“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat- for he grants sleep to those he loves. Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” Psalm 127:1-3 (NIV)
As a volunteer chaplain with the Kootenai County Fire and Rescue District and a pastor to many families, I’m occasionally asked to officiate at weddings or funerals. Funerals are always challenging, yet provide a unique opportunity to share the peace, presence, and power of Jesus Christ.
When death visits your personal address book it causes one to think about those things that have eternal significance. Faith, family, and character take precedence over fame, power, and fortune. Further, this is a time that allows people to evaluate the lives of those who are no longer with us.
I’m reminded of the last scene in the movie, “Saving Private Ryan”. You will recall that Captain Miller had been seriously wounded and was dying by the edge of the bridge when the young Private Ryan came to his side. Captain Ryan looked into the eyes of the private and said, “Make it count!” The valiant leader was really telling the soldier that it was important that he effectively utilize the gifts and talents God had given him as he lived the rest of his life.
During the past several years, we’ve been challenging groups of leaders with the same message. MMC has had the privilege of helping to develop new Men’s Bible Studies that deal with issues about building a life around spiritual significance. We found that people enjoy the value of exploring their lives in relationship to God’s plan and purpose for mankind. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36 In the book of James we find another warning that causes us to reflect upon the things of God. “Unfaithful people! Don’t you know that to be the world’s friend means to be God’s enemy? People who want to be the world’s friends make themselves God’s enemies.” James 4:4
It is true that a person can be successful from a worldly standpoint and yet have great impact from God’s perspective. Books like Finishing Well, Finishing Strong, Man and the Mirror, Half Time, and our own book Finishing Well – Finishing Strong identify countless people who have been both successful and significant.
While watching a little TV on Sunday afternoon, I saw a Church in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had been retired many years. He was 92 at that time and I wondered why the Church even bothered to ask the old gentleman to preach at that age.
After a warm welcome and an appropriate introduction of the speaker, he rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with great effort and a sliding gate, to the podium. Without a note or written paper of any kind, he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly and slowly he began to speak…
“When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your pastor asked me to tell you what the greatest lesson was ever learned in my 50 odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heartbreak and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me… the only thing that would comfort was this verse…
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
We are weak but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me…
The Bible tells me so
Here is a new version just for those of us who have gray or white hair or no hair at all. Check out this newest version of “Jesus Loves Me”:
JESUS LOVES ME
Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.
YES, JESUS LOVES ME… YES, JESUS LOVES ME…
YES, JESUS LOVES ME FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.
Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I’ll go
On through life, let come what may,
He’ll be there to lead the way.
When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
“Have no fear, for I am near.”
When my work on earth is done,
And life’s victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I’ll understand His love
I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say,
That I love Him every day.