It’s been an incredibly hard week. I’m sure we’ve all had a week or two like this… It starts out normal, with the usual routines and the usual hello’s, and the promise of making plans – a party to attend, a get-together for dinner, that work project… and then wham! Something unexpected happens. Plans stop, you begin to remember the last conversation you had with someone, and suddenly life takes on a whole new meaning.
This week, my Bible study teacher passed away at a too-young age. Sunday morning, I sat in my regular chair listening to him talk about Jesus with a smile on his face. He talked about how life is a vapor and we should be spending our time and talents on the things that matter in heaven, not on the empty things which do not last, for none of us know how much time we have left on this earth… On my way out, he asked how my family was doing, always thinking of others. Less than 24 hours later, he was in heaven.
Though it was a complete shock with no satisfactory answer for his quick passing, I too would want my last 24 hours to be spent talking about Jesus with a smile on my face. Jesus never promised us a long life, but he warned us many times about making our days count. I would rather have 40 years of living for God than 80 years living without.
So as I come to the next passage on my journey of reading through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, it seems to be a very appropriate one on how we should live our lives: Give to the poor. Give in secret, so your motives are like Jesus. Pray. Pray all the time, in secret, just between you and Jesus. We may not always get everything we ask, but we will never walk alone and will be closer to Jesus for having done so.
Matthew 6:1-8 ~ How to give. How to pray.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.”
My grandfather was an old country preacher. There aren’t many like him any more.
It’s been told that when he was on his deathbed in his old age, surrounded by family, he took his last breath and then opened his eyes from an unconscious state, looked up toward the hospital ceiling and smiled. I believe he saw Jesus at that moment, coming down from heaven to greet him and take him home. I cannot think of any better way to leave this life than to know you will be greeted by Jesus and that he knows you personally. Jesus will say to God, “I know him. He’s with me and he’s been forgiven.”
This is the statement of faith we proclaim: If you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9,13