Dying Hope

Looking toward the bear's den

Looking toward the bear's den

Any work of God must die in order to fulfill its purpose.

What do you think? True or not?

Before you answer, here are two thoughts: First, there is more than one definition of death. Second, if that statement is true, then you are included because you are a work of God.

If the opening statement is true about us, I find it unlikely that dying means physical death. It doesn’t logically preclude it, but I don’t think that is the point.

A group of Greeks asked Jesus about eternal matters. He answered them by referencing His death: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn. 12:24).

He goes on to elaborate a bit and a biblical principle emerges: Any work of God—including the work of Christ—must die before fulfilling its purpose, otherwise it remains by itself. Alone.

That is a forlorn image. But the image Jesus created doesn’t stop there. Dying is prerequisite to both connection and multiplication.

Imagine that Christ did not die on the cross. Instead, He lived on to find widespread acceptance as a political leader, eventually becoming Emperor of the Roman Empire. From this power base He influenced the lives of an entire empire and history mentions His name in the same breath as Augustus Caesar. This would be impressive. Pick up any world history book, flip to the back pages, and you could find Jesus’ name alphabetically in the Index under “Roman Empire,” just after Hadrian, right before Jovian and Julian.

However, Jesus Christ did die. And, He was resurrected. He is not the leader of an empire, but indwells each of His people in the form of the Holy Spirit. If Christ had not died, He would have reigned alone. But through His death He multiplied His reign. Any work of God must die before fulfilling its purpose, otherwise it remains by itself—alone.

The Life of Christ was a miserable failure in the eyes of the world: Christ lived, was rejected by His family, peers, and disciples. He failed to establishment the anticipated kingdom, failed to deliver His people, and was killed in pitiful disgrace. Yet through death God brought forth something never imagined by the world. All men die, even great men, even leaders of empires. But Jesus conquered the grave and rose from the dead. In so doing, this multiplication joined us to Him and returns us all to our heavenly Father.

God is in the business of producing in all His children the same “failure” His oldest Son experienced and demonstrated because, “…except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains by itself alone.”

How many times in history have great revivals been experienced within the Christian movement—only to fizzle, and dwindle, and disintegrate into seeming defeat? Those viewing this seeming anomaly will say, “How discouraging and disappointing.” Yet, “…except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains by itself alone.”

At first blush, it seems the picture Jesus paints is of a seed falling into the ground, dying, and then growing to maturity. An acorn falls into the ground, dies, then progresses to maturity in the appearance of an oak tree.

But the biblical picture is of a seed dying and producing what it was never capable of producing in its natural state. A mustard seed of faith is planted—an oak tree of spiritual strength, unshakeable identity, and deep roots is produced!

Christianity is always a forlorn hope in the eyes of the world because it is always “dying.” Yet God consistently brings about something that never was. It is a spiritual principle.

What point—or logic—is there in clinging to temporal life, as if this planet offers us what our souls long to realize? A temporal place cannot assuage an eternal desire. Thus, to achieve what our hearts long to realize, a dying must occur. Our hope springs eternal for good reason, multiplying, comforting, and connecting us to our true roots as the family of God.

This fundamental principal remains: Our hope as Christians rests in the fact that our death with Christ enables Him to bring about something that never was: a joint heir with Christ. In this death, we are resurrected in Him, filled with the Spirit, growing into completeness, reflective of Him, His life, His strength, and His purpose. In this death and resurrection we are connected, not alone. In this we are people of hope, not despair. In this He multiplies His purpose in us and through us.

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