The book of Acts records the untimely death of a woman named Dorcas who had distinguished herself among the disciples by her life of service.
“(Dorcas) was always doing good and helping the poor … All the widows stood around him (Peter), crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:36,39).
Standing there around Dorcas’ lifeless body were the people whom she had touched by her many acts of extraordinary kindness. They held in their hands the tangible evidence of a life lived in practical service to others. Dorcas was missed and remembered for the special things she did to help others feel the love of God in their lives.
Swedish inventor and chemist Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite, an explosive mostly used by the military, and mostly for destructive purposes. As a result Alfred Nobel became an extremely wealthy man. Things were going along just fine in Alfred’s life until one day in 1888. He opened the newspaper and saw his own obituary. As it turned out, Alfred’s brother had died, but the press had written an obituary for Alfred instead.
That mistake changed Alfred’s life. In the obituary the writer summed up Alfred’s life and work by giving him the name “Merchant of Death.” This shook Alfred to the core of his very being. He was forced to look at his life and what he would be remembered for. So Alfred decided to refocus his life and to do something that would make the world a safer place. He immediately drew up his will in which he directed that over 90% of his net worth would go to establish what would be called the Nobel prizes … monetary prizes that would be awarded to people who, in the preceding year, had brought the greatest benefit to mankind. It goes on even to this day in the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, and other important awards to people who have done something extraordinary for mankind.
Nobel received an unlikely gift by getting a preview of how he would be remembered, at least if he didn’t change the course of his life.
Seldom do I attend a funeral these days without wondering how those who gather for my funeral will remember me. My first goal is to have at least six friends who will agree to carry my casket! Still working on that, but hopefully I’m getting close. I know it seems a bit morbid, but I can’t help but think about how I will be remembered by my family, my friends and those whom I have served as their pastor.
In the words of the old Steve Green song, will those who come behind me find me faithful. Will I be remember, not just in a sentimental way, but because I’ve served them in some way that has made Jesus more real in their lives … in some way that has made them feel the amazing love God has for them … in some way that has caused them to experience grace from God?
I know this kind of introspection often stems from the raw human desire to know that we did not pass from this life in insignificance … that we were “somebody.” O, I pray that’s not what this is about for me. Rather I trust that my motivation is that of the Apostle Paul when he announced in Philippians 1:20: “ I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (italics mine).
Maybe as you look back on your life you realize that the way you’ve lived your life hasn’t really done much toward creating a Christ-exalting obituary or eulogy. But it’s not too late to start.
Back to the account of Dorcas’ death, the Bible goes on to explain that God worked a miracle through the Apostle Peter. He came, got down on his knees and prayed for Dorcas to be raised from the dead … and she was! It was a remarkable miracle that attested to the power of the Gospel.
So Dorcas lived to serve another day … and so can you. Why not start today to live like you want to be remembered? Set aside your own selfish, materialistic, proud agenda in life and start living for the glory of God by serving others in His strength and in His love.