by Kevin Rutherford
Have you ever glanced through the obituaries in the newspaper? The story is told of the man who was so old that he would look through the obituaries every day just to make sure his name wasn’t in there yet. I am not in the habit of reading all the obituaries in the newspaper, but I do find it interesting to look at them from time to time. What is most interesting to me is the age at which the individual died. Some are very old, some are very young, and of course people can die at any age. Did you ever stop to think that someday an obituary will be written for you? I don’t mean to be morbid but the fact is you are going to die sooner or later. Later is preferred, of course, so that you may serve God here longer (Philippians ).
Solomon had a lot to say about life and death in his inspired poetic work called Ecclesiastes. He said, “One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4).” The earth won’t last forever, but it certainly seems that way sometimes (1 Peter ). Solomon is exaggerating a bit to express his frustration, but the point he makes is well taken. Generations come and go but the earth is still here. What about your generation? Is it the young and the new looking forward to making its mark on the earth? Or, is your generation the active and effective currently making its mark? Perhaps your generation is the one that has made its mark and your ranks are now diminishing? Whichever is the case, your generation will soon be gone.
With that in mind shouldn’t we focus our thoughts, and aim our actions in the direction of being prepared for death? What we have here will not last forever. What we have here will not be ours when we are gone (Ecclesiastes ). Some of that which we achieve here will mean nothing in the future. Perhaps even the mark we make will dissipate and fade away. Will we be remembered by history? Will those among our descendents ten generations from now even know, or care who we are (Ecclesiastes )?
Thinking about all of these things depressed Solomon at one point. He said, “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind (Ecclesiastes ).” Solomon was right, to a point. Much of what is done under the sun is vanity and grasping for the wind. However, there is something we can do under the sun which is neither vain nor grasping for the wind. What is it? It is serving God (Ecclesiastes , 14). Solomon finally realized that fact after wasting so much of his life. From the standpoint of experience, wisdom, and old age, Solomon encouraged people to begin serving God from the time they are young and not to wait until they are old (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Faithfully serving God while on this earth gives us meaning and purpose in life. Devoting our lives to God also means that we will be prepared for death when it comes (2 Timothy 3:6-8). Being prepared, and having meaning and purpose makes us happy and gives us hope (Philippians 4:4). One does not have to despair at the vanity of life for one does not have to waste his life in vain pursuits. We should enjoy our faithful and sacrificial service to the Lord, knowing that when He returns we shall receive our reward (1 Peter ).