April 23, 2012
So… what are you up to, between now and “the end?” What are you planning to accomplish between here and heaven?
Is there anything more important – for a Christian – to ask… and to answer? Life's biggest issue is to clarify – and, then resolve – our need for a Savior. After you settle the matter of your eternal destiny (hell, or heaven?), living under the Lordship of your Savior is paramount. How practical is that?
For Paul, it was life's most important pursuit: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad," (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). He had tents to make, bills to pay, commitments to fulfill… but he knew what his priority was, every day, leading up to the Big Meeting.
At that appearance – the event Paul called “the judgment seat of Christ” – His assessment of our life as believers will be rendered, personally. The best words we could ever imagine hearing, quoted by Jesus Himself: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
How important is our preparation for that encounter? About 15 years ago, I recalibrated the focus of all that I do in my life to align with my Calling: to help Christian leaders ensure that they will hear Jesus say those words to them as they transition, from life on Earth to Life in Heaven.
I met Rich Saul about 35 years ago. In those days, I was in the marketplace, and he was in the spotlight. My career was in business; his was in football. Drafted by the Rams in 1970, he played his 11-season NFL career for them; the last six of those he was All-Pro.
Rich was a professional athlete, but he had balance in his life that seldom accompanies success on the field. His marriage to Eileen was rock-solid, and his kids – Jamie and Josh – were far more likely to get him bragging than his Super Bowl ring. Our kids went to the same Christian school; we went to the same church; we lived in the same community of neighborhood Christians who were working to be the same people on Wednesdays that we were in the sanctuary, on Sundays. We were in a small group together, for years. His weekly greeting was sincere, and always made my morning…
Though Rich's after-football day-job was selling title insurance, he had ample opportunity to exploit his football history through his community roles and speaking invitations. The picture of aw-shucks humility, he sold title policies… but he gave away encouragement to everyone he encountered.
Rich was in The Master's Program in 1999 when he turned 50, and submitted himself to the classic mid-life physical exam. He demanded the colonoscopy – the one that his doctor said he didn't need – that discovered his colon cancer. Surgery and chemo followed… and God gave Rich 14 more years to serve his family, love his friends and impact his world.
Rich left the NFL in 1981; he left this life last week and moved to heaven. The sports world has recounted his life with appropriate honor at ESPN.
His memorial service is Saturday, on the same church campus where he and Eileen worshiped and where I once pastored. I will be out of town for a ministry commitment and will miss the service. I can guess what will be said about Rich to the thousands who will probably attend… but I know for certain what Jesus had to say when they met-up last week: “Well done, good and faithful servant!…” Some things are certain; I'd bet my life on it.
Hey, Rich: get a table for four, and wait for us. Cheri and Eileen and I will join you soon…