“I am not afraid of death; I am afraid of a life not lived for His glory.”
Born in Korea on the October 9, 1988, Isabel Lee passed into God’s presence 22 years later on December 3, 2010.
Isabel was a typical young woman in one sense, but very untypical in another. She was typical in that she loved life and good things. Isabel came to New Zealand with her mum and dad and sister when she was about six, and had a good upbringing. She was very intelligent, bright, attractive and outgoing, a typical young woman you might say. She was home educated until the last two years of her education before going to the Elim Christian College, where she became Head Girl. She went on to university and studied law.
Isabel attended Papakura Baptist Church and was involved in Bible studies and youth activities. She gained a love for theology and an interest in world views. She became involved with Maxim Institute to further her interest in world view issues.
In October 2010, her life took a radical turn. Some might say a turn for the worse, but I do not think Isabel saw it like that. Isabel was diagnosed with liver cancer and, despite the efforts of the amazing liver unit team in Auckland Hospital, nothing could be done. She was given only a few months to live.
Isabel’s response on hearing the news was the apostle Paul’s response in Philippians 1, “Heaven is better by far.” For the next six weeks, Isabel had an amazing affect on all who came to see her, Christian and non-Christian. Her life was lived for God. Her cancer was used for the glory of God. Her suffering was for his sake.
She asked that at her funeral the message should be from these verses in 2 Corinthians 4:
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
– 2 Corninthias 4:5-18
While Isabel was afflicted, she was never crushed. While sometimes perplexed, she was never driven to despair. Struck down, she was never destroyed. She was being given over to death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus may be manifest in her mortal body.
This certainly happened, for as she lived her life for the glory of God, hearts and lives were deeply affected through her suffering. People who called themselves atheists believed. Others who were nonbelievers suddenly began to believe as a gospel-centred, God-glorifying life manifested itself through this terrible suffering. Isabel’s suffering was not vain. She knew that the God who raised the Lord Jesus Christ would also raise her with him and bring her into his presence.
Isabel died well for she knew that while her outer self wasted away, her inner self was being renewed day by day. These momentary affliction prepared her for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
She was not afraid of death but afraid of a life not lived for His glory.
– Richard Cutforth
Pastor, Papakura Baptist Church