Jesus met a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years and asked him a strange question: “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6). “What kind of question is that?” I asked the Lord. “How can you ask a man who has been sick for that long if he would like to be healed?”
The Lord replied: “Femi, I asked him that because sickness was his life.” I was a bit slow on the uptake. “What does that mean?” The Lord said emphatically: “I said sickness was his life. He had known nothing but sickness. To save him, I had to deliver him from the only life he knew, which was a life of sickness. He did not know what it means to be well.”
“But how can you save a man from life? I thought men were saved from death.” “No Femi, the Lord replied again. “I save from life. That is why I kill before I make alive. I kill the lives of men in order to give them the life of God.”
Dying to live
This makes true Christianity a death sentence. The psalmist laments to God: “We face death all day for you. We are like sheep on their way to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22). A believer dies in order to live. Paul says: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, so that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that he will still deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).
The “great death” we are delivered from is this life. We are delivered from a life of death to eternal life. We are delivered from counterfeit life into original life. We are delivered from the life of the body to the life of the Spirit. We are delivered from the life of men to the life of God.
Therein lies our dilemma. Jesus’ prescription of death is unpalatable. We do not want to give up the vainglories of this life. We try, pretend but finally give up. We fail to realise that the devil is the author of the life we want to continue living in this world. In effect, Jesus our Saviour becomes Jesus our adversary. We are determined to save our life from Jesus, who is equally determined that we must relinquish it.
Salvation from life
Therefore, Jesus warns: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26).
Jesus is in the business of saving men from themselves. He is in the business of saving a man from his own life. The reason is simple: we are our own worst enemies. My enemy is in me. Therefore, many sick people desire sickness. The alcoholic desires alcohol. The drug addict desires cocaine. The lung cancer patient desires cigarettes.
When a man has to be saved from his own life there is inevitably a problem. He is confronted with death. Salvation from life requires death. Therefore, the Lord kills before he makes alive. But are we prepared to face death? Is self-preservation not a basic human instinct? It might be human but it is not divine. Jesus laid down his life, leaving us an example to follow.
Ministry of death
Death is a minister of the gospel. The gospel was preached in the Old Testament, but the people did not understand it because they had a veil over their hearts. The ministration of death was written and engraved in stones at the hand of Moses. But nothing can give a man a whole new perspective on life than to come face to face with death.
Armed robbers attacked me on Airport Road in Lagos. A man pointed a gun at me and my whole life flashed before my eyes. It never occurred to me that my life was supposed to end like that. What about all my plans? What about all my hopes? Solomon warns: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21).
Then Jesus appeared to me, right there and then in the middle of the attack. “Trust me,” he said to me. “Believe in me,” he cajoled. Just then, I looked up to see an armed robber approach. He pointed a gun at me and he fired. The bullet hit me and I fell down and “died.” It ripped into my flesh and I “died”. It is necessary to put it in graphic terms. I “bled to death” right there on that dreadful road.
There is nothing like death to make a man realise his need of a saviour. What does a dead man need? He needs a redeemer. What does a dead man need? He desperately needs a resurrection. A dead man needs Jesus. Accordingly, Paul cried out: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25).
Jesus came to save me from death. But this death was the very life of me. Therefore, Jesus “took my life.” He made me work for him in his fishing industry. But I am not a fisherman and I am not interested in fishing. As a matter of fact, I am contemptuous of fishermen. They are poorly paid and are of low social status. I did not go to university in order to become a fisherman. By ending up as a mere fisherman it meant my life has been one big waste of time.
Job lamented that man born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. (Job 14:1). What was Job’s problem? He was born of a woman but not born again. He was born of a woman but not of the Spirit. He was born of a woman but not of God. Therefore, his life was full of insoluble trouble. Job had great possessions. However, he did not have the peace that passes all understanding.
It is incredible how many things can kill a man who is born of a woman. Ordinary mosquitoes can kill him. Armed robbers can kill him. He can be killed in car accidents and in plane crashes. He can fall sick and die. The spirit of fear forever torments him day and night. He is anxious about practically everything.
But what about those who are born of the Spirit? They are impregnable. Since they have died only to be born again, they can no longer be killed. Armed robbers cannot kill them. They are immune to sicknesses and diseases. Though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they fear no evil.
Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).