I love the Jason Gray song “Good to Be Alive,” which contains the lines “I want to live like there’s no tomorrow / I want to love like I’m on borrowed time.” Former Lincoln Christian University student Steve Szoke was given thirty-two years to live on Earth and former student Sam VanGeison only twenty-six. When you add their lifetimes together, they total fifty-eight years. I am sixty years old and it gives me pause to think that I have already lived for two lifetimes of two LCU students. This knowledge reminds me that I might well be living on borrowed time.
Every person has to deal with death—no one goes untouched by it. A few years ago, Vice President Joe Biden’s 46-year-old son, Beau, died of brain cancer, leaving behind his wife and two children. The question isn’t whether death will come—death will come soon for loved ones or for us. The question is whether we will let death teach us, before it comes, what really matters in life. Death can teach us how to live if we are paying attention. Former White House spokesman Tony Snow, who died of cancer at age 53, said, “We don’t know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face to face.” My life and your life are stories. And everyone loves a good story that finishes well.
After my friend and colleague Ron Butler, a long-time missionary to Africa, died of cancer in 2008, I attended his memorial service—or, as it was called, his celebration of life. And isn’t “celebration of life” a better name than “funeral”? In fact, the bulletin handed out at the service ended with a paragraph describing how Ron finished well:
“People who watched Ron deal with cancer for more than two years remarked on both his acceptance and his determination. He never lost hope, but he also never pretended his problems away. Perhaps the best summary of his life and death is to say that he rang true to the end. There was no failing of faith, no questioning, no departure from the truths and the priorities he has always held.”
I pray that you can live your life in such a way that the story of your life will live on after you die—not because of you, but because it points to Jesus and his faithfulness in your life. I want to finish well, and I want you to finish well, too. Consider President Harry Truman’s words: “No matter what you’ve done, the size of your funeral will depend on the weather.” Don’t live to have a big funeral. Live to hear these words spoken by our Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” May your life ring true to the end!
REFLECTIONS: What symbol can you use or create to remind you that you may be living on borrowed time and that your death could come at any time, spurring you to faithfulness until the very end?
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”