Should death be on your ‘looking-forward-to-it list’? Or are there better things to do?

When it comes to upcoming events that I’m looking forward to, stopping breathing is not on my list. To put it simply – I don’t want to die. But please don’t judge me for it.

Some Christians apparently are thrilled about the prospect of their own funeral, even though they won’t care what’s in the sandwiches they serve afterwards.

Like me you may have heard them claiming we should all come to a place of ‘maturity’ in our Christian lives where we would rather die and be with Jesus than live here on earth. They give the impression death is something to be warmly welcomed, a wonderful carrier that will usher us into the presence of the Lord, which is far better than the struggles of life here.

But are we really expected to see life like that? As though life is just a waiting room for eternity? Please, ‘no’! But it’s easy to see where this ‘death wish’ thinking comes from.

Paul the faithful apostle was able to say he longed to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. For him to live was Christ, he said. And to die was gain. Life, nil points, death and eternity thereafter, ten points. Death scored much higher.

I’m glad Paul reached that place of peace in the face of his upcoming demise. But I’m not there, and for the next couple of decades at least, I hope I don’t arrive at that destination of happy resignation.

I don’t view death with the delirious delight of a five year old about to board an airplane flight for the first time. When it comes to expiry, I’ll be wanting to eek out every last breath. I remember the sinking feeling when, as a child riding a fairground ride, I saw the attendant place his hand on the lever that meant my fun was almost over. That’s how I feel about life.

So how do I square this with Paul’s enthusiasm for dying? It’s because of the context of his remarks.

Over an extended period, as a follower of Jesus, Paul had experienced terrible pain and persecution – and a series of unjust, kangaroo court trials that were corrupt to the core.

Though enjoying a measure of freedom at the end of his life, Paul was still under house arrest in Rome, and life was not what it had been. He could no longer embark on missionary travels. He could no longer visit the churches he founded.

So perhaps the exhaustion and frustration of it all made the glory of eternity shine all the brighter. Being with Christ would be a welcome relief under those circumstances. Little wonder he anticipated it with such joy.

But that’s not my experience, and so I have no desire to die just yet.

Surely we are designed and made to want to hold on to life for as long as we can – the resilience of the human body testifies to that truth. I’ve watched as impossibly fragile seniors, their bodies riddled with cancer, little more than skin and bones, fight on for weeks and months, clinging with vice like tenacity to the gift of living. Death, while it is a defeated enemy, is still an enemy.

A profound example of this can be found in the way Jesus prepared for his own death. At the last supper, he bids his friends goodbye in a poignant covenant meal. There will be wine shared again, he promises, but it will be the vintage reserved for the fullness of the Father’s Kingdom. There’s a parting. He carefully prepares for the worst – the cross.

But then a little later, in the shadows of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father if there is any other way the great rescue can be accomplished. Hopes for the best are expressed. They’re denied, for he must drink that cup of suffering to the full, but he asks repeatedly anyway for another way. Ask for the best. Prepare for the worst.

So when death finally makes an appearance in my life, I want to be able to face it down with courage, and be able to gather my family and friends and say goodbye.

In the meantime, I want to live to the full, for and with Christ, today, and hopefully tomorrow and for many days more too. Death, kindly take your hand off that lever, right now.

This is adapted from Jeff Lucas’ book If you Want to Walk on Water, Consider Staying in the Boat (CWR)

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.


Next year is like a new country – and these 5 wise ‘travel tips’ are not to be missed.

Going into a new year is a lot like taking a journey to another country. In both cases you don’t know exactly what’s ahead. And there are some wise things to keep in mind to make the very best of it.

So, as you voyage into 2019, here are 5 rather obvious ‘travel tips’ to make the journey as worthwhile as possible.

1.Be realistic about it.

When it comes to holidays, the brochures tend to make it all look far better than the real thing. After all, that’s their job. But we too can wrongly imagine the land of New Year will be significantly different to the one that’s gone before.

In reality, nothing magical happens when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. There’s no Cinderella in reverse to be experienced. And this is one of the hard truths to learn about travel. That, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

If we’re tetchy, ungrateful, easily irritated, and self-centred, that side of us will still be with us as we journey on. A new country won’t fix it and nor will a New Year. Which means the need to take a realistic account of who we are and what we are like – and doing something about it.

2.Check your baggage weight.

I hate that awful moment at airports when the unsmiling check-in person tells me with unwelcome glee that I’m a little overweight. Sure, it’s a relief when I realise this is not personal and is about my luggage.

But what excess baggage might you be taking into the year ahead? Bitterness, hatred, shame, regret, jealousy? Or some other unhelpful emotions that will way us down when we are across the border of 2019?

These are the weights to leave behind – by forgiving others, forgiving yourself, by recognising that God loves us for who we are.

3.Choose the right travel companions.

There’s nothing worse than discovering that someone who’s great for an occasional coffee is a nightmare as a full-on travel companion. So who would we best have at our side in the New Year journey?

Will they enrich your life – and give you opportunities to enrich theirs? Will they speak the kind of truth you need to hear and be open for you to do the same for them? Will their positive outlook spur you on or their negativity drag you down?

Or think of it this way, who are those you can invest time in, celebrate with, and express love and appreciation for? And how can you make sure they are traveling with you and you with them.

4.Check your destination.

There’s the classic story of the airline passenger who ended up in Istanbul when they had bought a ticket to Torquay. (Think about it!) You’ll only have one opportunity to explore 2019 so make sure you get have a ticket for the right destination.

This is where having a few simple but clear goals come in. Not overwhelming ones that, in your heart of hearts, you know you’ll flunk in the first few weeks. But a fresh commitment or two on how to make the most of one more precious year in your afterwork stage of life.

For a little inspiration, here are three possible areas to explore –

Your new possibilities

Your health and fitness

Your service to others

5.Pack wisely.

To be honest, what you take with you may be the least of your worries. That’s because, over the years, you’ve accumulated a storehouse of knowledge, skills, know-how, experience and wisdom. As they say, ‘It’s in the bag’.

In which case, having packed it, don’t keep it all to yourself. You can make the coming year more rewarding for you and others by making sure what you’ve packed is put to good use.

Ahead is a new land waiting to be enjoyed, explored and enriched. Bon voyage.

Jeff Lucas

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife