“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”
Revelation 1:17-18, NLT
What is your experience like when you sit down with a hot drink and an open Bible? Why do you go there? What do you hope to draw out of the word?
Sometimes I come to the Scriptures hungry and needy and melancholy and desperate. I have waited too long and now I come, realizing that I am not enough. Ever. I come wondering if my lingering delay has damaged intimacy with Him. I come realizing that the depth of my own dysfunction clouds my thinking and incites fears that need not persist.
Pushing my fears aside and choosing to believe the Truth, I open my Bible, and then . . .
There is a tremor in my spirit. All my longings are concentrated into a single moment and I am confronted with holiness. I am in the presence of the Ancient of Days, the One Now Living, and the One Who Is to Come. There is no other like Him.
In His presence, I am completely exposed for who I really am. There can be no pretense. It is risky to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the God Who Sees Me. I must come to Him honestly, candidly—nothing to hide—ready to admit all, confess all, release all. He is the Lord. I am His servant. It must be so, for I am a missionary who lives from day to day in a country not my own, living and working in someone else’s culture and language, trying desperately to make it possible for them to come to the Scriptures and experience God through the word in their heart language.
Yet sometimes fear sings fortissimo. I need it to sing fortepiano. I need my spirit to not be overcome by the volume and painful pitch of fear in a situation, but to immediately quiet it to little more than a whisper in the background. Fear sings its loudest dirge when death is at hand, like in the days following my oldest brother’s death a few months ago. A mere fifty-six years old, he died in the night, sitting in his favorite chair, alone, of a heart attack. I am not much younger . . .
The Scriptures teach me much about life after death, but the experience of death remains a mystery. Before I moved to Papua New Guinea I had images of this beautiful land fixed in my mind. There was something magical about the imagined New Guinea. But the imaginary New Guinea lacked the intense heat and suffocating humidity, the pungent smells, the sounds of a thousand tongues and the complex relationships that must be cultivated in order for Jesus to be known here. It was but a dream. Even though I had talked often with others who had long lived here, the experience was still not my own.
I talk with Jesus about death. I must. He’s been through it and this is what he says to me about it: “Don’t be afraid! I died, but I am alive—forevermore!” That tremor returns to my spirit. I am in the presence of Someone so holy and powerful that death itself has no hold on Him. I am overwhelmed with awe. But He’s not finished: “I hold the keys to death and the grave.”
Courage, dear friend. Courage! When the deceiver threatens your very life, take courage in the fact that death has no sting and the enemy of our souls is not in charge. Jesus alone holds the keys. You were made that you might shake the foundations of hell by shattering the deceptions and empty threats of a defeated enemy. Let the only tremor you feel in your spirit be in response to the holiness and overwhelming power of the Risen One.