When we speak of a “premature death” we are saying a person dies “BEFORE an expected age.” The life expectancy of a person may vary from country to country, but here in the United States the average lifespan is now about 75 years. So, it is not uncommon to speak of someone who dies years before that age of having died a premature death. Many reasons can be cited for a premature death, such as smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, contracting a life-threatening disease, a car accident, etc. But in each case we must ask what you have asked, “Is it the will of God.”

In the book of Job we learn that all of Job’s children died a premature death. In verses 18-19 a messenger came to Job and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead” (NKJV). Did God cause this “great wind” to hit the house resulting in their premature death? No, for we learn earlier that Satan approached God and challenged him by saying, “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he (Job) has, and he will surely curse You to Your face” (verse 11)? God’s response is very instructive, “Behold, all that he has is IN YOUR POWER; only do not lay a hand on his person” (verse 12). God actually ALLOWED Satan to take anything from Job that he desired except for his life. So, the “great wind” that destroyed the house and killed Job’s children were caused by Satan. Yet when Job considered all that he lost that day he said, “Naked I came from my womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and THE LORD HAS TAKEN AWAY; blessed be the name of the LORD” (verse 21). Even though Satan was the one who caused Job’s children to die a premature death, Job knew that it was the Lord Who ALLOWED IT. Thus in faith, he could say, “The Lord has taken away.” I believe this teaches us that every death, whether it is premature or not, is indeed “the will of God.” It is either according to His DIRECT will, or as in this case, His PERMISSIVE will.

In many cases people die a premature death because of excessive sin in their life. This is borne out in Ecclesiastes 7:17, “Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: Why should you DIE BEFORE YOUR TIME?” As mentioned at the beginning, some die from drug or alcohol abuse. Others die from diseases caused by having promiscuous sexual relationships. And still others die because of a life of violence. But in each case we must still ask, “Is it the will of God?” In those cases it is obvious their own lifestyle led to an early death, but we believe it was still according to God’s will. In these cases He either ALLOWED them to go to an early grave due to their being “overly wicked,” or He DIRECTLY intervened in their death as a result of their sinfulness.

It is solemn to consider that even true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can meet with an “untimely death.” In the church of Corinth there were believers who were living an indulgent lifestyle that included getting drunk (and then coming to observe the Lord’s Supper!) and because of this we read, “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (1st Corinthians 11:30). The word “sleep” is another word for “physical death.” God was judging His people for their living in unjudged sin! This is confirmed by the next two verses, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” This is a clear example of God’s DIRECT WILL in their meeting with a premature death.

In Acts chapter 7 we learn that a young man named Stephen died a premature death for faithfully preaching the Word of God to his fellow Jews. As he was being stoned to death by his persecutors he could say, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (verse 59). Even though MEN WERE TAKING HIS LIFE FROM HIM, he knew that his life was really in God’s hands and thus he faithfully commits his spirit, which was about to leave his body, to God.

We may question the Lord in cases where He allows someone we love to die at a young age (and this is especially true when it comes to a young child or an infant), but like Job we must, in faith, realize that “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” And if we are anticipating an early death yet living a life that is pleasing to God, we can emulate Stephen by realizing we are “in God’s will” and we can commit our spirits to Him. In the cases like these we can apply the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (288.5) (DO)