It is common knowledge that someone dies everyday. I know this and so do you. We turn on the news, read internet articles, get an email- death is everywhere! And yet this week, it’s hit a little bit closer to home as messages from friends that some of God’s choice servants are now in His presence.
Of course, we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope. Precious in the sight of the Lord are the deaths of His saints. But that doesn’t give us a pass on grief. It doesn’t necessarily remove the heaviness we feel for the family members and friends left behind. And part of us can’t stop thinking about what “could have been.” Praise the Lord for the sufficiency of His grace! Where would we be without it? How would we cope without Him?
This week we have been reminded of the answer to the question James poses in his epistle, “What is your life.” It’s a vapor. It appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
A missionary child, age 3. A 51 year old pastor who has been with the same church since 1995. A veteran missionary for 31 years to Japan. These are lives that weren’t lived frivolously or selfishly. These were lives given over for the furtherance of the Gospel! Their lives mattered and their lives had an impact. That was their life? What’s yours? What’s mine?
A story was told of a rich man whose mean brother died. This mean brother had an awful reputation around town. Fearing the backlash of people, the rich man approached a pastor about doing his funeral and he wanted to make sure it was done right.
“Preacher,” the rich man said, “I can see that you could use some extra funds for your church. I would like to ask you to conduct a funeral service for my brother and I promise to make it worth your while.”
“That won’t be a problem” answered the pastor, “When would you like to have it.”
“This Saturday. I know what my brother’s reputation hasn’t been the best and it’s difficult to find something nice to say about him. But if you would make sure that you say something nice about him during the funeral service, I will give your church this much money.” The rich man took a piece of paper from the pastor’s desk, wrote down the figure, and handed it to the pastor.
The pastor was wide-eyed as he saw the number. He stood up, shook the rich man’s hand and agreed to perform the funeral service as he had requested.
That Saturday the church auditorium was unusually full for the funeral service. The community couldn’t believe that this nice pastor would actually preside over a service for this wicked soul! Curiosity got the better of everyone.
As the rich man sat in the front row with some relatives, he was relieved that the pastor would agree to at least say something nice about his deceased brother.
The pastor started out by saying, “This man who is now laid to rest before you was a liar, a cheater, and a drunk. He never came to church, never showed kindness to his neighbors, never worked hard at his work whenever he was employed (which wasn’t often). He wasn’t faithful to his wife, he was a horrible father to his kids, and he constantly talked ill of his relatives.”
The rich man, sitting in the front row, was aghast at the pastor’s comments. “This isn’t what we agreed to,” he thought. As he was about to leap to his feet to stop the pastor’s rant, the preacher smiled and looked at the rich man and the audience. With a smile he proclaimed, “There is one good thing I can say about this man. As evil as he lived his life, he was a saint compared to his brother!”
What is your life? When it ends, what will people say about you? How will you be remembered? Will people have to lie at your funeral service? Make your life count for Jesus Christ!