Two men I admire died recently and neither left this earth on their own terms. Floyd McClung, Jr. was a gentle giant who taught our mission to love the unlovely and personally helped me with a book on leadership. Dave Frederick was a long-time friend who set a marvelous example of caring for at-risk kids and the homeless.
Floyd contracted a disease in Africa that left him unable to communicate and care for himself the last five years of his life. Dave died of hereditary cancer that took the life of his dad at forty-eight, and him, after a lengthy battle, at sixty-six.
Neither ended his life on earth as desired. Few people do–and those who schedule it may have a problem in eternity. So, how should we live our final days if given the chance to chart it?
Here are my thoughts before I leave this earth.
Before I Leave This Earth
There is nothing more certain in life than death. Since “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27), should we not spend our lives, especially the final “chapters” (if we have the prescience of predicting them), doing the things that matter most?
It’s a rhetorical question that doesn’t need answering.
John F. Kennedy was famous for living an “Unfinished Life” (the name of his official biography). I believe many people end their earthly existence with a sense of incompleteness, wasted opportunities, and deep regret for the way they lived.
Our greatest example, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not.
I love his powerful words to the disciples found in his longest prayer in John 17:4:
I glorified you on earth having accomplished the work you gave me to do.
Jesus lived only thirty-plus years on earth. But he knew who he was, why he was here, and where he was going–(the Destiny Triad). He lived that life with perfection as a model for us all.
He fulfilled his divine assignments before he left this earth twice–first after his death on the cross and second in his resurrection to heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Let’s follow his example as we age.
As some of us approach seventy–what Moses said in Psalm 90 was the “normal” time of human death (eighty “if due to strength”)–it’s critical to focus like a laser on what we should do before leaving the planet. Even with modern medicine, our time is short.
The world calls this a “Bucket List.” The metaphor is based primarily on a secular, self-centered view of reality. The focus is what I want to do or see before “kicking the bucket” (isn’t that the reference?). Seems like most bucket lists involve travel, fun, and entertainment as if that’s the goal of life.
It is for some–but not in the Kingdom of God. Jesus used the word “I” in his prayer but only in the context of bringing honor to His Father via an obedient life. He brought God glory by selflessly obeying his calling.
So, forget the Bucket List. It’s a pleasure-oriented waste of our precious time. As followers of Jesus, we must put together a “Blessing List” to use our limited days to finish our God-given assignments.
What dreams, prayers, actions, and personal growth does God desire for you before you die?
Here is my Blessing List to encourage you to make your own.
God-Dreams and Prayers
I want to pray my biggest prayers at the end of my life. Maybe John 17 was the “largest” prayer of Jesus’ life just before He went to the cross.
Both Loren Cunningham and Bill Bright inspired me to pursue and intercede for the Great Commission. Loren lives it to this day at 86 with a special focus on seeing every language group in the world receive a Bible in their mother tongue (End Bible Poverty Now). Bill Bright used his eighty-one years to launch one of the world’s great mission societies (CRU) and was working on numerous Gospel projects right up until the end of his life.
Dr. Bright once told me: “Ron, I get up every morning and ask myself how I can fulfill the Great Commission?”
Is there any greater blessing than that? I, too, want to see every person on earth have a chance to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ before I leave the earth. God’s dream is my prayer.
I am also praying for a Great Awakening in the United States in the 2020’s for world evangelism. We have never needed it more. Revival is God’s heart passion.
Are you praying God’s dreams and carrying His burdens?
For decades I have made lists of what I believe God wants me to do. I pray about the items every December and put it in the front of my Prayer Diary for the coming year to remind me of my priorities. I call it my “Numbered Days.”
Parts of the list are multi-decade assignments. Most are twelve-month commitments. I look forward to “ticking them off” each year as I attempt to fulfill them. They include things like taking care of my extended family, discipling relationships, speaking, and teaching, and writing books God has inspired.
I do have a “Blessing List” of trips. I want to visit New Zealand again where God changed my life. I would love to return to Germany and where he launched my missions call and visit Italy where my uncle gave his life in World War II. And it would be special to take Shirley to Mongolia–my adopted people group on earth.
I have a couple more books upon my heart before I die. One will be the greatest challenge of my life (size-wise) and another a devotional of my writings. God showed me years ago to update all the major “messages” I have given and put them on our website. Usrenewal.org also contains my journal written over fifty years. I hope to write at least 1000 blogs (weekly messages) because Charles Wesley composed 1000 hymns. He’s my disciplined inspiration.
Even little points of obedience are important. In 2002, God prompted me to produce a video that will be played at my Memorial Service. It a final word to family and friends. I have written out the order of service in advance. The video comes at the end.
Some people just can’t stop talking (smile).
For those who aren’t list oriented, I have other commitments as well. I want to love and spend time with my family and close friends in the deepest ways possible. Nobody facing eternity asks for their trophies and degrees to be brought to their deathbed. They want their loved ones to surround them.
I’m learning late in life to love unconditionally. I’ve discovered that humility is the atmosphere of heaven, and that God loathes pride in every form (my easily besetting sin). I want to walk humbly with God and others during the last season of my earthly existence.
Near the end of his life, legend tells us that the Apostle John attended a large gathering of believers. Excited that an original disciple of Jesus was present, John was invited to come forward. As he approached the front of the congregation, a hush came over the crowd.
Then he spoke:
Little children. Love one another.
He sat down. Love was John’s priority at the end of his life.
What does God want you to do before you leave this earth?