When Tragedy Strikes

It has been a little over a month since the sudden and tragic death of Kobe Bryant. The sad and deeply troubling news still hangs over the world like a dense fog. Recently, some 20,000 people gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to pay tribute to the legendary NBA player and his daughter. Many hearts are broken and many people feel a profound void in their life.

I have read reports of those closest to Kobe talk about his last tweet or text message or phone call, giving the world an idea of what he may have been thinking about in the moments leading up to the crash.

I think it is safe to say that Kobe fully expected to arrive at the Mamba Sports Academy. He expected to coach his girls basketball team to a winning victory that day.

I think it is safe to say that Kobe fully expected to return home to his wife and daughters.

I think it is safe to say that most likely, Kobe never thought he would step into eternity that day.

Death does not discriminate. Death does not care what is going on in your life, how old you are or what goals and plans you have set for yourself. Death boldly interferes, interjects and intrudes into your life as if it owns you. Sadly, for the iconic Kobe Bryant, his precious daughter and seven other passengers, death came swiftly, unannounced and certainly unwelcome.

Yet as true to form, life moves on and people carry on. There is no doubt since January 26, 2020 numerous people have traveled by helicopter and arrived safe and sound at their destinations.

Danger and sudden death are lurking all around us, all the time. No one is immune to the tragedies and calamities of life. A car accident, a violent home invasion, a school shooting, a life threatening disease are just a few of the ways death can occur and sometimes in a instant. When tragic events happen, our natural tendency is to question and wonder why did this have to happen or where was God and why did He let this happen?

With the sudden death of Kobe Bryant we are reminded all the more that life is fragile and life is temporary. James said, “you are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Interestingly, Jesus was confronted while traveling to Jerusalem with a tragedy involving worshipers from Galilee who were simply offering sacrifices at the Temple (Luke 13:1). Worshipers who no doubt fully expected to return home. However, while in the midst of performing their worship rituals, they were murdered by Pilate’s soldiers. This horrific event would be similar to a church shooting in our day, only worse in that it was carried out by the government. June 17, 2015, September 24, 2017, November 5, 2017, October 27, 2018 and December 29, 2019 all represent the day when a gunman opened fire on a group of worshipers inside their local church. Just as in Galilee, people had assembled together for worship and were in the midst of worship when their lives were cut short.

When the incident in Luke 13 was brought to the attention of Jesus, He made, what some might consider to be, an unusual and flippant statement. Jesus responded, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

The key word in Jesus’s statement was repent. The message in Jesus’s statement was repent. Jesus wanted the people to realize that they too would one day have an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27). He wanted the people to consider their own life in light of eternity. He wanted them to understand that repentance was the only recourse for death. The same is true for you and me today. Repentance and pursuing a life of obedience to Christ is the only recourse we have for death.

The word “repentance” carries the idea of changing one’s mind about sin and the consequences of that change of mind, which is turning completely from and forsaking sinful living. It is a change of one’s mind resulting in a change of one’s actions.

Repentance begins in the heart through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit causes you to sorrow over your sin. The Holy Spirit also causes you to recognize your utter wretchedness before a holy God. In humility of heart, you turn away from your sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ through exercising faith (trusting) in Him alone for forgiveness of your sin.

Obedience to the will and word of God is the result of repentance and faith. You know you have genuinely repented and possess genuine faith because you desire and strive to please the Lord in all that you do.

Jesus said, “enter through the narrow gate…” (Matthew 7:13).

Repentance and faith provide entrance through the narrow gate and repentance, faith and obedience carry you along the narrow road that leads to life.

However, there is another gate. Jesus also said, “…for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and many are those who enter through it…” (Matthew 7:13).

Tragically, scores of people are flocking through the wide gate. No one is prevented from entering nor turned away due to overcrowding. It would seem the more travelers who enter, the more room is made available for them. Apparently the gate is easy to find and easy to access. However, the problem is that the people traveling the wide road think they are headed to life. They are religious but lost.

The wide road travelers have rejected Christ’s way of righteousness and devised their own way which makes them appear righteous. They enter and travel comfortably on the wide road. When you think about it, it doesn’t take much to be a religious person.

The wide road ultimately does not require you to change. You act the part and pretend because it works. For example, you can simply add Jesus to your life and carry on with your life the way that best pleases you. The wide road does not require you to love your enemies. After all, it makes no sense to love people who are your enemies. The wide road does not require you to pray for those who persecute you. Again, it makes no sense to pray for the very people who hurt and mistreat you. On the wide road, if you are offended by the church or experience a broken relationship in your church, you simply pack up and move on. You do not seek to be reconciled and you certainly do not forgive.

On the wide road, if you become tired and “fall out of love” with your spouse, you simply get out of the marriage. It’s too hard and besides, you and your husband have grown apart. You are like the woman in Proverbs who “leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God” (Proverbs 2:17). The wide road allows you to do what makes sense and seems right in the moment (Proverbs 14:12). Rather than convict you, the wide road applauds you. It will always applaud you and your way of living.

Ultimately, the wide road is very accommodating and bends to your wishes and desires, allowing you to be you. However, the problem with you being you, is that you will not become like Christ and Christ will not be “formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). Sadly, you will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

What about you? Have you entered through the narrow gate? Are you on the narrow road that leads to life? It’s not too late to enter. All you have to do is repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

Life is fragile and life is temporary. When tragedies and sudden death occur, it brings the Psalmist words to mind, front and center: “man is like a mere breath, his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4).

For further reading: Romans 10:9-10, Romans 6:23, Acts 16:30b-31. Acts 4:12

Published by Teresa Skepple

Teresa Skepple is the author of "Mysteries Of The Kingdom Revealed," a study of the parables of Jesus for women. She is a Biblical counselor and received her training and certification through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (A.C.B.C.), an organization founded by Dr. Jay Adams. Teresa is a graduate of Liberty University where she met her wonderful husband Roger who is the Senior Pastor of Berean Bible Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. She has served alongside her husband for over 25 years ministering to children, youth, single Adults and women. Besides counseling, mentoring, and teaching Women’s Bible studies, Teresa has had the opportunity to volunteer in a community outreach ministry that serves women who are homeless and enslaved to substance abuse become enslaved to the Lord Jesus Christ. Teresa has been married 32 years and is the mother of 4 adult children.

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