If an all-seeing, all-knowing observer of your life were to write one sentence summing up your existence, what do you think it would be?
Recently while reading through 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament, I’ve been struck with some of the one sentence summaries of various kings of Judah. Two that really hooked me related to a father-son pair. One might think that the example of the father would have strongly shaped the life of the son, but such was not the case.
Jehoshaphat in this case was the father, and Jehoram the son. 2 Chronicles 17 sums up the career of Jehoshaphat, who shunned the idolatry of Baals prevalent in the northern kingdom of Israel, and even rejected the example of his father Asa who though he started out his 41 year reign over Judah trusting in God later rejected the Lord in favor of human alliances, and died a sad death. Jehoshaphat, from the beginning of his 25 year reign sought out God and strove to obey His commands. As a result, his kingdom flourished and was hedged about with a peace guaranteed by God. 2 Chronicles 17:6 sums up King Jehoshaphat’s life with this sentence: His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord…. He died at age 60. Wouldn’t you love to have that as your epitaph? I sure would.
On the other hand, Jehoram his son, who was 7 years old when Jehoshphat became king, and so had the opportunity to learn from his father’s example over 25 years, instead determined to go in a different direction. He began by slaughtering all his brothers, and any other powerful men who might contend for his throne. Rejecting the reforms of his father, Jehoram turned Judah back to the worship of idols, and to violence and warfare with neighboring lands. His reign was short, but not short enough. 2 Chronicles 21:20 summarizes his life in this way: He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem; and he departed with no one’s regret.
For each and every human being, the day will come when our lives will be accurately summarized by the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. Worldly status and conquests will not matter, academic degrees and bank accounts will be forgotten, even the eulogies of family and friends will carry no weight. God’s assessment, the only right and true one, will weigh our worth in terms of our allegiance to Him and His ways, our love for His glory and excellencies, and our efforts to live in light of that allegiance and love. And in the end, there will only be one of two verdicts:
“You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” — Daniel 5:27
“Well done, good and faithful servant….Enter into the joy of your Master” — Mt. 25:21
So much time and energy in our lives seems to be devoted to chasing after the wind, to gathering chaff and ignoring the wheat, to acquiring trophies that the apostle Paul once referred to in Koine Greek as skubala — defined at best as the gunk you find in your drain trap after scrubbing pots and pans, or at worst as animal excrement — compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ and being found in him, living now for his honor and glory. Many of us have been hypnotized by the prince of this world and the baubles he dangles before us. We grasp after them, even though Jesus’ words ring in our ears, “What does it profit you to gain the whole world if you lose your soul in the process?”
One irony of life is that the more we try to stuff our life with the things of this world, the more vacuous our souls become. The image of God, once weighty and profound in our early existence, is eaten away by our self-indulgence and we become vapid, inconsequential ghosts of what God created us to become. Should we continue on such a path, when the Day of Reckoning comes we will be placed in the balance and found wanting, because there will be nothing of substance to show for our lives.
The good news is that the final sentence for your life (and for mine) has not yet been written for all the world to see. While we have breath, it is never to late to take Jesus at his word and live for God rather than for the world. If you are not happy with the sentence that would summarize your life thus far, you can make a clean start. You may have had a faltering start, but you can end strong.
That’s my prayer as I look at the remainder of my days. My intention is to live in such a way that if anyone looks my way it will be because they see Jesus in and through me; that if anyone listens to my words, they will be drawn to Jesus; if anyone spends time with me, they will walk away having been lifted more fully into the presence of God. I want a heart that is courageous in the ways of the Lord, one which lives before the Throne with no regrets. My confidence is that will come about increasingly as I continue to follow after Jesus. I have placed “my sentence” in his hands.
How about you? What’s your sentence? Is it one you want to carry on into eternity?