“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
~Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14
Several years ago, a young man soon to be graduated from high school was visiting with his pastor about the exciting day. It was to be a big event as indeed graduations should be. There was to be a party after the final ceremony where-by friends and family members could honor the graduate. Presents would be received. Hopefully, some money might be given.
said the pastor in the course of the conversation in his study,
“I am happy you are being graduated. After graduation, what do you plan to do next?”
replied the young man,
“I plan to go to college. I am not sure what I want to major in yet, but I will probably study law.”
said the pastor, resisting the sudden urge to tell a joke.
“After I get my law degree, I want to become established with a well known firm for I plan to make a lot of money in life.”
“There is nothing wrong with making money,”
responded the pastor.
“A lot of good can be done when money is used wisely. But after you are well established, then what?”
“Pastor, I will probably want to settle down and get married. I am sure that I shall be able to find a nice girl somewhere who would not mind being married to a rising young lawyer!”
“I hope I can perform the wedding ceremony for you,”
offered the minister.
“Marriage is an honorable institution, ordained of God and blessed by the presence of Jesus at the marriage at Cana in Galilee. After you are married, then what?”
“After a few years of marital bliss,”
dreamed the young man,
“we shall no doubt look for a comfortable home and start a family. I would not mind being the father of several children. I think I could be a good father.”
agreed the pastor who knew the youth well.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord. The Psalmist wanted his own quiver to be full of them. But after you have built the home of your dreams and started a family, then what?”
“Well Pastor, I want to invest my life in my children. I want them to have and do some of the things I have enjoyed. If we have a boy, I want him to play sports and excel in his studies. If we have a girl, I want her to excel in music, art, dance, and literature.”
“You certainly have great aspirations for your children. I hope they can be everything you want them to be. Now, after the family is reared and the children are gone, then what?”
“Pastor, by that time I should be ready for an early retirement. When that happens, my wife and I shall travel the seven seas.”
“There is much to see,”
meditated the Pastor.
“I majored in history and have always enjoyed visiting the cites where the great events of the world have taken place. But after you retire and the travel is over, you must come home. Then what?”
Suddenly, the young man grew a bit somber. He had plotted an exciting life full of success and happiness. But the refraining question now faced him once more as he considered the conclusion of life and he said,
“Pastor, then I must die.”
The pastor paused and then quietly asked one last time,
“And then what?”
The Bible says that it is appointed unto men once to die and after that, the judgment. But a day of judgement, a day of divine evaluation need hold no fear. There may be apprehension, as we experience before final exams, but there need be no fear and will be none if life is lived without regrets.
Regrets are usually associated with wrong actions and bad decisions. Individuals look back over the years and wish that certain moments could be relived. What a difference there would be. It is my hope for you that you will not have to say someday,
“I wish I had been different.”
“I wish I had not done certain things.”
With this objective in view, let me encourage you to live a pure life in mind and body. No one has ever regretted having lived by high and holy moral and ethical standards, but there are countless tormented souls who despise the day and the hour they succumbed to the passions of a private, but illicit moment of fleeting pleasure.
David, the ancient king of Israel is one such person. He is said to be a man after God’s own heart and yet, there was a particular day when David grievously missed God’s mark for his life.
He once coveted what belonged to another man. He violated his conscience and brought death, destruction and much sorrow to himself and to others.
In time, David confessed his transgressions and received Divine forgiveness. However, in his confession, written over a year after his dark deeds were done, David admitted,
“My sin is [still] ever before me.”
There are certain actions that once done, stain the soul. Life goes on, but so do the memories, no matter how many years may pass. It is far better to live a pure life in mind and body so that there will be no haunting memories of regret.
As you guard your mind and body, guard your reputation as a whole. The hour will come when your reputation will serve you well as Patrick Henry discovered in June, 1781. The War for American’s independence was not going well in this year especially in Virginia. The British were actively seeking members of the government who had to flee for their lives. Patrick Henry was hiding in a deep gorge between high hills. With him were William Christian, Benjamin Harrison, and John Tyler.
Night was falling as they knocked on the door of a lonely cabin. The old lady who cautiously opened the door was not inclined to let them in. Who were these men, so secretive and suspicious, who wanted to spend the night there, who wanted food, and whom she had never seen before. Patrick Henry explained.
“We are members of the legislature,” he told her, “And have just been compelled to leave Charlottesville on account of the approach of the enemy.”
“Ride on then, ye cowardly knaves,”
the old lady replied.
“Here have my husband and sons just gone to Charlottesville to fight for ye, and you running away with all your might. Clear out—ye shall have nothing here.”
As she made ready to shut the door in his face, a face flushing deeply in the gathering dark, Patrick
Henry stopped her.
“we are obliged to fly. It would not do for the legislature to be broken up by the enemy. Here is Mr. Speaker Harrison; you don’t think he would have fled had it not been necessary?”
The woman hesitated. She was less certain though still skeptical.
“I have always thought a great deal of Mr. Harrison,”
“but he’d had no business to run from the enemy.”
As she turned her back on them again, Patrick Henry tried once more to persuade her.
“Wait a moment, my good woman. You would hardly believe that Mr. Tyler or Colonel Christian would take flight if there were not good reason for so doing?”
“No, indeed, that I wouldn’t.”
“But Mr. Tyler and Colonel Christian are here!”
“They here? Well, I never would have thought it. No matter. We love these gentlemen, and I didn’t suppose they would ever run away from the British. But since they have, they shall have nothing to eat in my house.”
And she added with unmistaken finality:
“You may ride along.”
It seemed quite final—though it merited a last try. Mr. Tyler tried it.
“What would you say, my good woman, if I were to tell you that Patrick Henry fled with the rest of us?”
“Patrick Henry! I should tell you there wasn’t a word of truth in it. Patrick Henry would never do such a cowardly thing.”
“But this is Patrick Henry!”
“Well, then, if that’s Patrick Henry, it must be all right. Come in, and ye shall have the best I have in the house.”
Whatever the old lady may have thought about the bravery of her guests, the fact remains that they were saved in part because of the good report of Patrick Henry. His reputation served him and others well. Woven into the fabric of all good reputations are the virtues of kindness and compassion which allows the heart to be forgiving. Charles Allen invites us to, “Stand at the seashore, and watch the tide go out and the tide come in. There is no power on earth great enough to stop the tide, and that principle operates, all through life:
What goes out, comes in.
Send out love, and love comes back.
Send out hate, and hate comes back.
Send out mercy, and mercy comes back.
What we give, we get.”
If we are a forgiving people, we will know forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness is an act of the will. One place that we learn more about this attribute and others is the Bible. While the Bible remains the number one best seller each year, it is often neglected. The story is told of the young person who was about to go off to college. His bags were packed and the suitcase was about to be closed when his mother placed a Bible inside. Then she turned and said,
“My child, either sin will keep you from this Book, or this Book will keep you from sin.”
Many people have a copy of the Holy Bible but the virtue comes in reading and knowing it well. Did you hear about the new preacher who was attending Vacation Bible School at the church? It was the day after the pastor had moved in and he was going to each of the classes in order to get acquainted with the children. In one class of youngsters he decided to test their Bible knowledge. He looked at one young boy and asked him a question.
“Johnny, do you know who knocked down the walls of Jericho?”
The youngster, taken by surprise at the question, shot back his reply:
“It sure wasn’t me, preacher. I ain’t touched them!”
The new minister, wishing to discuss the boy’s reply with the teacher, turned to speak. But before he could say a word the teacher was already talking.
“Now, pastor, Johnny is a good boy and if he said he did not do it, then I can promise you that he did not do it.”
There was a pause, then the teacher addressed the other students in the class.
“Did any of you children knock down the walls of Jericho?”
One after another they replied that they did not do it. The new preacher was so upset that he turned and walked out of the room. On Sunday night he called a meeting with the Church Board to discuss the situation. He reported the incident and asked what they intended to do about it. After a moment of silence, the Chairman of the Church Board spoke.
“Pastor, we see no point in making a big issue out of this matter. The Church will pay for the damages and charge it off to vandalism.”
It is said that the pastor fainted.
The person who is not familiar with the Scriptures has short-changed himself. The Bible does contain the world’s greatest source of inspiration and help. I hope you will remember that in the years to come and study the Scriptures.
As you live a life of holiness, striving to cultivate a good reputation, under the direction of the Holy Bible, let me exhort you to live for Someone and something greater than yourselves as William Borden did.
Young William Borden once set out to make his fortune. Upon graduation from high school, his businessman father sent William on a cruise around the world. Brokenhearted by the spiritual needs of the people he met, William committed his life to serve Jesus Christ as a missionary. He wrote in his journal,
“Say ‘no’ to self, ‘yes’ to Jesus every time…In every man’s heart there is a throne and a cross. If Christ is on the throne, self is on the cross; and if self, even a little bit, is on the throne, Jesus is on the cross in that man’s heart…. Lord, I take my hands off, as far as my life is concerned. I put Thee on the throne of my life. Change, cleanse, use me as Thou shalt choose.”
William Borden dedicated his college years to mastering the Word of God and reaching those around him with the gospel of Christ. Throughout those years of preparation, William never wavered from the goal on which he had fixed his sight, although as an heir of the Borden Milk Company, he might have settled for a life of convenience and ease. Finally, the time came for William to leave for the mission field. Headed for China, he sailed first to Egypt, where he contracted spinal meningitis and died less than a month later. Some would say, “What a waste.” But the seed of that solitary life, which went into the ground and died, has produced an abundant harvest of righteousness.
Countless young men, inspired by his wholehearted devotion to Christ, have risen to take his place on the mission fields of the world. It has been said that three phrases summarize William Borden’s brief life.
While not all can study for and engage in missionary activity, we can live for Someone and something greater than ourselves and thereby be of tremendous service to humanity. When this is done there will be no regrets. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man. God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”