I was looking through my writing folder on my computer where I keep ideas for blog entries or articles and came across one titled “Goals after death.” “What in the world possessed me to write such a thing?” I wondered. The entry was dated February 9, 2004, and for whatever reason, I must have heard a sermon or read something that challenged me to create the following:
- 10 friends at funeral who won’t look at watch (I know this isn’t original because I’ve heard it elsewhere.)
- People to tell my children that their father loved God not flesh.
- Look wife in face and say I’ve been faithful.
- Be thoroughly used by God.
I’m supremely honored and humbled that the Lord broke through my stubborn and self-determined plans when I was 21 to call me to serve His people. As I often tell our church, at that time I put my “yes” on the table for Christ, and it has remained there to this day. He has the perfect right, and it’s my ultimate joy to follow as He directs.
There was a young preacher in the New Testament named Timothy who must have experienced some of that joy as he received a charge from his mentor, Paul. Timothy was urged to do precisely what cost the Paul and the other apostles their lives: “Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4.2)
I can’t help but read the New Testament and marvel at and drink enviously of the first century Christ-followers’ passion for the Gospel. Their goal seemed to be: Full-out, finish strong, fight to the end.
In one of my favorite movies of all time, William Wallace in Braveheart utters, “Give me the strength to die well.”
While William Wallace lived and fought for the freedom of Scotland, the epic struggle raging for spiritual freedom has been fought throughout time by ordinary men and women. They have never had movies made of them. Hebrews 11.35-40 records about these unnamed, persevering saints:
Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
To further contrast with our own attitudes, the apostle Paul also saw his death as an act of worship. He said, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.” (2 Timothy 4.6). He understood that the highest level of worship to offer to God is dying for one’s faith.
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) said, “If you want to know if what we believe is true, then watch the way we die.”
Paul had lived his life as an act of worship (“fought the good fight”). Herein we must ask, “Is my life a life of worship? Would my death be a sacrifice of worship?” God doesn’t call you to fight without calling you to finish. One of our greatest concerns for the church today should be that we burn up before we burn out.
Yet there are too many of us who are barely flickering. As I shared in my sermon this past week, the name “Jesus” must cross our lips in conversation with our community. We cannot play charades any longer and hope they guess that we’re acting like “Christians.” It’s not enough to sing Christian songs, go the right churches, wear the right clothes, listen to the right podcasts or read the “in” books. Too much input has led us to spiritual constipation. Most of us desperately need a gospel laxative.
Voddie Baucham said, “For 17 months after I became a Christian, I didn’t know that Christians weren’t supposed to witness.” He sadi this in reference to the sad truth that the church he attended and the Christians he associated with during that first year and a half of following Christ were tragically silent about their Savior.
Have we “gotten over it?” In a desperate yet majestic prayer of repentance, David sorrowfully begged the Lord, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51.12) Perhaps we too need to humbly cry out to the Lord at the realization that our joy, our enthusiasm, our hope has been all but snuffed out in this culture of materialistic self-dependency.
Reflecting over those goals after death makes me hope that I will pray that God will help me long for heaven – not just for myself but for all with whom God might kindly give me influence. And may the name of Jesus cross my lips… and my keyboard.. often.
Since I was 7 years old, Jesus Christ has been my light and my hope. He has done great things for me, my family and all those who put their trust in Him. He is the hope of the world. May you find hope in Him as well. The church that Jesus established was to be the light of the world. The image was of a lamp – with its wick lit and trimmed, it was set on a lamp stand to light the way for others. Let us burn up before we burn out.