What do you imagine your ‘last words’ might be if it turns out that folks can gather round and listen to you? Let’s listen in to some last words from some rather famous folks.
“I'm bored with it all.” (Before slipping into a coma. He died 9 days later.) ~~ Winston Churchill
“How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Gardens?” ~~ P. T. Barnum, Circus Promoter
“All my possessions for a moment of time.” ~~ Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of England
“I’m looking for a loophole.” ~~ W. C. Fields
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) ~~ Jesus Christ
You may come to the end of your life’s journey with a large amount of wealth or you may be honored by your peers for your accomplishments. But what do you suppose it might all mean to you as you face your final breath? Maybe you’ll have time to plan out your last day like my friend Brenda Pue who died 588 days after her cancer diagnosis. Maybe you won’t have time to plan it out like my gardener Santiago Sanchez who was run over by a car on his way to the store one night.
Well here’s the good news. You’re reading this article now, so you’re very much alive and have some time to ponder this matter. Do you suppose that you might hold a stock portfolio to your chest and gain comfort by looking at the number of shares on the certificate? The house or houses that you own, the backyard renovation, the new carpet you agonized over choosing, or the shiny new car you bought with all the bells and whistles…none of which you’ll ever see again… how much will they mean then? Probably not much at all.
As you slip away from being a “dweller on the threshold” and pass across the threshold into the arms of God, your stuff will mean even less…actually it turns out your stuff will mean nothing at all unless it was used for kingdom purposes. Somehow God lights a holy match and it all burns up.
There was a man God spoke of in the Bible named Paul. He had it all, the social status, the recognition, the power even to throw his enemies into jail. He was respected by the existing religious authorities of his day, he was an ‘up and comer,’ “of the stock of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee.” He said that all of those status symbols--the power, prestige, position--became “rubbish” to him when he met the God-man Jesus Christ.
What in the world would make him change his mind about things like that? Why would he give up the power and access to affluence? Paul believed that there are things that are even more important than power, position and prestige. He believed hook, line and sinker in eternal things. He knew that, “You CANNOT serve both God and money.”
How about you? We know what we admire most by looking at what we’re striving for or who we are trying to be most like. Turns out the “Joneses” next store might not be that happy after all! The United States, one of the most economically rich countries, comes in at #15 on the Global Happiness Scale. And Americans' level of happiness has been going down since 2005 despite the fact that the number of toys and stuff we have has gone up. OOPS! Turns out the GNP isn’t quite correlated to Joy.
When Paul met Jesus Christ, he either gradually or immediately, stopped pursuing the status and values of this world. He began to pursue only those things that would advance the good news he found in Jesus Christ. To him life became, “forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, [pressing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.”
You and I have only so many assets to invest. You have the time God gave you today, the money you have been entrusted with as a steward on God’s behalf, the relationships you have and the package of gifts and talents that God gave you. These “life assets” are yours to use to impact the people in your sphere of influence. God calls you to invest your assets to further his purposes while we get to be alive on this spinning ball called earth.
Here’s a few famous last words from some folks who lived well and knew what life was ultimately about.
“I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Savior, to be made partaker of life everlasting.” ~ William Shakespeare
“And the homeless children, Bramwell, look after the homeless. Promise me . . .” ~ General William Booth, Salvation Army (to his son)
“I see earth receding; heaven is opening. God is calling me.” ~ Evangelist D. L. Moody
Well what will your words be? Of course, we can’t begin to predict them but if you live this life anywhere close to right, and have the chance to whisper some closing breaths to those gathered round the bedside. Maybe the words might be along the lines of, “I’m ready to head home.” And then when you cross over to heaven, Jesus will welcome you with the applause of heaven and you’ll hear the words, “Well done!”
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