Rick Warren on How to Confront Death
Rick Warren is an evangelical leader, best-selling author, and founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with his wife, Kay, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a single family to fill the pews. Today the church has a 120-acre campus, 22,000 weekly attendees, and has provided spiritual guidance and source material to over 400,000 ministers worldwide.
He also leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to the Ministry ToolBox, his weekly newsletter. His previous book, The Purpose Driven Church is listed in “100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century.” Forbes magazine called it "the best book on entrepreneurship, management, and leadership in print.”
Warren received his BA from California Baptist College, his MA from the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Ministry from the Fuller Theological Seminary. Warren has recently taken on several issues previously ignore by the evangelical community; he is the most prominent signatory of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," and is the co-founder and co-director (with his wife) of The Global PEACE Fund, which fights poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Warren has spoken at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Union, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Question: How do you confront death?
Rick Warren: The way you deal with death is the ultimate test of your worldview. The way you deal with death is the ultimate test of your own personal beliefs.
Because what people say they believe, and what they actually believe in a crisis, is two different things.
As a pastor, I have been at the bedside of hundreds of people taking their last breath. I’m very well acquainted with death. I have been at many, many funerals.
And the difference between those who have faith in God, in Christ – have a faith in Christ – the way they handle death and the way people who don’t is night and day.
I have seen the hollowness in the eyes of people without any faith. When they come to this and they have no hope of an everlasting life; they have no hope of heaven; they have no hope that there is more after this.
And I’ve seen those who do have faith in Christ, have faith in God. And yes Christians grieve. But we grieve not for the dying person; we grieve for ourselves. We’re going to miss ‘em. But we do believe that, because of our faith, we’re going to be with them again. And so for us, death is not an ending; it’s a transition. And actually you’re not leaving home in death. You’re going home. As I said, you’re going to spend 60, 80 years here. We’re not made to live here.
Actually I’m kind of glad we don’t live on earth forever ‘cause this is a broken planet. I mean, we’ve got sorrow, and suffering, and sickness, and sin, and dumb choices, and bad bodies and all these kind of things. God did not intend for us to live here.
And this is why even very successful people in their most thoughtful moments, they will say, “There’s got to be more than this. I get up in the morning, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed, make a lot of money, retire and die.”
That’s it? No there’s not. Everybody at some point in life goes, “There’s got to be more than this.” Why? Because there is more. There is more. You were made for more than this planet.
The Bible tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes that God has put eternity in the human heart. And that means there is a longing, a desire for immortality. And that longing desire is there because we’re made for it. People try to achieve immortality through writing a book, getting their name on a building, things like that. That’s not it. So death is a transfer for those who have faith. I do believe in heaven and I do believe in hell.
You say, “You believe in hell?” Oh absolutely I believe in hell. Why? Because there’s evil in the world. And if I didn’t believe in hell, God is not just. If Hitler can get away with all that he did and not be punished for it, something’s wrong okay?
And the Bible tells us very clearly that God is a just God. And when you see evil people getting away with murder – literally people murder people and get away with it – there is going to be an accounting one day.
Now that’s the good news, is that the bad people are going to get judged. Or the other bad news is I’m going to get judged, okay? And God doesn’t grade on a curve. Most people think it’s like okay, well if your good works are like this high, and your bad works are this high, God’s going to go, “Aaaaaah, come on in.” No. The fact is, heaven is a perfect place, and only perfect people get to go there, which means I don’t stand a chance. Nobody stands a chance. Because I don’t stand a chance; because I stopped batting 1,000 at like age two.
The only way I’m going to get into heaven is by grace. It is a gift. I can’t earn it. I could never be good enough to earn perfection, and this is what is called the good news.
Recorded on: December 11, 2007
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