A little boy’s pet turtle fell over and lay motionless. The boy ran in to tell his dad, who happened to be a very persuasive salesman. The father sized up the situation, put the turtle in a little box, and proceeded to share his faith with his son.
In his most convincing sales manner, the father told his son of the joys of eternal life and the beauty surrounding the heavenly throne. He also talked about the marvelous wake that they would hold for the late departed turtle. He also told his son that he could invite his friends over for ice cream and cake in honor of the little pet. The boy gradually brightened up. The father decided to close by inviting the boy out to bury the turtle. They walked outside, but when they opened the box, there was the turtle, crawling around as if nothing had happened. With a cheery glow on his face, the boy looked up at his father and said, “Dad, let’s kill him.”
Friends, I am not certain if all turtles go to heaven, but I do know that the eternal hope which belongs to those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ is indeed a great comfort. As Christians, we must not underestimate the great value of knowing that magnificent joy awaits us in heaven after we die. Yet we need to be careful that we do not allow these truths to lead us to a distorted view of death. In the Bible, God speaks of death as our enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Yes, it is a conquered enemy, an enemy that the Lord Jesus has defeated through His resurrection, but it is still not a friend. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is not intended to be a fun experience. As Christians, we should be able to face death with a bold confidence, but we are not called to joyfully embrace it.
Through the Apostle Paul, the Lord instructs us to “not grieve as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He clearly expects us to experience sorrow when someone we care about dies but to find comfort in the promise of eternal life. It can be very appropriate to have a “celebration” when an elderly saint dies and goes home to be with the Lord. Yet even in that celebration there should a sense of grief as we are separated from a person we love and are reminded of the temporary grip that death has on all of us. For the Christian, the ultimate hope is not that we will one day die so that we can go to heaven but that one day God will bring us to our eternal home where “there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Yours, thankful for Jesus’ victory over death,
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church