Morbid title, I know. Hopefully by the end of the blog you’ll feel encouraged instead anxiously trying to get your will and life insurance in order. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog (I Dare You) on the audacity of the biblical character, Jonathan. His courage and relationship to David is one of my favorite parts of scripture. His story begins with such promise. When reading 1 Samuel you can’t help but to cheer for this guy. He stood up to his father (King Saul), protected David, and was an accomplished warrior and leader in Israel. You think he is going to live this long happy life as David’s best friend until you read the end of 1 Samuel.
Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons – Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua…So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day.
1 Samuel 31:2, 6
A tragic ending to a man with such a bright future. I’ve often wondered why Jonathan died the way he did. He was one of the few men in scripture that didn’t show serious character flaws. He was faithful, strong, bold, and loving. His death prompted a beautiful lament from King David:
Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies dead on the hills. How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women! Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen! Stripped of their weapons, they lie dead.
2 Samuel 1:25-27
Jonathan didn’t get a happy ending. He perished in the thick of the fight. It’s a grim reminder that war isn’t glamorous. Wars are won when soldiers realize they are expendable and that every moment in battle counts. We need to understand that advancing the Kingdom of Heaven is not always glamorous. If we want to build God’s kingdom, to truly advance it in this earth, then we must give up our life. You have to die to yourself. You have to willingly give up your right to live your life the way you want. Jesus makes it pretty clear in the book of Mark:
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
Ten out of twelve of Jesus’ original disciples were murdered. The beginning of Acts describes the brutal killing of Stephen. Thousands of Christians were martyred under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. Below is an excerpt from the Roman historian, Tacitus:
Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they (Christians) were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames. These served to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open the gardens for the spectacle…there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being punished.”
As horrible as this was, their sacrifice was not in vain. The Kingdom of God advanced as countless men and women gave up their lives for the sake of the gospel. What does Jesus want you to give up for His sake? Taking up your cross doesn’t always mean martyrdom and persecution, it can mean the removal of a variety of different worries and cares of this world that distracts us and slows down the pursuit of our King. Is God asking you to give up an immoral relationship, gossip, resentment, anger? These things are not from God. Indulging in them separates us from His presence.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to perish daily. Put to death the sin and shame that so easily entangles us. Put to death the right to rule your life. The Kingdom must be built! If it is to go forward we must think of ourselves as dead men and women. Let us adopt the attitude of Jonathan, a hero who demonstrated remarkable capabilities for friendship, loyalty, and selflessness. He willingly gave up the right to the throne for the sake of his best friend’s calling.
Let us be like Jesus, a King who came not to be served, but to serve others and give His life as a ransom for many. My challenge to you is to prepare your life for the glory of God. May it rest upon you; work to bring others to the richness and fullness of that glory. This probably means you will die to yourself, you’ll be stripped to your bare bones, but God glorifies those who have died in Christ. Death, my friends, awaits us as men and women in the Kingdom of God.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.