November 21, 2012

The Best Way to Die

A single prayer clung to my lips during the 14-hour trip from my vacation in Dallas to my home in Moscow: “Dear God, let this plane crash.”

Years earlier I had ruled out dying in a car accident as too common. I had also crossed cancer, heart attack, and stroke off my list of ways to go. If I must die, I reasoned, my demise should be noticed. So I settled on a plane crash. At least I’d make the evening news.

But my thinking changed after I gave my heart to Jesus. The apostle Paul, I learned, had also wanted his death to mean something. But he hadn’t cared whether his passing made the headlines or passed unrecorded. For him, the perfect death was one that won someone to Jesus. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,” Paul said, “that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:12, 20).

I boarded the airplane for Moscow on a winter day. A cloud of darkness pressed around me. A seemingly unresolvable conflict had erupted at work. Demons from my pre-Christ life roared in my ears, coaxing me to return to my familiar comfort zone. I knew my faith was under fire, that perhaps Jesus was cautioning me as He had Peter: “Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat” (Luke 22:31).

2012 1533 page28But even with that knowledge, I feared falling. I knew my weaknesses all too well, and I doubted my ability to resist. So I prayed earnestly, desperately, for the plane to crash. I told God that I wanted to die with the assurance of salvation that I had at that moment.

But the plane didn’t crash.

And I fell.

Then again.

I stumbled for months, all the time raging to God, “Why didn’t You let the plane crash? You knew I would fail.”

While I was stuck at this low point, a friend shared with me that he had entered the most difficult trial of his life at about the same time I had been praying for the plane to crash. His business had encountered enormous obstacles, and he had hovered at the brink of bankruptcy for months.

“It was very difficult, and I’m still in trouble. But I think that I just might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” my friend said. “Still, I praise God. I’m a completely different person than I was five months ago. I have a much stronger relationship with God. I have been tried in the fire, and, by God’s grace, have emerged refined. God has strengthened me for future trials.”

I felt deep shame. Both my friend and I had faced major tests. He had emerged victorious; I had failed.

Why didn’t God let the plane crash? As I pondered the question after the conversation with my friend, I realized that my selfish prayer had ignored the lives of hundreds of fellow passengers. But to my surprise I discovered that God did want me to die on that plane. Paul explained the concept very simply: “I face death every day” (1 Cor. 15:31).

On the plane, if I had died to self that day, and every day afterward, I would not have fallen. While I had prayed and spent considerable time with God in His Word every day, I had not faithfully died to self, or even asked God to help with this, life’s most difficult challenge.

Would you like to die? Choose to die daily with me. This is the best way to die. Then join me in sharing the joy Paul experienced in that death when he said: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

Let’s die to live! 

Andrew Mc Chesney is a journalist in Russia. This article was published November 22, 2012.