“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Sunday morning at about 12:45am, my pastor from my home church passed away. It wasn’t unexpected, necessarily. We knew he was dying for a few months . . . but it all happened so quickly. One week we were emailing back and forth to see if he and I wanted to meet over Christmas break, the next I was around a table on New Year’s Eve with other members of my church asking “Do you think perhaps that was his last sermon?”
I was at home this weekend, celebrating my long weekend with those I love most. It was supposed to be relaxing, stress-free and a break from all problems. And now, Sunday morning, I was on my way to a church who had just lost their pastor.
Can I be honest? It stung.
I was there watching those who loved Archie, those who I love as well, weep for the loss of an excellent man who deserved a better finale to his life. He deserved to retire and spend time with his family. He shouldn’t have gotten cancer. It’s unfair. And now the church needs to start figuring out how to move forward. It hurts, and it’s tough reading the words in 1 Corinthians 15.
I went back and re-read my journal from December 28th, his last sermon. I didn’t take very good sermon notes; I would have written down every last thing he said if I knew it was the last sermon I would hear from him. But I look at what I did write down, and I see that Archie left us with an extreme amount of hope.
His sermon was from Psalm 91, emphasizing on verses three and four:
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Archie explained that evil will still come, and fears will come along with it. But he said “Our fear activates the promise of God: we don’t have to be consumed by fear. We’ll still have it, but we won’t live in it. God’s wing takes off the venom on the poison arrow, wiping off the worst of the evil with his wings.”
So looking at 1 Corinthians 15 again, I had to remind myself to continue reading.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is certainly still pain; evil’s arrow may pierce us, but God has wiped all the poison off. He takes us in and shelters us under His wings. We still have fear, but we need not be consumed by it. Death doesn’t have the victory anymore. It is won. It is done. The Lord is my refuge; I shall fear no evil, for I know He is with me.