I love these perspectives from Anglican bishop J. C. Ryle (1816–1900) on preparing for death by living well. With every passing year, each of us have more precious family and friends who have gone to be with Christ. As we look forward to the day when we too will see Jesus face to face, may we lean into and serve Him like never before. —Randy Alcorn
In Our Dying Hour
The day may come when after a long fight with disease, we shall feel that medicine can do no more, and that nothing remains but to die. Friends will be standing by, unable to help us. Hearing, eyesight, even the power of praying, will be fast failing us. The world and its shadows will be melting beneath our feet. Eternity, with its realities, will be looming large before our minds.
What shall support us in that trying hour? What shall enable us to feel, “I fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4)? Nothing, nothing can do it but close communion with Christ. Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith—Christ putting His right arm under our heads—Christ felt to be sitting by our side—Christ can alone give us the complete victory in the last struggle.
Let us cleave to Christ more closely, love Him more heartily, live to Him more thoroughly, copy Him more exactly, confess Him more boldly, follow Him more fully. Religion like this will always bring its own reward. Worldly people may laugh at it. Weak brethren may think it extreme. But it will wear well. At even time it will bring us light. In sickness it will bring us peace. In the world to come it will give us a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The time is short. The fashion of this world passeth away. A few more sicknesses, and all will be over. A few more funerals, and our own funeral will take place. A few more storms and tossings, and we shall be safe in harbour. We travel towards a world where there is no more sickness—where parting, and pain, and crying, and mourning, are done with for evermore.
Heaven is becoming every year more full, and earth more empty. The friends ahead are becoming more numerous than the friends astern. “Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37). In His presence shall be fulness of joy. Christ shall wipe away all tears from His people’s eyes. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death. But he shall be destroyed. Death himself shall one day die (Rev. 20:14).
In the meantime let us live the life of faith in the Son of God. Let us lean all our weight on Christ, and rejoice in the thought that He lives for evermore. Yes: blessed be God! Christ lives, though we may die. Christ lives, though friends and families are carried to the grave. He lives who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel.
He lives who said, “O death, I will be thy plagues: O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hos. 13:14). He lives who will one day change our vile body, and make it like unto His glorious body. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, let us lean confidently on Him. Surely we ought to say daily with one of old, “Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!”
—J.C. Ryle, “Sickness” in Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 372-374. (online source)