The Short Version:
We can either live long in obedience and die in greatness, God’s way, or live in rebellion and die before our time.
When Will You Die?
Your guess is about as good as mine. But, in general, Paul gives us a guiding principle about our expiration date. One day in Antioch, Paul gives a brilliant telling of the gospel to a mixed crowd at a synagogue. While making a point about Christ’s divinity and perfection (how mortal men die and decay, but the immortal Christ did not), he mentions King David and makes a comment that tells a story on a different topic:
Paul had already set up this statement by reiterating God’s declaration that David would “do everything I want him to do (Acts 13:22)”. So, even though he’s making the point about Christ’s divine nature and perfect sacrifice, Paul makes it clear that God had a temporal purpose for David and David’s expiration date came only after that purpose was fulfilled.
Want to die well? Follow David’s example. No, don’t commit adultery and a murderous cover up for it – do everything God wants you to do and when you sin, repent.
Want to die early? Walk in disobedience to God, do your best to serve both God and money, and fail to repent when confronted on your sin. Without viewing it through this lens, it looks like God gave David great mercy in not striking him dead when he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle as a cover up. It also appears God had a “zero tolerance” policy with Ananias and Sapphira. But, as we read deeper into that conspiracy, we see two very different conditions of the heart in two entirely different people:
The Case for David:
David – full of godly sorrow, confesses his sin to God, leaving all excuses out of the picture:
“Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)”
The Case Against Ananias
Yet, here we have Ananias, who sold a piece of real estate and then kept a portion of it for himself and his wife. Now, it’s not wrong to sell something and give some of the proceeds toward Kingdom work. That’s not the case that Peter makes when he confronts Ananias. Ananias and his wife had just seen Barnabas sell a piece of land and put the whole price before the apostles’ feet. Instead of following the example, Ananias and Sapphira were attempting to gain similar status and glory for the kingdom while also keeping some of the money for themselves.
Jesus once called Peter out as a rock star and a couple lines later called him Satanic. Jesus even predicted Peter’s denial of Christ only to later restore him. God gave Peter mercy because He knew his heart: repentant, just like David’s. Peter knew God’s mercy, personally… publicly. Perfect guy to confront a sinner like Ananias, right?
Knowing God’s mercy on himself, Peter could easily have sent Ananias home to repent and bring back the balance. True? True. But, Peter’s accusation of Ananias didn’t come from his own knowledge. No one knew of the Ananias deception but Ananias and his wife. Peter’s accusation was based on discernment of the Holy Spirit, Who also knew sending Ananias home would have proven fruitless. It wasn’t Peter who killed Ananias – it was Ananias’ stubborn, greedy, rebellious heart and his wife’s complicity in the crime to gain recognition in the church while serving their own needs in the process.
Cause of Death?
For Ananias, the cause of death was knowing the truth about his duplicitous condition. The text reads: “
And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last…” In the Greek, “heard” is used in an active form, carrying the meaning that Ananias didn’t just fall dead when the words went through his ears, rather when they were processed by his mind (understood) and subsequently went through his heart, which was hard and bent on its own mission.
Turning the heart against the call of God will not go unnoticed. It will also not go unpunished. If we desire to live the longest life God has for us, we must stay true to His course for our life and return to it when we go astray. God may not have in His perfect plan for us a life as long as David’s, but He will cut us short of even that if we harden our hearts against His kingdom and set our hearts on serving ourselves behind a veil of religious activity.
The Chuck Norris Factor
One of my favorite Chuck Norris jokes is – “If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can’t see Chuck Norris, you may be seconds from death.” How can I be encouraged by that?
Well, if you’re repentant, you can be encouraged to know that if there is breath in your body you are being given another moment to repent for anything you’ve done wrong and another chance to fulfill all God has planned for you. If you fear you may not be repentant, you may actually be suffering from Godly sorrow and are being given another moment to repent for anything you’ve done wrong and another chance to fulfill all God has planned for you.
If you read this and think “that’s a load of crap“… Beware. You may be in the kind of denial that leads to Ananias’ door. But, know that every one of us is tempted. Every one of us sins. Every one of us put Jesus on the cross. Every one of us seeks some form of greatness – our own greatness or greatness for God’s name and kingdom. We can’t have it both ways. Choose today whom you will serve!