January 25, 2009
One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life
Part 5: Leave Boldly
Hi everyone. Or maybe I should say, Aloha! Laina and I had a wonderful getaway in Hawaii, lots of time together on the beach, and Rick and I rode Harley’s around Maui for two days! Hey, if you’ve only got one month to live…woohoo!
How many of you were amazed by what’s being called “the miracle on the Hudson”? On Thursday, Jan. 15, flight 1549 crash landed into the Hudson River, and all 155 persons aboard lived to tell about it. As the plane was going down, those folks didn’t have one month or one day to live. They had a couple minutes. What did they do? They told their friends and family that were with them that they loved them. They held hands with strangers next to them. And they prayed-they all prayed.
Kasey Christie wrote to me that perhaps we should live like we had minutes left and do the same: Tell those that we love that we do indeed love them, reach out to strangers in need, talk to our God. Let’s do that right now. Find someone you love and tell them. Find a stranger and extend a hand. Then I’ll pray.
This is the final week of “One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life”. I got the idea for the series from this book, by the same title. We still have some copies left, and even though the series is ending, the book is worth reading. There are lots of great insights, and thought-provoking questions.
When I asked people what they would do if they had one month to live, I heard things like:
• Live passionately: make every day count, take some risks.
• Love deeply: invest time in their most important relationships.
• Learn humbly: as Brad said last week, you’d be humbly dependent on God.
One other thing I heard from people is that they would leave boldly. They might not have used those words, but they said things like they wanted to leave a legacy, to know that they’ve made a lasting difference and be able to leave with confidence. Wouldn’t you want to leave knowing that you had done what God wanted you to do and you were ready to meet Him?
I spent some time thinking about Jesus’ last month. He set the example for leaving boldly. What did He do to leave boldly? We’re going to look at four things that Jesus did to leave boldly that are all worth doing right now, whether you’ve got 30 days or 80 years left to live. If you want to leave boldly, you need to:
1. Know where you’re going.
John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.
Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world, but He also knew where He was going: He was going to His Father. When it’s time to leave, it’s good to know where you are going!
ILL: Albert Einstein was going on a train to an out-of-town engagement. The conductor stopped by to punch his ticket. The great scientist couldn’t find his ticket; with great embarrassment he rummaged through his coat pockets and briefcase to no avail. The conductor said, “We all know who you are, Dr. Einstein. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.” The conductor walked on down the aisle punching other tickets. Before he moved to the next car, he looked back and saw Dr. Einstein down on his hands and knees looking under his seat trying to find his ticket. He came back and gently said, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry about it. I know who you are.” Einstein looked up and said, “I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going!”
When it’s time to leave, it’s good to know where you are going! In all the verses listed on your outline, Jesus says that He knows where He’s going.
John 8:14 for I know where I came from and where I am going.
John 13:3 Jesus knew that he had come from God and was returning to God.
John 14:12 because I am going to the Father.
John 14:28 If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
John 16:10 because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.
John 16:28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.
When it’s time to leave, it’s good to know where you are going, and Jesus knew where He was going. If you had one month to live, or if you were like the folks on flight 1549 and thought you had only minutes to live, would you want to know where you are going?
There is an Indiana cemetery with a tombstone that bears the following epitaph:
Pause stranger, when you pass me by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
So prepare for death and follow me.
An unknown passerby scratched this reply underneath:
To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went.
How many of you agree with that? I want to know where I am going. I’ve spent time with many people who were dying, who knew their time was short. I’ve seen fear and I’ve seen confidence. The ones who know where they are going have a peace and a confidence that others don’t have. If you want to leave boldly, you need to know where you are going.
So can you? Can you know where you are going? I remember as a new Christian being asked if I was going to heaven and I said, “I hope so.” I thought that you couldn’t know for sure until you got there. I thought that when you died, you stood before God and were judged. He put all the good things you did on one side of the scale and all the bad things on the other side. If it tipped to the good, you went to heaven. If it tipped to the bad, a trap door opened and you went straight to hell. So I thought you can’t know where you’re going until you get there and the scale tips one way or the other. Is that what the Bible teaches? Thankfully, no.
1 John 5:11-13 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Notice that last phrase. John writes this so that you may know that have eternal life. The word “know” there means a settled and certain knowledge. You know. God wants you to know that you have eternal life. How do you know? If you have the Son, Jesus, you have eternal life.
I have eternal life right now, and I know where I’m going. When I stand before God, my eternal fate won’t be determined by what I’ve done, but by who stands beside me and what He’s done. I have Jesus and I know where I’m going. It’s not because I’m so good or so righteous-I’m not. But I believe in Jesus; I’m trusting Jesus; I’m following Jesus. I am going to the Father because of Jesus. Knowing where I’m going changes the way I live now.
Do you know where you are going after you die? What gives you confidence in the face of death?
2. Build to last.
If you want to leave boldly, you need to build to last. You’d think about your legacy. Everyone wants to leave a legacy, to make some kind of a lasting difference in the world. Harold Kushner said:
I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending, that haunts our sleep so much as the fear…that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.
We all hope our lives have some kind of lasting significance, and if you had a month to live, you would see very clearly what makes a difference and what doesn’t, what lasts and what is temporary.
How many of you have ever been to the beach and built a sandcastle with your kids? It’s loads of fun…but the problem is that the tide comes in washes all your hard work away. I’d spend a couple hours with my kids working on a sandcastle; but when I was in Mexico last year, I saw some sand art that took way more than a couple hours. Impressive, isn’t it. But the tide is going to wash it all away.
Some of us are building sandcastle lives: here today, washed away tomorrow with no trace. We’re living but leaving nothing behind. Jesus talked about this.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
You can build on the rock and leave a legacy that will stand; or you can build on the sand and it all gets washed away. You’ve got to build to last. The apostle Paul put it this way.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Will what you build with your life stand the test of time, or will it just go up in smoke? You’ve got to build to last.
The only way to build a lasting legacy is to invest your resources into what lasts forever: God and people. What lasts? God and people! We see that clearly in the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus said that the most important thing in life is loving God and loving people-plain and simple. He also told us to store up treasure in heaven. I don’t know everything that will be heaven. I have some dreams: long deep powder runs with no lift-lines; great golf courses with no out of bounds; big motorcycles with lots of twisty roads. I don’t know if any of that will be there, but I know two things that will be in heaven for sure: God and people. Those are the treasures we lay up in heaven.
ILL: Some of you have heard me say that when Pastor Noel lived in Hawaii, we would talk on the phone often. One day he asked me how my baseball card collection was coming. “Have you found any great new cards lately?” he asked. I told him no, nothing new to report. Then he said, “I started a new collection recently.” That surprised me. Noel is not an acquisitive person; he lives very simply and I’d never known him to have a collection. “What are you collecting?” I asked him. He said, “Friends.” I thought, “That’s great: I collect baseball cards, Noel collects friends.” Then he said, “I’m collecting friends because I can take them with me when I leave.”
You can take it with you…if you’re collecting the right things. Invest your life in God and people, and you can take it with you; you can lay up treasure in heaven.
Can I be self-indulgent for just a moment? I’ve thought about my legacy. Do you know what it is? Let me tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t this building. I’m very grateful that we have this, but this is temporary. It isn’t even this church. Did you know that Life Center is temporary? There won’t be a Life Center in heaven. So what is my legacy? You are. Each one of you who takes to heart what God’s word says and lives it out-you are my legacy.
2 Corinthians 3:1-3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Paul said that his legacy, the result of his ministry, was people-people whom he helped to find and follow Jesus. That’s what I want to be my legacy. I want you to follow Jesus and change the world; I want to get to heaven and find lots you there.
It’s so easy to get our values all mixed up. We end up neglecting God and people-including those closest to us, our friends and family-to pursue the American dream and acquire more stuff.
ILL: It’s like being on vacation and checking into your motel room for a week, and then deciding that you don’t like the décor, so you call in your own interior decorator. You spend a lot of money to redo the whole room: wallpaper, curtains, carpets, furniture. Then you buy a huge flat screen TV for the wall with surround sound. Then you hire a landscaper to spruce up the grounds. Wait a minute…you forgot that you’re only here for a week!
That’s exactly what many of us do. We act as if this life is all there is and we’re going to be here forever. If you had one month to live, you’d get real clear about what lasts, and there are only two things that last forever: God and people. Everything else is temporary. When the plane was going down, people loved each other and prayed. God and people-that’s what lasts. What lasts? God and people! If you are going to leave boldly, you want to build to last. You want a legacy that won’t wash away. You invest in God and people.
What do you want as your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? What are some things you can do this week to invest in eternity?
3. Finish what God gave you to do.
If you are going to leave boldly, you’d want to finish what God gave you to do. If you had any unfinished business, you’d want to take care of it. You see this all the time when people are dying. And you can see this clearly in Jesus. On the last night of Jesus life, He prays this.
John 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
He had finished the work God gave Him to do, so the next day, hanging on the cross:
John 19:30 Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
It is finished. He wasn’t talking about His life, but about what God sent Him to do. He finished the work God gave Him to do. That’s leaving boldly! Many people never figure out what God gave them to do, let alone finish it. But if you want to leave boldly, you need to be able to say at the end of your life, “It is finished. I completed the work God gave me to do.” You might wonder if anyone other than Jesus could say that. I think so. The apostle Paul said:
Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
Paul was determined to finish the race and complete the task Jesus gave him. Did he? Near the end of his life, he wrote Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
That’s leaving boldly! To be able to reach the end of your life and say, “I did it. I fought the fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith. I finished what God gave me to do.”
For many of you, the big question is “What has God given me to do?” I always recommend you start right where you are. Let me show you what I mean: my starting point is my primary roles, who I am as a person.
• I am follower of Jesus. I want to finish that well.
• I am a husband. I want to finish that well.
• I am a father and grandfather. I want to finish that well.
• I am a son and a brother. I want to finish that well.
• I am a friend. I want to finish that well.
• I am a pastor. I want to finish that well.
As you can see, I simply start where I am, with my primary roles; I believe that God called me to these things, and wants me to finish well in each of them. If I had one month to live, I’d be asking what is unfinished; what has God given me to do that I need to finish? I want to finish well, and hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So those are questions I should be asking now.
What is your assignment? What has God given you to do? What is unfinished? If you had one month to live, what would you try to finish?
4. Prepare others to carry on.
If you want to leave boldly, you need to prepare others to carry on. This is part of that unfinished business that needs to be taken care of. There are areas in our lives which are not finished when we die; we need to pass the baton. We need to make sure that others are prepared to carry on.
This can be very practical. One man emailed me and mentioned that he would have to show his wife where he keeps all financial records and how they are organized. Jesus showed this kind of practical concern; He made sure that His mother would be cared for when He was gone.
John 19:25-27 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
I’m sure we can all think of practical things that we would want to make sure were taken care of if we had one month to live. Go ahead and do it.
Jesus finished His work…and He didn’t, because His work didn’t end with Him, it only started. In many ways, His life and death were only the beginning of His work. That’s why Luke starts the book of Acts by saying,
Acts 1:1-2 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
Luke viewed his gospel as the beginning of the teaching and work of Jesus which would be carried on by His apostles. It says He gave instructions to His apostles who were to carry on the work. In fact, much of the gospel story is Jesus teaching and preparing the disciples to carry on after He left, but especially the last half of each gospel. John 13-17 contains Jesus’ teaching in the upper room on the last night of his life. Read it and you’ll see that Jesus was preparing His followers to carry on. He teaches them, He prays for them, and He promises to send the Holy Spirit to empower them and live in them. It was all preparatory so that He could leave boldly, confidently.
I’ve thought a lot about this point, particularly in relation to you. If I had one month to live, one of the things on my short list is to prepare the next pastor for Life Center. Of course, I realized that I should be doing that now.
If you had one month to live, who would you need to prepare for your departure? What would you need to do so that others could carry on?
One of the things you might do is write or record some messages for those you love. Last year, Greg Papst went to be with the Lord. He was 49, married to Kari and the father of three beautiful girls, Anna, Ilsa and Inga. One morning in the final month of his life, he spent three hours in front of a video camera speaking to his wife and girls. He thought of us too, and shared some words to be passed on to us at his memorial service. With the permission of his family, Dan Archer, our video producer has put together this short clip for you.
Video: Greg Papst.
Greg took some time to prepare us to carry on; he had some things he wanted to pass on to us, and he did. It’s part of leaving boldly. But why wait? Share those things now. Make the investment now. Leave the legacy now.