Living forever!

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Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

As I was reared on a farm, when I became a minister I still enjoyed visiting the farmers in my congregations, many of whom had long years of experience and I never ceased to relish the tales of farming life.

A particular experience that sticks in my mind is when an aged farmer invited me to join him to check the sheep and see the views on his mountain farm. I imagined a leisurely ramble, but how wrong I was - for I was left puffing and panting and dragging behind this ‘fit-as-a-fiddle’ nonagenarian!

Farming is more a vocation than a job. It is said ‘it is in the blood’ and that ‘farmers never retire’ (just like ministers!). In my own experience my grandfather, while a very old man, was still ‘on the go’ daily until a week before his death. I was struck recently by the statistics showing that today the average age of farmers in Northern Ireland is 58! Only 4% of Northern Ireland’s farmers are now under 35.

It is wonderful to have good health and to be active on the farm into old age. All the changes you have seen in stock management, crop growing and machinery! We all want to keep going. No one wants to die, but we all must as it is an unavoidable reality!

As we approach Easter again we remember the death of one who was called Jesus. He died, not in old age, or of natural causes, but at the hands of cruel men on a Roman cross, like a common criminal. Yet He did nothing wrong and harmed no-one!

His perfect life and words of truth upset some so badly that they wanted him dead. And they got their way! At merely 33 years of age He died. They laid Him in a tomb and rolled a stone across its entrance. The story of most people ends there, but not Jesus, for He was no ordinary man. He was God’s Son and promised that He would rise again on the third day.

Few, if any, believed it - not even His followers. When some women mourning Him came to the tomb and found the stone moved and the body gone - Jesus appeared to Mary - alive! The disciples saw Him too, and we read that hundreds were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. That promise was in fact really kept and stands as the central hope of Christianity - with the words Jesus left us, “‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’” (John 11:25).

Jesus promises a life that never ends for those who truly believe in Him. Even though death will one day claim our bodies, we will go on living forever with Him in heaven. It’s a promise that means a lot to me as a cancer sufferer. It’s a promise that comes with a condition however: To believe fully in Him, we must accept that his death was for our sin and in our place. Then, fully assured that He is fully alive, we will live forever too.

Whether you are a farmer or not, or a person of any age, you can embrace this wonderful promise by faith and live forever! Will you receive this offer of life today?

Happy Easter.

Ian was brought up on a dairy farm near Limavady. He was a minister in Ballyroney and Drumlee congregations in South Down, and latterly Moneydig Presbyterian in County Londonderry. Due to a serious cancer diagnosis, Ian has had to retire from active ministry and now provides counselling and support to others with cancer.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the subjects raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.