Now, how about that for a positive, upbeat title! If you will allow me to deal with what some might label “morbid” for a bit, I promise we will end on a higher note. Of course, I am alluding to the oft quoted verse Hebrews 9:27, “…it is appointed for man (mankind) to die once, and after that comes judgment…” Allow me to say here that neither death nor judgment are a bad thing for the Christ follower. Loretta Lynn wrote a song that says, “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Every human being has a destiny and that destiny culminates when these mortal bodies fail us and cease to be. All of humanity is subject to this malady called mortality. No one is exempt (unless you are an Enoch or Elijah), we must all face that time in our lives when our journey here on the earth comes to an end.
As the culture becomes more and more godless and a biblical worldview is looked down upon by the elitists, I have been having more thoughts about what exactly I am doing with my life. What is the sum total of my existence and when that day comes that I depart for my heavenly abode (I am not trying to rush it or wish for it), what will I have accomplished with my little vapor of a life? I think sober and circumspect thinking is a good exercise for all of us, as we ponder our contribution to the world in our brief stay here on the earth.
Each of us is given a certain number of years (only God knows that number) to worship God, serve Him by serving others, and exercise the gifts and callings He has endued us with. And as long as we have breath in us, that mission remains. To be good stewards of our gifts and the time we are given to exercise them, is to be responsible followers of Jesus Christ. The question we each must ask ourselves is what are we doing and what have we done with the “seed” God has given us? What will we leave behind that will endure for eternity? That is a far cry from wondering if we will end up successful in business, although that is a part of allowing our relationship with our Savior to make us productive and thus extend His kingdom into the earth. It is much deeper than simply settling for partying as much as we can and solely satisfying our senses for a short- lived feel-good moment. Some live by the motto, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”
So, I must ask myself the question, when that day comes that my earthly mission is completed and God pulls me out of the lineup, what do I hope to see in my offspring; both natural and spiritual? My wife and I have four sons, three daughters-in-law (maybe that number will become four sometime), eleven grandchildren, four bonus grandchildren, and one bonus great grandchild. So you see, even from a natural standpoint, it is very important to me that the legacy I and we leave behind be a godly one, that is rooted in the advancement of God’s kingdom in the earth.
There is also the matter of almost 50 years of ministry, most of that time as a pastor to someone or a group of someone’s. So, not only do I have an interest in what my natural family does with the invested seed, but all the people whom I have in some way affected their lives for the Lord Jesus and His kingdom. I would like to know as the old Naomi and the
Sego Brothers song says, “Is my Lord fully satisfied with me?”
No, I do not have terminal cancer or some other fatal disease. I do, however, as I mentioned earlier, have a terminal condition. It is called living in a fleshly tabernacle, that is decaying because of the disobedience in the Garden. And I have an appointment at some point in the future, later rather than sooner I hope. But until that time, I want to keep my hands on the plow.
In Luke chapter 9, Jesus uses the analogy of plowing a field to describe the faithfulness and commitment that He requires. In the face of potential disciples and workers in His journeys making excuses as to why they couldn’t accompany Him now or if even at all (Let me first go and bury my father), Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” When you keep your hands on the plow, you keep them from other areas and events that are at best neutral to the advancement of His kingdom, and most likely, counter to His purposes. I have never plowed a field with a plow that did not have some kind of gasoline engine attached to it. But I still understand when plowing, we pick out some object in the distant and keep our eye on it as we plow…thus we are able to plow a straight line.
In the same way, we put our hands to the plow of Jesus’ kingdom and cast our gaze on some object in the distance…I wonder what that object could be that will cause us to plow in a straight (think straight and narrow) line? We find this answer from the Letter to the Hebrews… “let us run…the race that is set before us…looking to Jesus.” Much like Peter looking at the wind and waves, sometimes we catch ourselves looking around at everything else besides the intended target of our attention, the Jesus whom we follow. The writer of Hebrews continues when he tells us, “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” That is a key, as we continue our journey along the way, keeping in mind the inheritance (not monetary) we are leaving behind, we must consider the plight of our Lord. We must observe how He was met with hostility from sinners, and yet He endured, and not only endured, but came out on top in victory. We turn our attention away from everything else and gaze upon Him (which, by the way, is exactly what “looking to Jesus” says in the original text), so that we will not grow weary or fainthearted.
What is it that keeps us going and motivates us to continue the journey, even though many times it is difficult and challenging? The apostle Paul understood that and wrote about it to the church at Philippi. Observe these words written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and filtered through the experience of the author. “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” The key to finishing well is that we discount all the peripheral concerns (Paul called them rubbish) and continue to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. With our legacy in view, our Lord in our sights, and His kingdom that Jesus prayed would come to earth, we continue to press on. The imagery Paul uses here is one of a runner leaning into the tape at the end of a race. If you lean in the right direction, even if you stumble and fall, you will fall in the right direction.
Which way and in what direction are you leaning? Have you considered the legacy which you are building for that day that you are no longer around? What is your primary concern when you think about your contribution to society and the time you are investing in that contribution? This is not a defeatist message with your toes on the edge of the grave, but a powerful, victorious perspective that causes you to push ahead (press on) with whatever plow handles Jesus has put your hands upon.
This simply boils down to Jesus’ admonition to not worry about your life, as to what you might eat and drink, or what clothing you might wear. All of these things are important and vital (yes, wearing clothes is vital) and your Father in heaven knows that you need them. So, rather than being like the “Gentiles” who crave and eagerly pursue those things, we should seek first and foremost the kingdom of God and His righteousness to be in and over our lives. The top button in the top hole in our lives is that we are relationally submitted to the Lord Jesus as the King of the kingdom. Our primary goal must be that Jesus is reigning in and over our lives. We have assumed a posture of having been crucified with Christ, so that the life of Jesus can be lived through us without any obstructions. And when we seek God’s kingdom first in our lives, Jesus promised that all the essentials of life that we are so tempted to pursue will be provided for you. And we need to teach those under our care the idea of first principles first.
Make sure your years, be they short or be they long, are spent paying attention to what will leave the type of legacy you desire, and hopefully your desire is one of seeing the kingdom of God coming to people’s hearts. When people talk about you a hundred years from now, I pray they will talk about the investment you made with your life and in your natural and spiritual offspring, to assure the message of the gospel of the kingdom would endure. And then, one day in heaven, we can all rejoice together over the fruit of our labors continuing to produce, long after we have left the arena of the world.
So, you and I will one day reach the end of our journey. I pray for you that it will be later rather than sooner. But we all know who holds the gift of life in their hands and that is our Lord God. Until then, may we remain faithful in our journey, giving constant attention to the sowing of kingdom seed to those around us. I pray you see the miracle of provision in your life, for not only material needs, but provision for healing, deliverance, rescue from danger, and all that encompasses the diverse and powerful salvation of God.
And here is some good news. In Paul’s 2nd letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, he makes the statement that, “I know in whom I have trusted and I am convinced He is able to safeguard what I have entrusted to Him until that Day.” The literal Greek word in this verse for “entrusted” is a “deposit or a trust or thing consigned to one’s faithful keeping.” We can rest in the faithful guardianship of the Lord Jesus of that deposit we have rendered to Him. Later in the same letter, as he sees his day approaching, Paul writes these now oft repeated words, but nonetheless applicable to us as we view our mortality in view of our investment in His kingdom. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” But He doesn’t cease writing there, but finishes with a hopeful future for all of us. “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
None of us know how many days, weeks, or years we have remaining here on the earth. So, we must work for the night is coming and see to it that our legacy is one of righteousness, the gospel, serving the King and His kingdom He is establishing on the earth. And maybe, just maybe, we will be succeeded by a generation that will continue what we have begun and will do so until the completion of the ages. In the meantime, don’t stop plowing!
Michael Farren, Karen Peck, Kenna West
There will come a day
I know without a doubt
Around the throne the saints will bow
And lay down every crown
How glorious that moment
To see Him face to face
To hear Him say “well done my child”
You’ve finished your race
But for now the sun’s still rising
There’s work to still be done
While we’re waiting for the promise
Of what is yet to come
Every day that we are given
For the glory of His name
Until the Savior finally calls us home
Give it everything we have
There’s no truth in saying
We’ve seen our better days
These are the days to be courageous
Bold and full of faith
So wherever He may lead us
Whatever it may cost
Let the Church arise and lift
The banner of the cross