George Bowers: Dying well, Part 1
A few months ago in this column, I shared the incredible witness and testimony of our mother during her last few hours on Earth. I mentioned that her response did not just happen on the spur of the moment, but was something that she had been preparing for her whole life. Because many people have commented on the amazing grace she demonstrated and have expressed their desire to do the same when their time comes, and because we will all eventually have to face death if Jesus doesn’t return first, I’d like to share from time to time a little of exactly how she prepared to die well.
The most important thing our mom did to prepare for what happened on Christmas Day 2014 was to accept the one whose birth we acknowledge on that special holiday. Many years ago, our mother heard the good news of how Jesus came to Earth to live, heal and teach, but ultimately to die on the cross to pay for all of our sins that we might be saved and live eternally. Even at an early age, mom knew what all the rest of us realize at some point or the other: that she had disobeyed God’s law and that the consequence of doing so was eternal death and hell. Convicted of her sin, she threw herself on the mercy of God and asked for his forgiveness through the blood of his son, Jesus. When she did so, she received the salvation and everlasting life that he promises to all who do likewise.
Even though mom had many wonderful qualities, to the day she died she was aware of her own sinfulness and her complete inability to save herself by her own good works. She thanked God daily for the free gift of salvation that he had given her many years before. Trusting Jesus and accepting him as her Lord and savior was the most important thing she ever did in her 84 years on Earth because it opened the door for her to live forever in Christ’s kingdom. It brought the Holy Spirit into her life who began to transform her into the likeness of her savior. She would be the first to tell you that any good in her was not of her own doing, but a result of the spirit of God working within her.
Admitting her own sinfulness and responding to the love of God through Jesus was something mom had to do for herself. Her mom and dad couldn’t do it for her, although they prayed for her and shared the gospel truth with her. Even though her dad was a preacher, his salvation did her no good for God has no grandchildren. We each must receive Jesus and initiate our own relationship with him as his son or daughter.
We can do this anytime and anywhere. We must pray to God admitting our sin and asking him to forgive us through his son Jesus. We must believe that Jesus is his son and that he died for our sins and rose from the dead. Confessing this to God, we must ask him to save us with the assurance that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Until we do so, we are dangerously unprepared for our own death and teeter on the cliff-edge of eternal punishment, regardless of what other end-of-life preparations we’ve made.
There were many more things mom did to prepare for her own date with death, but this was the foundation of them all and the most important. It is also the most important thing any of us can do as well. If you never have, please follow the simple prayer guide above and begin preparing for your own grand exit from this life and entry into the next. And keep reading future columns to find out what else mom did to get ready to die well.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.