From death and decay, to renewal and hope

(Photo: Unsplash/AJ)

It’s currently spring in New Zealand which is my favourite season – finally after a long, grey, cold winter, the sun is shining vibrantly, again hugging the land with warm golden rays, the flowers are blooming, the baby animals are frolicking in the fields, and the birds are singing in the trees.

The world is coming alive again, bringing with it the hope and promise of good to come.

One of my favourite parts of spring is the beautiful cherry blossom trees that are dotted all around Christchurch, their delicate pink and white blossoms covering the trees like tiny cotton candy clouds.

In Japan there is an entire festival based around the Japanese cherry blossom tree and celebrating renewal. But since the blossoms often only last a couple of weeks, they have also come to represent the Japanese concept of ‘mono no aware’ – the fact that ‘nothing lasts forever’.

The inevitability of decay

Robert Frost, an American poet, captures the nature of decay in his poem ‘Nothing Gold Can stay’:

“Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.”

The theme of decay is also woven through the Bible from beginning to end after sin entered the world in the garden of Eden.

In Genesis chapter 3, verses 18 and 19, God declares, “It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken, for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

The world was not meant to be like this but since sin entered and corrupted everything, the world became subject to bondage and decay and now life is one continuous march from birth to death with ever-increasing decay along the way.

This may sound incredibly depressing and indeed it would be if that was the end of the story but, wonderfully, that’s not where the story ends!

Rescue from decay

God had a plan – a plan to save us from decay that began even before creation happened! In 1 Peter chapter 1, verses 18-20 he writes,

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

God’s plan to rescue us from the decay we brought upon ourselves was not a back-up plan but a plan from before creation! Even before our sin caused the world to fall into decay and ruin, God had a rescue plan in place to renew us and the world around us!

In Romans chapter 8, verses 20-23, Paul talks about what has been accomplished in Jesus’ death and resurrection:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

God’s plan for salvation and redemption not only concerns us and our spiritual well-being but also our bodies and all of creation.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 42 Paul tells us, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable.”

The hope we have is not an ungrounded, disembodied spirit type of hope but a hope grounded in the faithful promises of God, a hope of a new creation, a new physical body, and a place where never again will we or creation be subject to the horrors of death and decay.

Fix your eyes on the future

Life can be very tough. Even if we are not subjected to the tragedy of losing someone we love “before their time”, everyone dies at some point and everything is in a constant state of decay. Even the healthy grow old and frail.

We rightly rebel against decay, doing everything in our power to maintain our gardens, to treat our pets when they are sick, and to prevent ourselves and our loved ones from dying, but we’re always doing this against the background of a ticking clock that’s counting down the time until our inevitable death.

Yet, we can take heart! God has overcome death! All those who trust in and obey Jesus and accept him as their Saviour and Lord need not worry about the curtain closing on this life because it is not the end for them. It is just the very beginning and what is yet to come is so glorious, awe-inspiring and wonderful.

Though we die, we do not lose hope for we are confident of the sure and certain hope of a new heavens and new earth where there is no crying, or pain, or death but just eternal life and goodness, satisfaction and joy and perfect enjoyment of God’s presence and perfect relationship with him and all God’s people!

Republished from Christian Today UK.

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