Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Temporary Home

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause; there's the respect that makes calamity of so long life
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. William Shakespeare

I can’t remember what year it was, but back in the late 80’s or early 90’s, Clemson University’s entertainment for their homecoming was George Burns. Burns was a great comedian who charmed audiences for over 90 years. He began working full time in show business when he quit school in the fourth grade. His career survived vaudeville, radio, television, movies and stand-up comedy tours.

That homecoming, George Burns had been on the football field at halftime, and did a short routine. He was going to be appearing later that night at Littlejohn Coliseum. After halftime, As I was leaving the game, I stepped out onto the street and was almost hit by a golf cart. As I yelled at the driver, I saw George Burns on the passenger side laughing at me. He raised his cigar as if to say, “Sorry!”

George Burns died in 1996 at 100 years old. He once said about living a long life, “If you ask what the single most important key to longevity is, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it.” That’s a great philosophy, and indeed he did live a long life, but even George Burns eventually died.

I read that Jack Lalanne died this past Sunday at 96. Lalanne was a man who, unlike George Burns, embodied fitness. In fact, his agent said that right up until his death, he was exercising. Not only did he believe in a longer, healthier life through exercising, but he also encouraged and inspired many others to do the same.

Why am I telling you about these two men? Because they are very different, yet share two major things in common. How were they different? George Burns drank scotch and puffed cigars, while Jack Lalanne ate healthily and exercised daily. However, what they shared in common is what I want to point out.

The first thing to notice is that both of these men lived past the age of 95. One of them ascribes that feat to a healthy lifestyle, and the other to simply avoiding stress, tension and worry. The second thing they have in common is that they are both dead. It seems that a healthy lifestyle and avoiding worry and stress may help you live longer, but not forever. Death eventually comes to all of us, no matter who we are or what we try to do to avoid it.

The great Roman historian and biographer, Plutarch, wrote of Alexander the Great, in his work entitled Parallel Lives. He recounted a story of Alexander the Great, noticing the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, looking attentively at a parcel of human bones. Alexander asked the philosopher what he was looking for. Diogenes' replied, “That which I cannot find…the difference between your father's bones and those of his slaves." Death is the great equalizer.

The bodies that we have on this Earth were not created to last forever. Our soul does live forever, but there is nothing we can do to cheat the demise of our physical body in this world. Because of sin, death will come to all of us, no matter who we are. The thing we must remember is to give our life to Christ. If we are redeemed by His blood, then when we die, we will be given new bodies that will never perish.

The good news is that we have hope of life eternal with Christ Jesus in Heaven. For the believer, the issue is not how long we live on this earth, but where we will spend eternity after we, as Shakespeare put it, “have shuffled off this mortal coil.” If you have never experienced the love of Jesus Christ and the assurance of life eternal, please ask a Christian friend, family member or minister to share with you, how you can know and accept Jesus into your life. 

Our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:53-57 NLT)

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