As a pastor, I try my best to get out and visit the sick and elderly. I feel a constant tension when visiting an elderly or really sick person that I want to pray for their healing but I also acknowledge that everyone I know will, probably, die. I have had people in my life who are Christians die at an old age. Many people would comment that when a person has grown old and had a full life that death was more acceptable.
There is something in our minds that feels better when a person grows old and has experienced all of life and then dies. We say that they have lived a full life.
In our chapter of the day Paul is being sent out on his first missionary journey. He is sent out by the elders of the Antioch church and he makes a significant statement about death. He is asked to give a word of encouragement in the synagogue in Pisidia. As a side note, I love how Paul is geared up and just already has something on his heart to share with this group. As the text reads Barnabas and Paul are asked and then Paul just stands up and goes. As someone who preaches most Sundays I love the idea of no outline, just God speaking to you and you speaking to people. Paul was a man who was hooked up to the well and out flowed the things that God put there.
Now back to get back on track … Acts 13.36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption”
Paul says something implicitly about life that could be helpful for us. Paul says that David dies after he had served his purpose to God. Essentially after he had done what God wanted him to do David died. For some people this may seem like harsh treatment by God to his servant. Why wouldn’t God give David a long good life after how David served him? David gave his life to God. Shouldn’t God give David a retirement package? You know like 20 years where David could do what he wanted or do the things he hadn’t gotten to do because he was busy serving God.
I don’t think David was just living for the Kingdom. I think David’s primary motivation in this life was the glory of God. Once David had done what he was supposed to do for that purpose he died. You see this in elderly people quite often. As long as they have a purpose in life they continue to live but often when that purpose is removed their health tends to deteriorate. This could be part of how God made us.
I think we undervalue how great it is that we serve God according to a purpose that he gives to us. Purpose in this verse could also mean plan. God has had a plan for the world of redeeming it and glorifying it and making it new. The same way he has started this work of making things new by resurrecting Jesus and then started the process of making us new by giving us new hearts. We get to take part in God’s plan and purpose for this world that is millennium old and ends with everything made new and God properly glorified.
It feels all too fitting that once we have fulfilled our role in God’s purpose and plan that we would die. The intended purpose for our lives is God’s glory (Isaiah 43.7). It feels proper and good that when we fulfill our intended purpose that we would pass away whether that is young or old or somewhere in between.
I am not trying to be insensitive to people who have lost friends or family members young. I know that hurts and I’m sorry if you have. I’m trying/ hoping to reconcile life and death as a Christian.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What do you think God’s purpose was in David’s life? In Barnabas’s life? In Saul/Paul’s life? In yours?
- How might God be preparing for you to serve Him? Where to go? Who to talk to? What words to speak? How can you prepare yourself for what He wants you to do?