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Fear of Dying

by J. R. Clark

JRClarkWhen I was minister at Dugger, Indiana, Brother E. H. Hoover was with us in a Gospel meeting. One day we visited a young woman who was dying with cancer. Though she knew that she had only a few weeks to live she was cheerful and unafraid. She gave a warm testimony of her love for God, and of her joyful hope. She was not  a member of our group. As Brother Hoover and I walked home we talked of the lack of such an attitude among our people.  We talk courageously about death when we are in good health, but how would we react if the doctor gave us only three months to live? Perhaps the monster Death would suddenly become real to us and throw us into a panic.

This should not be so to the Christian. Non-Christians have reason to fear death. Death is the fruit of sin. In Hebrews 2: 15 the writer speaks of those “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Again in I John 4: 18 John says, “Fear hath punishment,” meaning that fear is aligned with judgment, a little foretaste here and full measure in the hereafter. Luke, in speaking of the latter days, sees “men fainting for fear and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world” (Luke 21:26). Fear of death is a normal state of the alien sinner. In Revelation 21:8, the fearful are listed with unbelievers.

But it is a different story with the child of God. We are told to “Fear not their fear.” “Since the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear  of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2: 1’1, 15). To this agrees 2 Timothy 1: 10, which reads, “He abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” “O death where is thy sting?” “The sting of death is sin,” says Paul. This is a victory shout!

From these passages we learn that God in dealing with the fear of death, with one master stroke put down both the devil and death! He did this through giving His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. Thus He removed the sting from death to those who accept His Son as Savior and Lord. To them, Death is like a poisonous snake with its fangs removed: harmless but repulsive.

The Apostle Paul is a good example of the correct Christian attitude toward death. In Philippians I, he expresses a desire to magnify Christ in his body, whether by life or death. He says, “But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake.” And in 2 Corinthians 5: “whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord… and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.”  In 2 Timothy 4 he speaks happily about approaching death: “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”   Paul’s attitude toward death should be our attitude.

How may we cast out the fear of death? The New Testament gives a threefold answer. First, we need more faith. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!  Faith gives reality to things hoped for.  Jonathan said that God could give victory by many or few. Then he went out against the enemy singlehanded, with his armor bearer,  and God rewarded his faith. David demonstrated faith in God in going out against Goliath. Faith casteth out fear.

Next, hope is an antidote to fear of death. Death does not hold a hope, but the second coming of Christ does. In the New Testament we are taught to wait for, long for, watch for, pray for, and to love Christ’s appearing. In 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul speaks of “Christ Jesus cur hope.” If this hope has not driven out fear, we need more of it!

The third grace that casts out fear is love.  “There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment: and he that feareth is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18). If one is fearful, his love is weak. He thereby has a characteristic of the world, which is associated with punishment and judgment.

Peter says, “and fear not their fear, neither be troubled” (I Pet. 3: 14)  If you as a Christian have the fear of death you need more faith, more hope, and less interest in the things of the world! Perhaps most of us fall short in these graces.

Reprint from Word and Work Magazine  May, 1966




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10