“Give me life according to Your Word.” Psalm 119:25
I stared at the coffin. The pastor’s voice could be heard, but my mind seemed to interpret nothing. Though my family considered the last five years of my dad’s life as borrowed time, his death came unexpectedly. I had imagined that a surgery or perhaps months of illness would take his life. Instead, he died on a day when he felt his best. He and my mom were headed to their car from a routine hospital visit. A beautiful day. My dad’s comments on the day’s sunshine were his last words. He fell to the ground.
Life is never what you expect. I’ve met no one who can testify that the life they mapped out went according to plan. Instead, life is made up of high mountaintop experiences and low, dark valleys with curves throwing you in and out of pitfalls and unexpected ditches.
As I sat in the church taking inventory of life with my dad, I thought more of his assets than faults. He was the best dad he knew how to be, and the Lord had graced me years ago to forgive all the flaws. I was one of the privileged. I grew up in a home with both parents living under the same roof and had been gifted with a dad who loved me. Yes, we lived a messy life within our family dynamics of dysfunction, but two parents trump many alternative hardships.
Staring at the coffin, my imagination took off as I questioned my life. Had I done all I desired? Would I live to see my children married? Grandchildren? My dad’s death came at a time of personal struggle. All my life I’d lived partially to please him. Though he’d have been supportive of anything I did, I wanted him to see me successful and be proud of my accomplishments. But the Lord had been changing my heart for several years, creating in me a desire to please Him alone and not let man sway me. Under this time of God-change, I hadn’t realized how much bondage I lived in because of the temptations to receive worldly applause. Money, cars, house, job title, success…it all wrapped tightly around my identity and had a death grip on me that almost squeezed out the desires of my heart to love and serve my Lord in full surrender.
Could the death of my dad be the wake-up call I needed to see the abundant life?
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
In that moment, the Lord spoke deep into my heart as if sitting right next to me. His words had no judgment. But the truth warned me to embrace all that was said and to live life with full conviction.
“Melissa, you know not the days ordained for you. I alone have your life in hand. I created you with a specific purpose, and I’ve given you everything you need to live this life in abundance. But there will come a day that you will see me face to face. And, on that day, I will welcome you with open arms. Melissa, my love for you will never change. But, on that day, you will be the one disappointed. For on that day, you will see all that I had for you. All that you missed out on because of fear. Because you didn’t trust me. Because you wouldn’t take a risk.”
As if I’d been held under water too long in desperate need of air, my heart gasped for the freedom that only comes from full obedience.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:12, we are told that every believer will participate in a day of judgment. My actions today will have eternal consequences. I believe this is what the Lord lovingly spoke to me at my dad’s funeral. It’s not a matter of whether I’ll live eternally with Him. That was decided when Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I accepted Him as Lord and Savior. It has to do with the fact of how I lived my life.
God will judge what I did with my salvation and how I invested the gifts and resources that He gave me. I have a choice with what activities I do within my days—do they lead to greater earthly rewards or will they store up a heavenly reward? Did I ever desire God’s applause over man’s? If I fail to be a great steward of the resources, talents, and opportunities He has given me, I could displease God. Does this sound harsh? It’s Biblical.
Though I have been justified by faith—not by works—and I won’t face condemnation, God will judge my work and reward me accordingly. (Matthew 6:20; Luke 19:17, 20; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Revelation 22:12)
God has been gracious to me throughout these years. He is a God who reveals truth, then allows me to struggle through what that means for my life. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, with a surrendered heart, we can learn to live the abundant life that He desires for each of His children.
I knew exactly what He was speaking to me the day of Dad’s funeral. It was time to lose my security blanket and take the risk He’d spoken to me years earlier. God wants us to freefall. He wants you to take a risk that scares you half to death. Why? Because that’s the only place you’ll see Him so clearly and cling to Him so tightly. That’s the place you’ll know the greatness of His power and mercy.
“God has exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Philippians 2:9-11
Have you taken inventory of your life lately? Have you imagined the day when you’ll see Jesus Christ face to face? My greatest desire is to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I will live my days committed to knowing, loving, and serving Him in a manner worthy of His call.
Melissa Shaver is founder and director of Walking in Grace Ministries, a nondenominational, Bible-teaching, discipleship-focused ministry. Melissa, a Bible teacher, conference speaker, and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, is married and has three children. Visit her website at www.walkingrace.org or e-mail her at [email protected].