“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NIV 1984).
My Musings – The second habit in Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is begin with the end in mind. The gist is, if you do not know your destination, how in the world are you going to get there. This applies on various scales. No one would begin to build a house without first visualizing what it should be like. Its dimensions, number of rooms, construction materials, where to best locate it, etc. Once these are determined (planned out), the actual building begins. Unfortunately, few visualize the totality of their lives that way. We may have a one and five-year plan, a plan to provide for retirement, a plan for life in retirement, and a plan for what we want to pass on in our estate. But these individual components do not add up to the totality of our lives.
“I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long.” – George Bailey, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Think for a few minutes about your funeral, the people that might attend, for instance. What is it that you would like them to say about you. “He sure had his five year plan well thought out.” “Nobody planned for or lived their retirement like she did.” “He sure left his children well off.” As good as these things might be, are they really our legacy? Not really. What we really want, if we think hard about it, is to be remembered for the kind of person we were. The life we lived. The lives we touched. The differences we made.
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Clarence (the angel), “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
But as we plan for and live our lives, do we begin with this end in mind? For many, maybe most, probably not. We begin with making a living in mind rather than beginning with making a life in mind. At your funeral, will people be talking about the places you visited (Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum), the things you built (airfields, skyscrapers a hundred stories high, bridges a mile long), or how many other lives we touched, the awful hole we will leave?
My Advice – But even these are not the totality of our lives. For, “just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27–28, NIV 1984). There will be many who will have lots of kind and heartfelt things said about them at their funerals for the fine things they did in this life, only to hear Christ say “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!“
You see, it’s not what we did, it’s who we know. What we did, our good works, can never atone for the sin in our lives. But who we know can, because of what He did. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV 1984).
So, if you really want to begin with the end in mind, don’t just think about what other people will say about you at your funeral. Think about what He will say to you when you stand before Him. It can be, “come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34, NIV 1984). But only if you have been born again.
Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”