My life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.
--2 Timothy 4:6-7 NLT
As most of you have heard by now, this week marked the passing of three American icons—Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. Last night, I read a few online news stories as the nation mourned the loss of these celebrities—some of the most recognizable names in television, movies, and music.
Though death is a cause for remembrance and celebration of lives well lived, as I began to read some of the obituaries of these three celebrities, I realized that their passing also presents us with a very real challenge: What will others say about us when our time on earth is over?
In an AP article announcing his death, Michael Jackson is described as “the sensationally gifted child star who rose to become the King of Pop and the biggest celebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freakish series of scandals.”
Farrah Fawcett’s obit describes one of her last television appearances, viewed by thousands on YouTube, as incoherent and disjointed, with the 50-year-old actress giving a series of rambling answers to the bewildered David Letterman.
Ed McMahon's obituary notes financial problems that kept him in the headlines in his last years, including possible foreclosure on his Beverly Hills mansion and legal action involving other alleged debts.
Yikes! Would you want any of these words etched into your tombstone?
Me neither. But then again, what will my obituary say? Am I living in such a way that the ones I leave behind will be encouraged, enlightened, and emboldened by my example? Or will my passing from this earth be a cause of relief, regret, or—worse yet—unnoticed by those I hold most dear?
It’s a sobering thought. But thankfully, it’s never too late to finish well.
I don’t know about you, but after watching the news this week, I really, really want to finish well. I want to be able to say, like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7).
But the longer I walk with God, the more I realize with startling clarity just how far short I fall from His glory. With thirty-five years behind me and only God knows how many more ahead, I have to cling tightly to the God’s promise that His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:15). And I am increasingly grateful that the Lord’s steadfast love never changes, and His mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22–23).
And someday—perhaps today, maybe years from now—when the Lord calls me home, I hope my epitaph says something like this:
“Jennifer Stair was a woman after God’s own heart. She loved God, was devoted to her husband and family, and faithfully shared God’s love with others as she fulfilled His plan for her life.”
What about you? Are you finishing your life well? What do you want your epitaph to say?