Facing Death Fearlessly
Flying to Fiji on a Boeing 747 was a piece of cake compared to the flight from the main island to an outlying island where I would be training Fijians to plant churches. The pilot warned us that the flight would be rough, and boy was he right. The propeller airplane lurched, bounced and dropped like a ride in an amusement park.
People were screaming, crying and utilizing the air sickness bags. I’m sure everyone wondered if this flight was going to make it.
But the worst was yet to come. The pilot announced on the intercom that due to the cloud covering, he didn’t know if he could safely navigate into the airport. He said he would give it a try and if it didn’t work, we’d head back to where we came from. In addition, he told us his best bet was to follow a river which somewhat paralleled the airstrip, if he could get down low enough below the cloud cover to see it.
So down we went, bumping and thumping miserably, people still screaming and crying. I looked across the aisle at my Fijian coworker who was calm as a cucumber, and thought “I know why he is not overcome—it is the promises of Scripture such as ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
I was experiencing that same calmness. I just prayed if it was my time, that I wouldn’t go painfully—quick and painless was my prayer.
Gradually, the pilot took the plane down to where he hoped to see the river and use it as navigation. Down, down, down we went until suddenly we started going up, up, up! The pilot got on the intercom and announced that he couldn’t find the runway. He said he was going to take us back up, circle around and try one more time.
So we bumped up again, circled and then bumped down once more. I had no idea if he could see the runway or anything else.
Suddenly, we thumped down on the runway and a shout of relief went out from the passengers. The plane slowed to a stop and we walked out into the pouring rain, relieved to be on solid ground again!
Last Saturday I had another amazing experience in Chennai (formerly Madras), India. After training church leaders there, we visited the site of the martyrdom of Thomas, the disciple of Jesus Christ. He had gone to India and spent several years in the area before being speared to death for preaching the Good News. Saint Thomas Mount marks the location of his death.
Not far away is the burial place and cathedral built over his grave. As we entered the burial room, I was touched by a woman kneeling on the floor before the grave, her arms outstretched towards heaven.
Thomas, the doubter, said he wouldn’t believe unless he could put his fingers in the wounds in Jesus hands and side (John 20:25). He had become so convinced of the resurrection of Christ that he traveled three thousand miles preaching the Gospel, faced many dangers and eventually death.
Because he was convinced that Jesus conquered death, he was not afraid to die.
He believed Jesus words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26 ESV).
No one need fear death. With faith in Christ, we have eternal hope.