I’ve smelled some stuff in my life, stuff that isn’t classified as a Bath and Body Works good-smelling stuff. Stuff like throw-up, dog poo, bad breath, dead fish, sewer systems, and body odor. Before I make you gag (if I haven’t already), I’ll stop there. That stuff smells, and depending on the strength, it can produce a gut-wrenching, on-the-verge-of-gagging sort of reaction.
But as much as those things smell, I can’t imagine the stench of death, especially death after four days. Yet, Jesus deliberately waited for Lazarus to die and be buried before He showed up. Why?
The stench of death always precedes the glory of God.
It’s not necessarily a physical death- it’s a spiritual one. Before we can experience one fragment of His glory, there is an inner death that must take place. There is a humbling process, a surrendering process. If we are alive in sin, we cannot be fully alive in Christ. And to experience the glory of God is to be fully alive in Christ.
Paul said it this way:
“Yet, indeed, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (Phil. 3:8)
It’s not just giving up the bad; it’s exchanging our bad for His good. What we offer is filth in comparison to what He can give us. Simply the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Paul says is excellent! And everything else is dog dung. Smelly, huh?
Death leaves an impression. It focuses our attention on what’s important. In reflecting on someone’s death, we often find the key to greater living. Quite a paradox.
We will never experience God in His fullness until we make room for Him.
I challenge you to die. Those things that cause regret, fear, shame, guilt, condemnation, distraction, unfulfillment- all those things that rob you of true joy- God wants to put to death so that He can fill your heart as the source of LIFE. You see, dying to self, is a great privilege for the Christian, because it means that you are allowing God to kick out everything that leads to death anyway, and replace it with a fountain of life. Don’t think about what you must give up; imagine what you will gain. These things that we hold on to will lead to death eventually, so why not surrender while we have the chance to exchange them for life?
It will stink at first. The thought of death might give you that gut-wrenching, on-the-verge-of-gagging sort of reaction. You will probably wonder why you moved the tombstone, and there will be moments where you regret your decision. But, endure. Remember the glorious exchange. The stench of death always precedes the glory of God. You are not getting the short end of the stick.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”” (John 11:40-41a).