What do You Want on Your Tombstone?
One morning in 1888, Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred's brother that had died and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother. Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The "Dynamite King," the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred's life.
None of his true intentions to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas for peace were recognized or given serious consideration. He was simply a merchant of death. And for that alone he would be remembered.
As he read the obituary with horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. This could be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament--an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace (the sixth category of economics was added later)--would be the expression of his life's ideals and ultimately would be why we would remember him. The result was the most valuable of prizes given to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace. It is called today the "Nobel Peace Prize."
"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Men, let's face it many of us are afraid of death. It's one of the top 3 phobias in our world. People have sought to extend their lives longer since the dawn of time. People have searched for medicines that would prolong their lives. Magellan (and hundreds more) searched for years for the famed Fountain of Youth.
Why are so many people afraid to die? I think part of it has to do with a fear of the unknown - a fear of what's next. As Christians, we know what's next. But, I think this fear is also driven by a feeling of un-accomplishment. We gauge success in America by accomplishment, and people feel a driving need to do something worth remembering. We want to leave a legacy.
I was having lunch with a friend of mine who is an insurance agent. I asked him which type of insurance had more claims, which one did they pay more money to? He stated "life insurance. It's the only policy that when written we know with 100% certainty will be paid." After thinking about that for a minute I realized he was right, everyone one of us will someday die.
So what will be written about you on your gravestone - one simple phrase - that sums up all your years?
HAD A VERY COOL CAR
LOOKED GREAT IN A BATHING SUIT
MADE A TON OF MONEY
Or would you prefer something more like this?
HIS LIFE TOUCHED MANY FOR GOOD
HE BROUGHT JOY TO ALL HE MET
WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT
I'd love to be remembered the way God described David: as a "man after God's own heart." Or maybe the way people remembered John the Baptist: "He may not have performed any miracles, but he told the truth about Jesus."
The Bible tells us of another legacy: Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
What lasts? Faith lasts. The following are a couple of lines from a poem written by a missionary named C.T. Studd titled “One Life to Live.”
"Only one life, 'twil soon be passed
Only what's done for Christ will last."
I think that's true. So, if what counts is what's done for Christ, what have you done in your lives that will last? Do you remember the story Jesus told about the Master who went away and left some of his servants in charge of his house (Matthew 25:14-30)? When he came back, how did he act with the servants who took what he left them and used them to further the master's business? They were praised: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Think about that - that's what I want God to say to me when I meet him in heaven. Notice he didn't say successful servant, or rich servant, or popular servant…faithful. His tombstone would tell us that he might not have been brilliant or important, but he was faithful. That is what God praises.
What about the servant who wasted what he was given? He got kicked out of the house. Look at your lives, men…with what God has given you, which servant would you be? Have you made the most with what God has given you to further his business? Or have you wasted it?
How will you be remembered? As a man who chased after Jesus with his life, or a church-goer who showed up for the trips, the retreats, and the fun stuff? A man who loved God and truly loved people, or someone who treated God like he was a dusty book he could pull off the shelf twice a week and then put it away when he wanted?
I want to be remembered for passion! For Faith! As a hero to my family. Our world doesn't need any more tycoons or snobs or success stories…we need heroes. Not athletes or movie stars…this generation needs heroic men standing up for Christ.
But, to be remembered as a hero, we need to live as a hero.
How you are remembered has nothing to do with what you have or what you did, but what you were. And it has nothing to do with lofty plans or future goals - we don't get to write our tombstone. Those who really knew us…they get to decide what is chiseled into the granite. How you live your life now will determine that, because your family will write what they remember. Be a hero - be about your Master's business.
What do you want on your tombstone?