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An Appointment You Can’t Cancel

Death is a subject millions of people in the modern world don't like to think about and even less to talk about. But the Bible bluntly states in Hebrews 9:27 what so many would rather hush-hush: "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." Our lives are filled with appointments and deadlines, from the check-up at the doctor's office to the cleaning at the dentist. Many either absent-mindedly forget, or, worse yet, feel free to-skip the appointment and not even bother to call the office. Whatever the case, it is sobering to realize we all have a divine appointment with death and judgement — an unavoidable appointment we can't cancel or skip or ignore. Most of us don't know when the appointment is, and therein lies a danger. God help us, we just can't hardly help forgetting that that appointment could be today. We get so busy with the business (and busyness) of living we don't take or make time to think deeply about death and the final summons to appear before God in judgement. Many bury any thought of death as if ignoring it will somehow cancel or postpone it indefinitely. Run from it if you will, but you can't stay ahead of it forever. On Sunday, February 18, 2001, the death of popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt at Daytona Speedway shocked and saddened millions of auto racing fans around the world. Earnhardt was well respected by peers and had achieved phenomenal success as a NASCAR driver. But neither popularity, prosperity, professional skill, nor speeds of 180 mph were enough to prevent death from catching him. At 50 years old and at the height of a brilliant career, he suddenly kept his appointment with death. Every death reminds us of the sobering truth God seeks to impress upon us — death comes everyday to someone and someday to everyone. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, "The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die." As we  grieve the passing of a friend or loved one, it is easy to forget the fact we are all terminal. Romans 5:12 reminds us because of sin death has spread to all men. It is an appointment that is impossible to cancel.

An old legend tells of a merchant in Baghdad who one day sent his servant to the market. Before very long the servant returned, pale and trembling. In great agitation he said to his master, "Down in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw it was Death. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please, lend me your horse, for I must hasten to avoid her. I will ride to Samarra and there I will hide and Death will not find me." The merchant lent him the horse, and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later the merchant went down to the market and saw Death standing in the crowd. He asked her, "Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make a threatening gesture toward him?" Death replied, "It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra!" Death may catch us by surprise, but thanks be to Christ it need not catch us unprepared!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ