I’ve just finished Walter Isaacson’s epic biography of Steve Jobs – and it’s been a fascinating read.
In many ways Jobs is no role model. He often bullied his staff and their work fell into one of two categories: great or s**t. Many couldn’t take that. However there were things about him that were brilliant – like the way he could empower people to believe they could rise to an engineering or design challenge and do the seemingly impossible – which they would then do!
Reading about Jobs’ life has stimulated so many thoughts and ideas – some of which will get into some of my writing, I’m sure. But let me start with this blog about life before and after death.
Life Before Death
Jobs thought he would die young. He felt he had little time and much to do. This caused him to want to live life to the full and – as Christian Aid affirm – to ‘believe in life before death’.
In his famous Stanford Commencement address of June 2005 he said this:
‘Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what its truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.’
Winston Churchill thought the same. Churchill’s father had died young so he thought he probably would too. This caused him to press on to make a difference in politics whilst he could, and was one of the reasons he became a Government Minister at such a young age.
Followers of Jesus are supposed to believe in something similar – that life is short – not so much because we might die young but because there’s an urgency to the gospel – we want others to find Christ now – and also because Jesus Christ is returning soon. The fact that he has not returned in the last 2,000 years has caused some today to doubt this belief in the so-called ‘Second Coming’ and the result has been a less motivated and more lethargic church. Personally, I am happy to believe in the Second Coming – and am sure that one reason why the bible urges that belief is to provoke us to tell others before it’s too late.
Believing that life is short focusses the mind and helps us believe in life before death. But what about life after death?
Life After Death
Jobs rarely talked about life after death, partly I suspect because his Buddhist views left him a bit uncertain about what happens. However before he died Jobs was unusually open with his official biographer about life after death. Isaacson writes:
‘He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in the afterlife. “I like to think that something survives after you die” he said. ‘It’s strange to think that you can accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time. “But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “CLICK! And you’re gone.”
Then he paused again and smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why I never like to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”‘
Here Jobs stands against the strident assertion of the new atheists, who believe that when life ends we are simply switched ‘off’. Followers of Jesus disagree, siding with Jobs here – and in fact can do so with even greater confidence and assurance, because Jesus clearly says that he has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:3). Life beyond the grave is a strong component of Christian faith and is not something we should apologise for or forget. It’s not earned on merit but has been won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1 Cor 15:20-22). And knowing where we’re going shapes us to make the most of every opportunity made available to us.
So how about you? Are you living in the light of eternity? And do you know where you’re going?
‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)
May I urge you to put your faith firmly in Jesus Christ, for in doing so you can securely know that when heaven’s ‘Book of Life’ is opened (Rev 3:5) your name will be there. This is ‘the assurance’ of eternal life that John Wesley spoke so much about. It’s the same assurance that Jesus gave to the thief executed next to Him when he said ‘today you with with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43) and it’s the same assurance you can know. So don’t hold back. Place your faith today in Jesus Christ.