“Hope is hearing the music of the resurrection, and faith is dancing to the tune in the graveyard.”
My father, the late Pastor E. R. Milley (1911-1983), told me the story of being so ill at one point in his life that someone, thinking he was dead, actually measured him for a coffin!
But God had other plans.
In 1950, after eight years and five months of being an invalid with an incurable heart disease, my father was at death’s door. In his journal he wrote:
I heard my dad say, “He’s dying.” They decided to send for the pastor for prayer. Father said to Mom, “There isn’t a wide board on the place to make a casket.” . . .
The pastor closed the Sunday night meeting and the congregation came down to our house; a lot of them came in. I could hear them coming. Every little noise, even the sound of the gate opening and shutting seemed harmonious. The ringing of the United Church bell at six-thirty never pealed out so melodious. All seemed to worship the Creator . . .
The first man that came up and looked at my face said these words, “The death sweat is on his top lip.” The next man said, “The death glare is on his eyes.” Another asked for paper and pencil; he wanted to write down some hymns that would be sung at my funeral. No one spoke to me; all thought that I was unconscious . . . The pastor and people began to pray; some began to weep . . . All at once I felt something like an electric shock . . .
Father was miraculously restored to health. He went back into ministry, married and raised a family. I love God’s other plans, and Easter is a great time to rejoice in them.
The moment Jesus died, a party started in hell. The devil thought he’d won a victory. Jesus was measured and laid out in a tomb, as dead as dead could be. There was no doubting that. But God had other plans.
Easter is a time of affirming God’s other plans. The life of faith is, as the hymn writer said, strewn with “fightings and fears within, without.” But one thing is sure: Christ has risen from the dead. Beyond this transitory world of sepulchres and sadness, there is a permanent place at the Father’s right hand filled with palaces and pleasures.
The resurrection speaks to us of the restoration of fellowship with those believers who have departed from us. Between the cross and the resurrection, there were three days of incredible loneliness. But when Easter came, it brought a reunion.
The resurrection says there is a better life after this life—an eternal life. For the Christian, death is not a dead-end street; it is not a blind alley leading nowhere. This world is a dressing room for eternity. We spend so much time in the dressing room of life, then we go quickly down the hallway of death to the celestial stage to receive our awards. It’s something to look forward to with confidence.
But, of course, the resurrection is more—much more—than proof that we will live eternally. It is an event that shows God’s breaking creatively into human history. A new age dawned when Christ came out of the tomb. It is now possible, in the midst of this troubled world, to live a new life “in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5, KJV). What a phrase. What a promise. The affirmation of the New Testament is that we may participate in the resurrection life of Christ. The divine power that brought Jesus up from the grave is available to us here and now (see Ephesians 1:19-20).
When life is at its worst, or even at its end, God has other plans. He came to defeat the enemy. Satan has one plan: to steal, to kill, and to destroy. But God has other plans. Believe it and receive it. The resurrection of our Lord means the end of the devil’s tyranny. Satan’s reign will not last.
Where Christ is, there is living hope. He brings light into darkness and life out of death. Don’t get dressed and measured for a coffin before your time. Get rid of the grave clothes. Lay aside the spirit of heaviness and put on the garment of praise. To know Jesus is to be raised from the dead. Hope is hearing the music of the resurrection, and faith is dancing to the tune in the graveyard. Listen carefully: Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! Let the tune break into the tomb of your life. These are God’s other plans for you.
Dr. Garry E. Milley is the lead pastor of Church in the Oaks, London, Ont. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. “Just As I Am,” Charlotte Elliott (1789–1871).
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This article appears in the May/June 2016 Issue of testimony.
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