If a man dies, can he live again?
This article is one of my favorites. Each Easter this receives more response that anything else I've published. As you read, I pray that the power of Jesus' resurrection collides with the dead places in your life and you discover God's grace to help you live again.
“Is there life after death?” It’s been asked by every society and culture since humankind’s existence. Does life exist on the other side of a grave?
Job, a patriarch with a book in the Bible bearing his name, asked, “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14). People like Job walk through life inspired by their goals and dreams. Job lived with purpose and great faith. With the limited information we’re afforded, Job appears to be a conscientious husband and father, and a prosperous businessman with spiritual values who “fears God and shuns evil.” Undoubtedly, Job was a leader in the city of Uz, his family the pride of the neighborhood.
Out of nowhere, Job faced trials and fell upon hard times that cost him everything and nearly everyone precious to him. Job’s children, wealth, and health vanished, seemingly, overnight. His spirituality was the only thing left intact, and that too was challenged. His situation was so bad that even his wife and friends counseled him to, “Curse God and die.”
It was in this context that Job asked the age old question, “If a man dies, will he live again?” As noble as it may be, Job’s question was not “Is heaven real?” He wanted to know if resurrection existed this side of the grave. Is a “come back” possible for the person who loses everything on earth that is good and valuable? Can dead dreams, lost destinies, and misplaced relationships have life breathed back into them?
After “the crisis” Job no longer considered himself alive. He only existed now. Sick though he was, it was the death inside him that hurt most. He longed for another shot at life. Job wanted—needed—a resurrection.
After having my own “Job experience”, I asked the same question. Prior to my crisis, I was known in my community as a leader of leaders. Leading one of the fasting growing organizations in my city, my reputation was respected. Making wrong choices, however, sent my character and professional standing into a tail spin. Consequently, I lost every “thing” and most relationships to boot. Financial security, my job, credit, friends, and a good name…gone. The dreams I so treasured vanished. Worse still, like Job, I died inside.
One morning as I walked out with the children to drive them to school, a tow truck slowly slipped into our driveway. I knew what he had come for. I was not able to make the car payment and he had come to repossess my vehicle. This was but one of the many incidents I experienced that reminded me that life as I knew it was dying one piece at a time.
“Pop, why is that man taking our car?” my son asked, as I tried to shuffle him and his little sister back into the house.
Pushing back anger, pain, and regret, I swallowed hard. “Go on back inside, kids. The car is broke. He’s taking it to fix it.” Embarrassed, I lied to cover up another mess. Truthfully, I was the one who was “broke.” In the days ahead I would also come to the conclusion that I was the one who needed to be “fixed.”
The man driving the truck was as nice as he could be. I removed my personal belongings and watched another part of yesterday’s prosperity disappear over the hill. As the days unfolded I died a little at a time as my failure gnawed away at chunks of my life. Job’s question surfaced in my mind, time and again. My hopes and dreams died as I asked myself, “Will I ever live again?”
Some of you ask the same question. Divorce, failures, loss of employment, scandal, moral collapse, addictions, spiritual decline, abuse; you face your own deaths.
One day, two sisters sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was dying. They needed Jesus to come quickly and heal him before he passed. Jesus delayed the trip and Lazarus died before he could arrive.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” In other words, “it’s too late.” Now, even you can’t help him.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Like Job’s wife and friends, Martha’s faith only made room for better days in the next life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Martha was thinking “heaven.” Jesus was talking “today.” In time, Jesus would explain that a resurrection can also be experienced before and instead of a funeral!
You can rise again—live again! Not later, not in the sweet by ‘n by, but in the here ‘n now! Jesus is not the I was, or the I will be, He is the “I AM!” When Jesus Christ arrived on the planet he invaded earth with the resurrection factor. This answers the question that haunts every person who has died inside, suffered loss or failure, and dreads waking up to another day. After experiencing personal devastation, is it possible to fulfill my destiny and realize my dreams again? Will I ever live again, love again, trust again? Are second chances realistic this side of the grave? The answer to these apparent impossibilities is a resounding “YES!”
Standing toe to toe with the dead man’s tomb, Jesus lifted his voice and shouted into the burial chamber, “Lazarus, come out!” Resurrection prayers always look foolish to those comfortable with the status quo. To them, resurrection is irrational, crazy faith. To the crowd’s astonishment, the “dead man” waddles out of his grave, alive again!
Years ago, I hobbled out of my grave too. People were no less astounded with my resurrection than the mob was with Lazarus in Jesus’ day. Today, I write overlooking the sunroom of our beautiful home, my wife reading at my side, and I lead an amazing group of people who comprise a growing congregation. Together, we’re impacting our city, the same city where I died years ago. No one expected my return because people who die my kind of death usually don’t return. But “I’m back,” more alive than ever, a product of God’s grace, and a testimony that he still raises the dead!
“If a man dies, will he live again?” Lazarus and I agree that it’s entirely possible. And Job’s outcome? The book that carries his name documents his finale. “The Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house” (Job 42:10-11).
The resurrection is not just a historical event that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday. The resurrection is a Person, a faith, and a possibility for anyone who has experienced death in any form.
If you listen closely, you’ll hear your name being called. It’s “I AM,” the Resurrection himself, calling you. Today it’s your turn to walk out of the grave that you’ve been buried in for so long.
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