As a pastor I have become very familiar with the last few moments of a person’s life. For most people desperation never hits as hard as it does during those final moments of existence. Suddenly they are faced with the purpose of life, what their life was all about and how it was handled. They find themselves faced with those moments when the “why” of life is being answered in full. There is no more waiting, no more procrastination, no more “I’ll think about it later,” its decision time! The gavel strikes downward and its blow is the final sound heard in this life.
Unfortunately, I see too many families that are blind-sighted by the death of a loved one. They never expected death to find its way into their lives so soon, surely not today! They find themselves overwhelmed as there has been no real preparation by either the deceased or their family. They are just gone … suddenly! And the phrase “it’s not about you” has never had such deep meaning!
In those final moments and afterwards I have seen many families take comfort in the memories of what the deceased accomplished. I hear statements like “what a great dad they were” or “they lived a good life.” And those are wonderful legacies to leave behind! But in reality, it’s too late for the one that lived a life outside of a relationship with God.
Why is it that we have such a hard time facing the reality of death?
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
How true it is even today! Jesus rose from the dead and still most do not believe. These greatest of all events are something I can’t control or quantify, and it is especially beyond my level of comprehension and understanding. For most people their lives are all about themselves, believing that at the end they will be due Heaven because of their self-evaluated well-lived “good” life. Unfortunately, most people are only shooting for “good enough” and not the “holy” that God calls us to seek.
This story represents the issue of serving oneself through life with no thought whatsoever regarding God. In the world today, we are assured that to live the good life we simply need to amass as many treasures as we can. It’s the “Burger King” way of life … “have it your way!” But God’s Word and the example of Jesus clearly show us that life is not about us but instead is all about loving God, being in relationship with Him and serving Him by serving others in His name. The cool part is that we find unbelievable contentment and purpose in that relationship with God, not so much in serving ourselves. So, the challenge for us is to establish a life of grateful service and not an attitude of serving so that God will owe us something. Let’s be clear, He will never owe you anything! It’s not about you!
NOTE TO SELF: Have life His way … it’ll be worth it!