wisdom of God! May His words be as sweet to our soul as honey is to our lips!
Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off (Pr. 24:13-14).
Reminder: If you prefer listening to reading, you will want to check out the broadcast version of The Equipped on Faith Radio or wherever you get your podcasts! Live this week in a way that pierces the veil of death and makes investments that escape the sting of death!