Core Thought: Success is when on the day of your funeral, people can say, "He loved me, he taught me that God loved me, and that the best life possible is one that loves God and loves others."
Years ago when I was doing some pre-marital counseling, the husband-to-be shocked me by asking me a question, "Pastor, how do you define success?" The shock was not in the particular question, but that he would ask anything as most grooms endure this part of the long march to the altar.
After I gathered myself, I told him, "Reid, success is when on the day of your funeral, you kids can say, "My daddy loved me and taught me that God loved me, too." Since that day, I've expanded that definition a little as you have read in the core thought.
One of my very best friends called me yesterday to tell me about an "amazing" (his words) funeral he witnessed for one of his very good friends. A quiet, humble, good man in his early 40's who died suddenly of a heart attack. His friend left behind a devoted wife and three great kids.
God's will? Only in that He allows heart attacks and other tragedies in life. As a bonus "aside," I tell people when they ask me "why" did God "take" my child, husband, etc....well, I respond that I don't envision God "taking" anyone. I see Him as a rescuer. For whatever reasons (and I'm sure they are good ones), God chooses not to violate human freedom as a rule...how else can we explain his standing by when drunk drivers hurt and kill innocent people, child abuse, rape, etc....but you've heard me go on about that haven't you?
I believe God hurts when we hurt, and that He knows every "appointment" we have with death, and He is there to rescue, to guide us home, to show us in the instant we wake up on the other side, that in eternity's eyes, death is no big deal.
In our eyes, however, it is the ultimate deal...especially when we lose someone we love. Yes, the death of this young father was a tragic one, but the tragedy would have been much greater if he had not lived his life so well...actually taking God seriously, and actually living out the best life possible...one spent loving God and loving others.
His life was marked by humility, gentleness, goodness and service. He worked in the family business, and in the church as a deacon, Sunday School teacher and children's worker.
Some people couldn't even get in for the funeral as the church sanctuary only seated 500. Those who came represented only a fraction of the number of lives this one life had touched. I love this quote by Helen Keller: "With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world."
What will people say about you when your time comes? What kind of legacy, or what kinds of seeds will you leave behind? In Romans 12:9-18 we have a pretty good description of a life that will not only be remembered long after a person is "gone," but a life that will leave behind seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (See Gal. 5:22,23) In this passage, Paul describes a life that is possible through our relationship with Christ, a life that "gets specific" in its impact on others... a life described like this:
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
This is the life that is successful - not just now - but forever!