What would your epitaph be?
I recently walked through a cemetery in a small town that has experienced more than its share of tragedy. I was struck by how the lives of those snuffed out by disaster were summed up by their loved ones after the fact. Many tombstones expressed the relationships and love of those left behind. (“Loving wife and mother.”) Some epitaphs referenced a hope in Christ. But the one that most impacted me was a headstone that expressed its occupant’s love of a certain hockey team. That, I thought, was a true tragedy. A man whose whole life was best summed up by his sporting preferences – so much so that his grieving family thought it important to include on his headstone.
It got me thinking… What words would our loved ones inscribe on our headstones? What are the things we speak most passionately about? What are we known for? Not, what do we think we’re known for, but what is our actual reputation?
These days, with so many strong opinions being heatedly exchanged about the pandemic, social issues, politics–just to name a few–we can easily give the impression that those issues are our passion, instead of concerns of a more eternal nature.
It is during difficult times like these, however, when the glory of the gospel can shine forth all the brighter. The hope we have because we understand the big picture story of our world; of knowing that our future is safe with Christ; of the assurance we can have in our eternal destiny–these are things our world so desperately longs for and is the truth that grounds us during hard days… at least it should. But as believers, we have a tendency to get easily distracted. We forget to keep the Main Thing (the gospel) the main thing.
John Stonestreet on his Breakpoint broadcast recently described the common responses Christians might have to current events: “There are two likely reactions. One is despair that the world is irreparably broken and…there’s nothing that can be done …The other reaction…is to play a sort of cultural “whack-a-mole” [where] every little story that pops up gets completely blown out of proportion and we want to smack it on the head as if we immediately know all the details.” He goes on to say that it’s the gospel that keeps us grounded and keeps us from the extremes of despair and from hopping on every bandwagon that rolls our way.
Perhaps those two reactions are exactly what Satan, our enemy, wants for us. Distracted, alarmed, chasing after things that seem important today, only to be forgotten tomorrow when a new concern erupts. He wants us completely consumed with the things of this life that have no good eternal outcome. He wants the world to see that the Christian faith has no benefit in this life when the going gets rough. Satan would love it if, in fact, the world sees believers behaving badly during hard times. And if we’re honest, many of us have cooperated with Satan’s agenda for us.
So what can be done? How do we keep the Main Thing the main thing?
Focus: Wherever we focus our thoughts, there our emotions and actions will follow.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.Colossians 3:2
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1-2
In a time where we can become so easily distracted and scattered, focusing our minds on Christ and his work on the cross and the work he wants to do in us is absolutely essential. (Follow the links to find materials that can strengthen your focus.)
Knowledge: What we think about needs to be based upon truth. These days, it can be hard to know what is true. Therefore, it’s important to focus on what is indisputably true and leave the questionable things to the Lord. We don’t want to waste our time following the rabbit trails of what-ifs.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy — dwell on these things.Philippians 4:8
Action: Lastly, the old adage that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” could apply here. Simply, if we are not actively doing what we can to share the Truth of the gospel, then we will default to actively sharing information that is far less worthy and uplifting. GoodSeed exists to help believers put feet to their faith.
Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:9
Focusing on the Lord and on his work brings peace to our hearts.
Let’s be people who are known for the Gospel. Let’s not be defined by our political leanings, our COVID opinions or our pop-culture slogans. Let’s be characterized by a love for God’s Word and a zeal to share his message of hope.