It was the words “don’t tell her that you love her” that shook me. After all, doesn’t 1 John 3:18 say, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth”? At that point, I was not married, but as soon as I got married I started putting everything my wife would need in one organized file with everything noted carefully. She may need the help of a financial advisor, but she knows where everything is that she needs to talk through with him. I got what Dr. Ryrie was saying: If I loved her as I do, I needed to relieve the pressure, not add to it in the event of my unexpected death. Whoever handles the financial matters, the other spouse needs to know what to do with the details of the estate.
When you depart, will the work you’ve led fold or flourish?
Unfortunately many pastors lead churches that will most likely die shortly after they do. The reason is, as the church grew it became built around a man, not a mission. If the church is built around a mission, the work continues, grows and even flourishes long after his departure. I know of one pastor who was begged by concerned people at the church to answer the question, “What will happen when God is through with you?”
His answer was, “God will take care of that.” The problem? It ignores Paul’s admonition in II Timothy 2:2. There Paul said, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit them to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul’s ministry flourished without him because he had those prepared to step into his place. If as a pastor your work has been built around a mission, it will be seen in the way the work flourishes, not in the memorial service that is held for it as it folds.
What do you want people to carve on your tombstone?
By that I mean, what do you want your legacy to be? The question is not original to me. It’s one my mentor, Dr. Haddon Robinson proposed to a group of us many years ago. He then said, “Decide now and then live your life backwards from there.” I pondered that for months and decided I wanted it to be “Here lies a man of grace who loved sinners.”
That has affected everything I do. What will yours be? If we take the admonition of Psalm 90:12 seriously—to number our days—that is a most appropriate question to ask. I am convinced Paul the apostle did just that. For that reason he could say, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). Whatever he decided he wanted as his epitaph, he pressed on so that he could be everything God wanted him to be according to his divine calling in Christ.
There are undoubtedly more questions you might want to ask yourself as a pastor before you die. But I assure you, these six will help you finish your life experiencing reward not regret. After all, doesn’t Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 4:2 apply to these areas—moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. What is even more exciting is that the impact of their lives and ministry continue. There will be no regrets both on the behalf of the people to whom they ministered and the ones who led them in ministry.