“16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of His Name. 17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.” –Malachi 3:16-17 NLT
In 1888, Alfred Nobel had the rare privilege of reading his own obituary. A French newspaper erroneously printed it upon the death of his brother Ludvig. The obituary said in part: the prolific inventor was the merchant of death and he made it possible to kill more people quickly than anyone in history. That indictment sent shock waves through Alfred’s soul. It became that defining moment that redefined his life and legacy.
Nobel was granted 355 patents during his lifetime, but his most famous was nitroglycerine mixed with absorbent sand and shaped into sticks called dynamite. His invention was used for a vast array of constructive uses but like any invention, it also had the power to be misused and abused. When in the wrong hands, dynamite became a weapon of mass destruction. So, Alfred Nobel, devoted the rest of his life, and his death, to righting that wrong.
After reading the obituary intended for him, Nobel, rewrote his last will and testament. On November 27th, 1895, he decided to use his $9 million fortune to establish one of the most coveted rewards in the world—the Nobel Peace Prize.
A hundred years later his name is synonymous with the world’s greatest advancements in science, literature, medicine, and peace. The cumulative good resulting from that award is incalculable.
Few things are as life-altering as reading your obituary prior to your death. Few things are as life-changing as realizing that God is keeping a record of our deeds.
In the passage above, God overhears the conversations of the faithful people who feared Him. In the ancient world it was common for kings to keep scrolls remembering the people and their deeds, whether righteous or unrighteous. (See Esther 2:23; 6:1-3)
A “scroll of remembrance” was written in God’s presence concerning these faithful believers. The image of God’s record book, which appears throughout the Scriptures (e.g. Exodus 32:32-33; Psalm 56:8; 139:16), indicates that God will never forget and will rightly judge both the good deeds of the righteous and the evil deeds of the wicked (John 5:29).
From the passage in John 5:29, it is important to reiterate that good works function as evidence of true faith and if good works are lacking, they show an absence of true faith (James 2:14).
Alfred Nobel was very fortunate, wasn’t he?
After your death what would you like people to say about you? Probably more importantly, what do you want people to remember about you, and what can you do to help shape those memories now?
You might say, “Well, Dale, I’m pretty young and death is the furthest thing from my mind.” My suggestion for all of us is simply this: Live today with the end in mind!
What are you doing today for the cause of Jesus Christ that will be celebrated at your death?
After all, death is a mirror that gives us a glimpse into who we really are.
Death is a rearview mirror that puts the past into perspective.
The closer you come to death, the clearer and farther you can see.
If you have ever had a near death experience you realize that nothing recalibrates your priorities faster. Whether it’s a cancer screening, a car accident, or a phone call from a military chaplain sharing tragic news of a loved one, these moments bring into focus the brevity of life. In these moments:
• Unimportant things are revealed as insignificant.
• Important things become ALL-important.
• If we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us, they can become defining moments in our lives.
• We realize that everyday ought to be lived like it is our last day.
• We realize the necessity of making every day count.
• We will more quickly make choices to stand up for what is right, rather than bowing down to peer pressure or what is blatantly wrong.
Here are a few efforts you might consider taking this week:
- Make a list of 5-6 things you most want to be said of you before going home to be with Christ. You might also synthesize this down to a single statement you want “written on your gravestone.”
- Write a letter to each of your children and/or grandchildren to be read in your waning years. The letter might consist of what you love about them, or casting a vision for their future. Give them three words of wisdom and two warnings about what to avoid.
- Commit to starting early on all of this as it truly may serve as a plum-line for measuring your success in this life.
Email me some of your answers to the the above questions if you’d like. I’d love to be inspired by what the Lord shows you!