If you don’t have a better plan for how you are going to die, someone will probably just turn on the television.
As a minister of the word of God, I have always thought that part of my calling is to help people die well. That would include Paul’s aim that Christ be magnified in his body by death (Philippians 1:20). I thought of every Sunday’s sermon as part of this preparation for death. And I hoped every visit to the bedside of the dying would be faith-strengthening, hope-giving, Bible-saturated, gospel-centered and Christ-exalting.
Which is why I groaned at the hospital to find the television glittering in the darkness of the approach of death. This felt utterly incongruous. Bizarre.
One of the most godly women I have ever known was dying. She was full of the Spirit and prayer. On one of my visits to the hospital in her last days, she pleaded with me to pray for her quick death, and shared with me the nightmares she was having of “half-naked women dancing around my bed.” I wondered if there was a connection with the television that the staff turned on.
Perhaps not. But surely we can all agree, there is a better way to prepare our souls to “face our Judge and Maker unafraid.” Part of the plan for dying well is to have friends who share your vision of how to live and die for the glory of Christ. Most of us, in the last days and hours of our death, will be mentally and physically too week to set the agenda. Better set it now.
Old or young, directly or indirectly, let it be known that you want—and need—a Bible-saturated, gospel-centered death. I’m thinking of the kind of death that John Knox chose.
Knox’s “First Anchor”
It was November 24, 1572. Knox was 57 or 58 years old. (The year of his birth is uncertain.) He was dying of bronchial pneumonia. Jane Dawson’s new biography describes his final days.
His wife, Margaret was ever nearby, when not caring for their three daughters and two sons. Richard Bannatyne, Knox’s faithful secretary and friend, was never far from the bedside.
Around five o’clock in the evening, he called for his wife. Earlier he had asked for the reading of Isaiah 53 with the sweetest gospel words:
He was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5–6)
He also had asked for 1 Corinthians 15 to be read with its detailed description of the relationship between Christ’s resurrection and his own.