Phil Ryken says: “Shortly after the death of my father-in-law, I had the opportunity to thank his pastor for the spiritual care he received from the church in his last days of life on this earth. I will always remember the words of encouragement the pastor gave me. “Jim Maxwell died well,” he said, before adding, “Not everyone does, you know.”
No, not everyone dies well, but only those who are strong in faith, bold in courage, and well prepared to meet their God. The Puritan Edmund Barker said, “Every Christian hath two great works to do in the world, to live well, and to die well.” This is one of my own spiritual ambitions: to be ready to die when the time comes, and to die well. It is never too early to start preparing for something as important as dying well. So what are some practical ways to get better prepared for the last moments we have on earth before our first moments in eternity?
We can prepare to die well by thinking often about death and the life to come. This is what Moses was doing when he prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). This is always the way to prepare for things we know we have to face in the future. By thinking clearly and soberly about what lies ahead, we are better prepared to handle it with dignity and grace when the time comes. We should think about the moment of death itself, when we will have to say farewell to everything we have in this life, and also about what comes after death, when every believer will be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). And we should think about these things often. Charles Spurgeon said: “We are flying, as on some mighty eagle’s wing, swiftly on towards eternity. Let us, then, talk about preparing to die. It is the greatest thing we have to do, and we have soon to do it, so let us talk and think something about it.”