This week I’ve finished reading Navy Seal Chris Kyle’s autobiography. As a professed Christian, Kyle talks in his book about his four tours in the Middle East. Whilst there, he noticed a difference between those who acknowledged death and those who didn’t. Some men, he says, never came to terms with the reality that one day, perhaps even that very day, they might die. Other men stared into the reality of death and accepted what might inevitably come. These men didn’t want to die, but made peace with their mortality. This, in his opinion, unlocked a freedom on the battlefield that enabled soldiers to fight better. Having never served myself, I cannot comment on whether this is true or not. But what I can say is that very few of us ever talk about death, and that probably isn’t helpful in the long run. It is the one constant threat that will find us all, no matter our wealth, race, competency or how deserving we feel we are of life.
I find it fascinating that Paul exhorts Timothy to embrace the reality of death in his letter to him. Paul writes (1 Timothy 6:12):
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Paul asks Timothy to resist temptation and pursue godliness, and in doing so, “fight the good fight.” But linked to this, and surely enabling Timothy, is Paul’s charge to embrace eternal life. I am constantly amazed at the accounts we find in the book of Acts. The Apostles operate with incredible freedom, despite frequently finding themselves in chains. They are beaten, and virtually all end up being killed for their Master Jesus. Their suffering wasn’t accidental, they were even warned about it beforehand. No, they deliberately chose the road that would take them into conflict. I can only conclude that they had a firm understanding of the life to come, as Paul asks Timothy to take hold of here. They saw the risen Jesus. They knew what came after death. Taking hold of their eternity in this lifetime released them into a freedom of life that each of us, I’m sure, would love to have. And we can. The next time fear strikes and when temptation comes, or a threat emerges, join with Timothy, Paul and the Apostles in taking hold of the promises of God for the life to come and fight the good fight with the freedom of knowing God is with us, even unto death.