I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that
nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I
have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to
life in eternity with God. I have sensed
in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia,
you don’t have much time left.” The
following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I
believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:
I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and final—but it doesn’t have to be. Dying well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One can have that, and still not die well. Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love you. To me, dying well means to have lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one needs to find out what it is! I believe that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose too.
However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the people He puts in our path. For instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting people around me and to strengthen my character. In this job, I am learning, not only some marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and at peace with life. I have learned that anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does. When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to fulfill His purposes for me. When it is my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.
Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be recounted long after she had departed this earth. Although Rachel died what many consider a tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and fulfilled her God-given purpose.
I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact, in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jesus is saying that in order to live, and, ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires, ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others. I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly, I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry, resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly. I also find the same is true for those around me. Those around me who complain the most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God! What a miserable way, not only to live, but to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am tempted to believe this very lie! However, in reality, the opposite is most often true. When we are willing to sacrifice for others, we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.
Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves, it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not just out for yourself.
In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to live to serve God and others with a whole heart. As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You don’t have much time left.” Yes, we don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.