By W. E. Travis
Introduction: I have entitled this morning’s message as Death as Vocation. Which on its face may seem odd because we typically associate vocation with job, profession, or career. The providence of God has allotted to me the vocations of Teacher and Pastor, to Darrell Carpenter and Pastor, to Christian Physical Therapist, to Leslie Accountant, to Destiny stay at home mother.
As we will see, however, we limit the word vocation to our own peril. Vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, meaning “to call.” Used in the Christian sense, vocation refers to a divine calling, a summons that comes from God Himself. He calls people the world over to an entire catalog of employments. There are as many vocations as there are facets to human life (Sproul).
We have different vocations with respect to the jobs and tasks God gives us in this life. But we all share in the vocation of death. Every one of us is called to die. That vocation is as much a calling from God as is a “call” to the ministry of Christ. Sometimes the call comes suddenly and without warning. Sometimes it comes with advanced notification.
- But, it comes to all of us.
- And, all to whom it comes – it comes from God.
In light of the hysteria that currently grips not only our state, country, and the world but also perhaps even some of our homes I want us to understand two things in regards to death: First, that death is by Divine purpose & Second, death is according to Divine appointment.
- Our texts for this morning show forth both of these truths:
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die”
- Hebrews 9:27: “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…”
What is being stated here (and very clearly mind you) is that our death lies in the One who gave us this life. God is not only in control of our death (in whatever form it comes to us), but He is the One who has appointed our death – we should both believe and say that God is Sovereign over our death.
To embrace the Sovereignty of God is to affirm more than mere truth, however, this is where it must begin. Before we wrap our days up in the sovereignty of God we must first come to terms with it as it is presented on the pages of Scripture. We lack the time to cover this inexhaustible matter: However, I think I can show you the Sovereignty of God in a satisfactory manner and in short order as well.
- [The LORD’s] “dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven. And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” Daniel 4:34-35
- “[I am] The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” Isaiah 45:7
- “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” Isaiah 46:8-11
The Sovereignty of God is an expression that once was generally understood. It was a phrase commonly used in Christian literature. It was a theme frequently expounded in the pulpit. It was a truth which brought comfort to many hearts, and gave virility and stability to Christian character. But, today, to make mention of God’s Sovereignty is, in many quarters, to speak in an unknown tongue.
Were we to announce from the average pulpit that the subject of our discourse would be the Sovereignty of God, it would sound very much as though we had borrowed a phrase from one of the dead languages. Alas! that it should be so. Alas! that the doctrine which is the key to history, the interpreter of Providence, the warp and woof of Scripture, and the foundation of Christian theology should be so [eagerly and] sadly neglected and so little understood.
The Sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible. – A.W. Pink
- Such is your God dear Christian. All things bow in submission to His will whether Nations, Kings, people, or plagues. If there is one rogue particle of the Coronavirus roaming this planet then God is not God. But He is God – He is the only Sovereign of the Cosmos.
- And no matter the trial (even if it be a global pandemic that threatens your very life) the sovereignty of God ought to be the pillow on which you lay your head.
- The acknowledgment that God is in control of all things, the conviction that there is not one nanometer of this creation over which God does not shout “Mine!” must steady your hand and sure your feet to live or die at God’s appointed time & for God’s appointed purpose.
Charles Spurgeon took his pastorate in London during the midst of an outbreak of cholera in 1854, and he remarked the following: “If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.”
Twelve years later when London was ravaged again by Cholera the Bishop of Liverpool J.C. Ryle responded: “Vestries may fail to do their duty, and Governments may be slow to act. Hospitals may be overcrowded, and doctors may fail. But the Lord reigns and we [The Christian] have no cause to despair.”
- In the midst of panic, in the presence of sickness, and even in the face of death – Mt. Eden will you lay your head down on the pillow of unerring providence? Will you take all your solace in this reality: “In Your book were all written/ The days that were ordained for me/ When as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16
The day of your death is an appointment. The day of your death is a Divine Calling – it is a vocation: This is the point of Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die”
The time / this time (this very chaotic, irrational, dysfunctional, deadly time) has been appointed by God. And the purpose of this time is twofold – a purpose for those who are in Christ and a purpose for those who are not.
- For you Christian this Godly affliction is profitable:
- It teaches you (rather presses upon you) to shake off your earthly prospects and sets your longing for glory.
- It forces you to contemplate and deal with the vanity of this life and leave off unprofitable pursuits.
- These momentary afflictions and contemplations of the end of your life only magnify the sufficiency of Christ.
- The prospect of death confirms your faith by experience, and so sanctifies you and prepares you for heaven.
- For the ungodly this Godly affliction is not necessarily useful:
- For those who know God not, the panic of death (ironically) distracts them from the giver of life.
- The experience provides only a temporary expression of fear
And secularism is strengthened as man in the foolishness of his heart looks to the external factors of Government, doctors, and medicines (as his ultimate hope).
If we are getting to the root here – the root of our panic, the root of our hysteria, the root of our fear – it is the fear of dying. That is what makes all of this scary (the News coverage, the reports, the breaking news, the governmental debriefings, the scale of infections and the toll of deaths and on and on ad infinitum it goes) we are scared to die.
And yet, we have these words: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die”
- There is an appointed time to die. Death is a Divine appointment. And it is an appointment that will not come prematurely nor will it come with delay. But rather it will come the precise moment Divine Sovereignty has decreed.
Listen to how the death of Jesus was spoken of:
- “So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.” Jn.7:20
- “So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.” Jn.8:19-20
- “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Jn.13:1
“The time of a man’s coming into the world and going out of it, both being fixed by the Lord: this is true of all men in general, of all men that come into the world, for whom it is appointed that they shall die; and particularly of Christ, whose birth was at the time appointed by the Father, in the fullness of time; and whose death was in due time, nor could his life be taken away before his hour was come, and this holds good of every individual man; his birth is at the time God has fixed it; that any man is born into the world, is of God; no man comes into it at his own pleasure or another’s, but at the will of God, and when he pleases, not sooner nor later; and the time of his going out of the world is settled by him, beyond which time he cannot live, and sooner he cannot die.” – John Gill
When your time comes to die – what you must be resolved to understand now is that it will be an appointed time – a time appointed by God before ever the worlds were formed. There will not be anything that violates this time and His determined means to end your time in this world and to begin it in the next.
Your hour of death, beloved of God, serves a glorious and Christ-exalting purpose to get you to Him.
- Therefore, fear not for your Christ has overcome this world – therefore, do not be so in love with it that you are scared to leave it. “O believer! What is there in this earth to tempt you to hang back, when God calls you to depart?
- While you are here, you may lay your account with many losses, crosses, disappointments, griefs, calamities, of all sorts.
- Friends will fail you, enemies will hate you, lusts will molest you, Satan will tempt you, diseases will ravage your body. Death is the way (the appointed way) that the dearest of God’s saints, and all the cloud of witnesses, have gone before you; yea, the Lord Jesus your Head hath trod this path, and hath taken the sting out of death, and have paved a way through its dark valley, that His people may follow Him.
- Hath the Captain of your salvation gone before you? And will any of His soldiers shrink to follow Him? Are you content to remain always at the same distance from Him, and to enjoy no more of His presence than now you have? Are you satisfied to live forever with no more knowledge of God, no more love to Christ, no more holiness of heavenly-mindedness, that at the present you have? Are you not desirous to go to the place where you will be eternally free from all your remaining ignorance, deadness, wanderings, pride, passions, unbelief, selfishness, worldliness, fears, and many other sins and lusts which beset you here and now? (Spurgeon)
- Why would we above all people on the face of the earth fear the very thing intended to unite us in glory and for eternity with our Redeemer? Your death is a Divine Appointment, an appointment with the Divine. To finally after all your many years, of toils, dangers, and snares to meet with Him face-to-face, to stand in His presence, and to worship Him without the hindrance of sin throughout the ages of ages.
This time that we are now living in is a gift.
- A gift to think about life and to live it for the greatest and most glorious purpose possible – the living God.
- It is a gift in that we are forced more now perhaps than in days past to concern ourselves with the state both of the lost and ourselves.
- It is a gift in that we may now look at time for what it is a limited resource provided in order that we may live for the God of glory.
- It is a gift that we may contemplate the wonders that await us who have been tucked away into Christ for eternity.
Close with Bunyan’s description of the Celestial City [Feel free to access here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/131/131-h/131-h.htm ]
This message was preached by Pastor W.E. Travis II on March 15, 2020, to the Saints at Mt. Eden Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, KY.