1. Almost a year ago, Gerald Nichols gave me a title and asked me if I would prepare a lesson on it. I've tried to think it through. I've read pieces on similar themes others have put together. I've re-examined it in light of the scriptures, and I've started over several times. Today I'd like to offer my response.

  2. The statement I was given to complete is: "If this were my last day, specifically, I would..."

    1. It's a tough question because, of course, I can only say what I hope I would do, or what I might like to do if I could.
      1. I can say that as I've thought it over my feelings about the question have surprised me a little.
      2. I first thought this would be kind of a sad or depressing exercise.
      3. I've found it, though, the opposite. I've discovered that trying to answer it for myself has tended to simplify things for me. It has been uplifting. Maybe it will be for you, too.

    2. This certainly is an appropriate question.
      1. Religion is about the ultimate questions: who I am, why I'm here, where I'm going, and what I should do with my life while I have it.
      2. To fail to ask myself such questions, or, worse still, to laugh them off, would be foolish in the extreme.
      3. A character in one of Jesus' best known stories, for example, never took into account what his life was really all about. Finally, "God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'" (Lk. 12:20).

  3. Here, then, is my effort to state specifically what I would want to do if this were my last day, and I knew it. Some of this will of necessity be fairly personal, but it will apply to you, too, so stay with me.

  4. If this were my last day, and I knew it, I would count my blessings.

    1. I would use my memory to review my journey, and I would gratefully consider how richly blessed I have been. I would surely want to do that instead of recounting the slights or difficulties I've encountered along the way.
      1. A couple of weeks ago Kay and I had the wonderful surprise of discovering when we got here for class that Homer and Jo Jones were here.
      2. Homer told me he and his wife and their four children and all their grandchildren had celebrated his 85th birthday just one week earlier. He said, "Bill, I am so blessed."
      3. What I knew, but he didn't say, was that Homer grew up in a large family in hard times. He was a prisoner of war in a German prison camp in Austria in WWII. I knew that he and Jo had twin sons. A week after the boys' graduation from high school, a drunk driver hit Barry and they lost him. Their first little granddaughter, at age 5, accidently rode her tricycle off into a pool and they lost her. But, when he looks at his life, he says, "I am so blessed!" He is a man who counts his blessings.

    2. Memory need not be a melancholy matter of retreating into the past and reliving regrets and disappointments. It is the door to enjoyment; it is the celebration of meaning; it is the occasion for gratitude.
      1. For me, this would mean recalling the ridges and hollows surrounding Bald Tom road, the old Clark place, and Briar Creek, and the names and characters who turned them into a community. It would mean visiting in my mind's eye Mountain Home, Kent City, Paragould, Lubbock, Green Forest and Springfield. It would mean thinking of people who have cared for me, taught me, encouraged me, worked with me, and blessed me, and it would mean thanking the Lord that my path crossed theirs.
      2. Knowing all that, I think I would have to rejoice in amazement at the privileges I have enjoyed, and that I have been allowed to serve in the ways and circumstances I have, and I would be humbled by the gracious providence of God.
      3. And, remembering like this would make me look ahead with anticipation of good.

    3. I can't consider this without being strongly reminded that I must be filling my life now with memories I can celebrate then.
      1. In fact, one of the deepest needs of any human being is to fill his life with memories he can live with-and with satisfaction.
      2. Once you put something into your mind, once you take something into your heart through your eyes or ears, it will be there. Fill your life with things you can remember with a sense of the right kind of pride.
      3. And even when things happen which may feel painful, things over which you have no control, you can try to handle them in such a way as to produce memories you will find meaningful. One of the astonishing things about life is that, having passed through some troubled waters, you can look back and not want to change it. If this were may last day, I would count my blessings for the journey which got me here.

  5. If this were my last day, and if I knew it and could do what I want to do, I would see to it that the people who are dearest to me know how grateful to them, and for them, I am.

    1. I would want Kay to know that she has been at the center of all the best days of my life, so much so that none of them are mine; they are all ours.
      1. I would take satisfaction from the fact that we have made our journey together; that, in spite of any of our weaknesses, we have fulfilled the promises we made to the Lord and to each other.
      2. Proverbs 31:27-29 would apply perfectly....
      3. I would want her faith in me and her devotion to me to have been well-placed.

    2. I would want Rob, Kari and Andy to know that I am, and have always been, so proud of them.
      1. They grew up in a preacher's family, with the expectations and pressures that went with it, and with their dad's eyes so often looking off into the distance, thinking about something else.
      2. But, they all have turned out to be decent and responsible human beings, all helping other people in their own ways.
      3. I wouldn't want the day to end without them knowing that they were the joy of my life, or without me being sure that I have passed along to them the blessing of knowing that their dad is so well-pleased with them.

    3. Of course, the principle I'm referring to is true in a wider sense, too.
      1. I would want my mother to know that I always admired her courage in the face of difficult circumstances, and her good disposition in all circumstances.
      2. I would want to have lived in such a way that my grandchildren could feel good about the "McFarland" in their background.
      3. And, I would want all the ones I've mentioned to know that my most fervent prayer is that I might finally be in heaven together.

    4. You realize, don't you, that I am not just talking about my own family here.
      1. The fact is that there is no human being who does not need to know, when he comes to the end of his journey, that he has invested himself in something more than himself.
      2. The sense of meaning and well-being we will be looking for on our last day won't come from pleasures we've experienced or from possessions we've amassed or from positions we've accomplished because it can not. It derives from a deep appreciation for the connections which have sustained us, and from the legacy of a blessing left in the lives of those who follow us.
      3. It's hard to see how a person's life could be fulfilling on that last day unless those dear to him felt valued and blessed. I would tell the ones who are precious to me that I love them.

  6. If this were my last day, and I knew it, I would rejoice over the privilege I have of being in Christ.

    1. What I've said thus far is not meant to suggest that I'll be unaware of any flaws or failures, or that I'll pretend that my journey has been problem-free.
      1. In some ways, the lines of thought I've mentioned call to mind most vividly my shortcomings and weaknesses. No doubt, on my last day I will be even more conscious of them than I am now.
      2. But this only increases my joy that my hope depends not on my flawless efforts but on the blessed "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).
      3. When the day comes that my own weaknesses and limitations are most obvious, I will be most grateful that my destiny depends, not on what I have earned nor on what I may unrealistically wish, but on what God gives freely to the undeserving in his beloved Son (cf. Col. 3:3,4).

    2. The gospel of the grace of God offers to everyone the opportunity to be in Christ.
      1. Eph. 1:7 - "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace."
      2. Eph. 1:11 - "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will."
      3. Eph. 2:4-7 - "...so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." There will come a time when whether that's the case with me will be all that matters to me.

    3. Any person can know whether he is in Christ in the same way he can know that being in Christ makes any difference-by the promise of God.
      1. One comes to be in Christ by being baptized into him (cf. Rom. 6:3,4). "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).
      2. One continues in Christ by faithful living. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 Jn. 1:7).
      3. One who has willfully failed to do that comes back to Christ by repentance and prayer. "Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you" (Acts 8:22; cf. 1 John 1:9).

  7. If this were my last day, I would dwell on the wonderful passages of scripture which reinforce my confidence. The Lord's word would be more precious to me than ever. After all, it's all I really have on what comes after this. I think I would focus on "I will," "we know," and "I can."
    1. 1 John 5:20 - "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."
    2. Psalm 23:4 - "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
    3. Hebrews 13:5b,6 - "...for he has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'"
    4. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 - "So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
    5. Romans 8:28, 32- "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose....He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
    6. Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
    7. 2 Timothy 4:18 - "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." If this were my last day and I was able to do so, I would turn, at least in my mind to these great passages from the living and abiding word of God which I believe, and by which I have tried to live.

  8. Terry Bell wrote: "The wedding was about to begin. The groom was nervous. The bride was radiant. The guests were in their places. I was trying to calm the anxiety-stricken groomsmen....Then the father of the bride caught my attention. Serene. Pensive. Almost tearful. 'I wonder when the last time was that I picked her up and held her,' he said. 'I mean the very last time. I don't remember. I only know that if I would have realized that it was the last time to hold my little girl, I should have held her longer, tighter, and with more feeling.'....What if you were to invest your energy into every day as if it were your last day? How would it be different from the routine?"

  9. The Lord said, "Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes" (Lk. 12:43). May that be the case with us! Let's be doing what we would if it were our last day and we knew it!