From the Archives: Life Through Dying
By G. Q. Coplin
The student of botany is familiar with a species of plant known as the agave. This name is from the Greek, and means illustrious. The same plant is now commonly known as the century plant. It received this name because it was supposed to live one hundred years, at the expiration of which it put on its bloom. No one has seen this plant at its best without admiring its stateliness and beauty. However. the idea that the century plant does not bloom until it is a hundred years old is a mistake, for it often sends up its tall spike of flowers when only a few years old; but no sooner does it blossom than the plant begins to wither and die. It has reached the object and goal of its existence, and so it passes away. But from that tall spike falls the matured seed, and a hundred new plants spring up from the soil about the mother stalk. The parent plant gave up its life that new life might spring up in its stead. It meant sacrifice on the part of the old plant, but through its death, life has sprung up a hundredfold. Had the parent plant continued to live this would have been impossible.
We find this same truth demonstrated in the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ gave himself for us and died that we might live. Without his death we could never have had that life, but would have continued on in sin and death.
In the Christian experience we find that life also comes as the result of death. We begin our existence in the kingdom of God by dying to sin and to the world. This is a real death, but it results in a new life and in a new creature. The dying was perhaps hard, but the agony and the pain is forgotten in the joy and rapture of our adoption into the family of God.
But Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. To obtain this more abundant life requires a deeper dying. It requires a dying to self and selfish interests. In fact, the Christian life is one in which we constantly die to the things about us. “I die daily” was the statement of an apostle. Paul was not speaking here of dying to sin, for this he had done many years before. But he was dying to the things about him, to natural ties, to things that were lawful, and even to life itself. As a result of this, he became exceedingly fruitful unto God.
In our Christian experience we are often required to die to things about us. God may call us to leave home and loved ones for his sake, and we must obey the call. Our plans are overthrown and our hearts are wrung at the thought of parting; but he knows best. With faltering lips we say goodbye, ready to follow where he may lead and, as the result of our sacrifice, life springs up a hundredfold.
Perhaps death steals into the home circle, and a place is left vacant. It may have been only an opening bud, but we could have more easily given up life itself than to have parted with our darling; yet again with faltering breath we whisper, “Thy will be done.” We know not why God willed it so, nor do we understand why we were called upon to offer such a priceless sacrifice upon his altar, but he knows and understands it all. There is nothing to do but to submit to his will regardless of how hard it seems. We yield to him, and learn obedience through suffering. We are dying to the things of earth that deeper life may flow into our broken, wounded hearts.
Things come up in our everyday life that require a constant dying. Our hopes are defeated and disappointment comes unsolicited. Our hearts grow sick and faint, but by yielding our wills to his will he leads us out into a broader place, and we feel the comforting influence of his Spirit hovering over us.
Then, there are the petty trials of home life, which require submission and the dying out of self and the yielding of our wills to God. Conditions about the home may not always be congenial. We may have to forbear and be longsuffering. We cannot have our way even though we feel it is for the best, for the Lord would teach us self-denial.
We may be misunderstood and our reputation endangered; and how hard it is then to say nothing, but to let God work it all out for us! But this is the way he prepares us for greater things. Those who are most useful in the service of God are often those who have suffered most. The cross is an emblem of death. We are commanded to take up our cross and follow him. This is the road that leads to ever deeper, more abounding life in Christ. It means to suffer for his sake, but if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.
The final test will be when we must face our last enemy. When bodily strength fails and we look forward to the narrow house and the cold sod, the flesh recoils, but we are comforted by the thought that “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die,” and we look away beyond the agony, the shroud, and the tomb to the meeting of loved ones on that bright shore. There we shall know and understand why death was necessary and why we could possess life by no other means. Then shall we also realize the full meaning of that life which is life indeed.
This article, by G. Q. Coplin, was first published in the September 1, 1921 issue of The Gospel Trumpet. Across the United States and around the world, God is on the move in the Church of God. Join the movement. Embrace life. Give life! Donate today at give.jesusisthesubject.org.