I lost a friend last week...a friend who had been a prayer partner for a long time…a friend who was an encouragement to me through some significantly hard times.
And as it turns out, I was not the only one who suffered such a loss. After her move to Heaven, people from all parts of her inner circle began to tell the same story. She reached out to them often. She prayed for them consistently. She encouraged through hard times. She gave of herself and her stuff generously.
I think we all were surprised at how many other people Joyce Ann was loving in deed and action. She made each of us feel special…like we were the only one. She quietly went along using her life to serve Jesus and her neighbor. And all too soon, she kept the faith and finished her race.
It not only inspired me, it challenged me. I started feeling all of this pressure. What am I doing with my life? Am I measuring up? Who do I need to reach out to today to meet the mark? My friend left such a high standard.
I don’t like obituaries, but I read them sometimes. Most of them include a long list of achievements in a person’s life. Sometimes it’s educational achievements…degrees, universities, credentials. Sometimes it’s career achievements…businesses built, promotions obtained, positions held. Sometimes it’s humanitarian efforts…trips to third world countries, monetary support given, minorities helped. And after reading them, I always wonder what mine would say. What am I doing with my life?
I don’t think it’s a bad reflection. We all need checkpoints in life; those places where we examine ourselves to make sure we aren‘t wasting our gift of time. But sometimes, this reflection can mount into a pressure of performance. We can measure our accomplishments against another person’s and suddenly feel like we need to do more.
And maybe we do...maybe it’s a valid wake up call. How do we know? How do we know when we are doing “enough”? How do we measure it?
Is it measured in the number of lives we touched while here on earth? In how many people come to our funeral? In how many letters are behind our name?
As I was thinking through these questions and failing to impress myself with any of the answers, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper one word.
When we stand before God, we won’t bring Him numbers and statistics. He won’t be looking down to see what people on Facebook had to say about us. He won’t check our obituary to determine our rewards.
It will all simply come down to how we obeyed.
This looks different for every individual, every calling, every mission, but the basic foundation is the same. We obey Jesus in salvation…in baptism…in studying His Word and learning what He requires of us…in loving Him and loving others…in listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit, willing ready to obey it.
True success is defined only by obedience.
And my sweet friend was successful!! What a comfort from God it was to read what people shared about her! She obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to reach out to people when He asked.
But her success isn’t measured by the number of people who told stories about her, it is measured by her obedience.
Ours is too. We don’t have the mission of Joyce Ann. We have the mission of obedience to the Holy Spirit. It might be that He is asking you to reach out to someone, but it might be that He is asking you to keep your mouth shut. It might be that He is asking you to say “yes” to something, but it might be that He is asking you to say “no”. It might be that He is asking you to go overseas to tell someone about Jesus, but it might be that He is asking you to tell someone right down the street.
The person with five people at their funeral may have lived a far more successful life than the one with thousands. The focus is obedience, and the results aren’t our responsibility.
I love you, Joyce Ann, and I’ll miss you until we meet again.