Our need to deny death motivates our behavior. Hoping to avoid its bitterness, we strive for immortality by pursuing lives of significance. This longing for “cosmic specialness,” as Ernest Becker puts it, leads us to create an “heroic self-image” that convinces us that our lives are meaningful and significant.
Although our heroic self-image inspires greatness, it also instigates evil. In his forward to Becker’s The Denial of Death, Sam Keen writes, “Becker’s radical conclusion [is] that it is our altruistic motives that turn the world into a [mausoleum] … At what cost do we purchase the assurance that we are heroic? … [H]ow easily we will shed blood to purchase the assurance of our own righteousness.”
The Thessalonians thought about death and immortality, too. Although they knew that Christ had risen, they seemed to believe that Christians who died before Christ’s return would be lost forever. Paul, therefore, wrote this letter to assure them that the dead would be resurrected to eternal life: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 
In his final remarks, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to live in light of their immortality. Rather than polishing their heroic self-image, they can encourage others  and embrace grace . Since the unchanging work of Christ secures their immortality, they can be unwavering—rejoicing “always”, praying “without ceasing”, and giving thanks in “all circumstances.” 
Knowing that we will receive eternal life frees us from our need to deny death, and knowing that we can rest in the righteousness of Christ frees us from our need to establish our own righteousness. We can release our heroic self-image when we see that Jesus is the hero for whom we long. As Becker writes, the most remarkable thing about Christianity is “that it could take slaves, cripples, imbeciles, the simple and the mighty, and make them all secure heroes, simply by taking a step back from the world into another dimension, the dimension called heaven. Or we might better say that Christianity took creature consciousness—the thing man most wanted to deny—and made it the very condition for his cosmic heroism.” In other words, embracing our weakness and mortality is the condition for our receiving the strength and immortality of Christ.
Note: There is no prayer included in this devotional because it is an adaption of a devotional recently written for the forthcoming ESV Women’s Devotional Bible.
M’Cheyne Weekend Readings
 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV |  1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 |  1 Thessalonians 5:15 |  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18