Deathbed Calisthenics

We naturally wouldn’t link the rigor of calisthenics with the malaise of dying. Calisthenics has to do with movement and fitness. It is an exercise. The question upon us—old and young— is how are we preparing to die? Simon Goulart was a pastor during the Protestant Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland, and a friend of John Calvin. In his Remedies Against Satan’s Temptations in our Final Hour,* Goulart encouraged his congregation to 'die well' by posing the following exercises:

  1. Keep in mind the promises of the kingdom of God. They are “yes and Amen” in Jesus Christ and are for you. While the kingdom of God isn’t only about you, it does include you. Know the promises. Memorize them.
  2. Battle continuously the temptations of Satan by means of the Word of God. That’s what Jesus did when he faced both the devil's enticements and the prospect of death in humble submission to God’s Word.
  3. Pray that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. “Lead us not into temptation.” We have the promise from God in 1 Cor 10:13 that God won’t do this, but pray it and tell him that you trust him according to his promises.
  4. Contemplate with the eyes of your faith Jesus Christ, humiliated and exalted for your salvation. This isn’t merely re-imagining the events of Jesus’ last week as if it were a superstition. It is the spiritual vision supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit to all who turn and trust.
  5. Forgive those who have sinned against you. “As you have forgiven us.” Nothing like getting and staying ready to die, like letting go of bitterness and conflict. This kind of love wins into eternity.
  6. Confess your faith and Christian hope. Your confession of faith in Jesus was not just a ‘one-and-done’ thing at conversion. This is as active as your feeble frame or frail tongue can muster the words. This bubbles and overflows within you like a fountain, even when your body is falling apart.
  7. Commend your soul to God. Like Jesus, Stephen and others, entrust your soul to God to the very end.

*Thanks to Dr. Scott Manetsch’s book Calvin’s Company of Pastors for pointing out Goulart.

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