Funerals. Memorial Services. Call them whatever you’d like. Since our arrival in Cleveland during the spring of 2009 to serve the Lord’s people as the preacher and his wife, I have been called upon to conduct some 19 of them, with countless others occurring in and amongst the lives of the congregation members, their family, and friends. Everyone from former preachers to faithful members, to those who have never set soul or the souls of their feet in services over that period — young and old, male and female, saint and sinner alike — have passed on. Some died suddenly and unexpectedly, while others suffered long and unbelievably.
One thing that they all had in common was an obituary; a very short biographical sketch of the individual and how they had spent their brief time of life here on the earth before passing to the next phase of their eternal existence. Often included in such, were where they were born, attended school, and chose to live; whom they married, a record of their relatives, and the activities they enjoyed. Many other elements and decisions they made during their earthly lives might also be brought to remembrance in their obituaries, such as possible time spent in the armed forces, pursuit and acquisition of higher education, their preferred or performed occupation, and/or many other possible and potentially life-altering earthly choices — perhaps even what led to their departure from this plane of their personal existence in the first place.
But then, at the end of the memorial service, what usually becomes of those funeral flyers with that person’s entire record of their life-long likes, pursuits, and priorities printed on them? Ultimately, even though they may in some cases be saved for a day or two, they will eventually and inevitably get thrown into the trash — some sooner, some later, but they will all surely suffer the same fate. The printed record of every priority that person ever had, pursued, and/or held dear as treasured and precious during their brief time here, will join their entire stash of gathered possessions that the family will be forced to filter through and for the most part, discard out of hand. While this might sound cold and harsh to some — and while I do not mean to alienate or offend — it is the cold, hard, harsh, life and death reality of this entire, and yet fleeting, earthly existence. You really “can’t take it with you when you go.” And we know that. But then, knowing that, why do so many people, waste so much of their very brief but precious earthly time (Eph. 5:15–17), pursuing so many pointless things which simply cannot, do not, and will not profit them (Isa. 55:1–11; Matt. 16:26) when their last breath is taken and their own obituary is written? Jesus told of one just such individual in Lk. 12:15–21:
And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Numbers don’t lie. To determine what are actually the top and most precious priorities in your present earthly existence, simply add up the amount of time, effort, energy and resources you are devoting to the acquisition of or involvement in, any and all of them. And then ask yourself, “Do these numbers truly reflect that I love the Lord my God with ALL my heart, and with ALL my soul, and with ALL my strength, and with ALL my might; and that in my earthly life, Christ has the absolute and top priority and pre-eminence in and over everything else (Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27; Col. 1:15–23) …or not?”
Because you see, when the day comes that you take your last earthly breath and your own obituary is written, the one person in the entire universe which all of those life-long earthly pursuits, pleasures, priorities and elements contained in that obituary — other than seeking and spending more time with the Lord your God that is — are going to mean the absolute least to (are going to mean even far less to than the people that arbitrarily discard that funeral flyer before they ever leave the building) is YOU. That’s right — YOU! Can you afford to be a person who spent — yea wasted if I may be so bold — the lion’s share of their entire earthly life in pursuit of things that do not, cannot, and did not profit, and who must now face the almighty and all-knowing God whom they neglected to get to know and develop the deepest and most personal, intimate spiritual relationship possible with; and Whom they minimized, marginalized, disobeyed, disavowed, and sought to distance themselves from by pursuing earthly pleasure and treasure with every breath He so lovingly gave them, while disregarding the heavenly gift of eternal life He bled and died in order to provide them access to at the cross?
How will your obituary read? What will it reveal about you? It really doesn’t matter; nor will it to you whatsoever when it is read — that part and portion of your life will be through forever at that point, and your every earthly pursuit will be forever left behind with it as well. And so, the better question by far is the only one that WILL Matter: Will God really find and read your name, on that final day, in His family album, known as the “Book of Life” (Gal. 3:26–27; Rev. 2:10, 20:10–15) …or will your eternal soul wind up as duly discarded as an earthly funeral flyer, only in a lake of eternally burning fire? That depends on what you decide to do with God, His Son, and His Word, each day of the life He gives you here, in order to prepare for eternity with them… doesn’t it?