If You Knew The Day You Were Going To Die

count down counterWould you live any differently?

My dad died in November and we recently had his birthday. It made me reflective.

As I said at the time (click here to read what I said at his funeral), it’s not just the sick who are “terminal.” We’re all terminal. We’re all going to die.

But what if we knew the exact day that was going to happen?

My dad was hoping to make it to 2015.  He wanted to celebrate one last Christmas. He wanted to travel to South Carolina to attend Jack and Amanda’s wedding. And despite his vanquished strength, I’m sure he wanted to weave down a majestic river with mom and the grand-kids one last time. And I’m as sure as the sun he wanted to push our precious Anna again in her swing.

But he didn’t make it that long. For him, the bell tolled on November 16.

His time was up. And yours will be too.

But when?

None of us know the day we will leave this earth. Psalm 139 says, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book.” It gives you the impression that Someone knows your due date. (It’s just not you.)

It begs the question: If you knew the day you were going to die, would you live any differently?

I imagine you wouldn’t go in to work. You probably wouldn’t pay phone bill. But I’m not thinking about those kinds of things.

I’m thinking bigger:

  • What kind of character would you have?
  • What would be your soul-footprint on the world?

It’s helpful to think of the end and work backwards. When others look back over your days with a wide-angled lens, what moving picture will emerge?

Were (and are) you perfect? Of course not. Were (and are) there parts of your life that needed tweaking—or even a major renovation? Of course.

But did you strive to be a person of authenticity? Of faith? Of forgiveness? Of generosity? Think day-to-day.

It’s definitely a work in progress for all of us. Certainly for me! But I truly think we often operate with an “I’ll-live-forever” attitude. And because of that, we put off crafting the life and self we actually want. There’s nothing like busyness to distract us from the important.

Very truly, you’re only as healthy as you are today. And you’re only as dedicated to who you want to be as you are today.

Our willingness to procrastinate on the important things is directly proportionate to our willingness to settle for a lesser life.

The bell could toll for you tomorrow. It could be the day after that. Whenever it is, here’s the key: Be ready. I have some of Jesus’ words in a picture frame. They greet me every day: “Keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come” (Mark 13:35).

Here’s the key question: What’s the smart thing to do today, to get you to the tomorrow you dream of?

That’s a big question, and it may require some life change. Some of it may be difficult. But whoever said that the right thing was the easy thing?

What is your next best step?

  • Toward forgiving someone?
  • Toward growing a healthier lifestyle?
  • Toward getting into a right relationship with God?
  • Toward being the role model you always wished you had?
  • Toward leaving a legacy of grace and truth?

Maybe you’ll die of cancer like my dad. Maybe you’ll have a heart attack. Maybe your death will be long and painful. Maybe it will come suddenly. But in all likelihood, people won’t remember how you died as much as how you lived. Today.

What’s the smart thing to do today, to get you to the tomorrow you dream of?

At the end of my dad’s funeral I said this: “I am thankful that the approach of his death actually brought more life into the world, not less.”

Will the same be true for you? Today?

Of course, we don’t know the exact day we’re going to die. There’s no way of knowing. But in a sense, there is. It will be a day like today. The earth will turn, people will scurry to and fro doing a thousand things, and relationships will ebb and flow. And normal people like you and me will make choices about the life and world they are helping create.

In the end, we’re all terminal. So have courage—and bring your death into view. And let your death inspire your dreams.

But remember: You can’t live your dream if you don’t have one.

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  1. Hi, Matthew. I will see if I can make this write clearly. Ever since my diagnosis of stage4 cancer at the end of February my ability to write on the computer has become an arduous task and so now I phone mostly. I am taking chemo but it is a stop gap, still attend church when the flesh allows (the spirit always willing) – my family and friends have been super supportive, especially my wife Margaret; Colleagues from near and far, some you know well, visit, keep in touch via Facebook and the outpouring of concern, love, and support on Facebook has been astonishing. I preached my last official sermon on March 8th “Citizens of Heaven” although Margaret van Zweerden pointed out we continue to “preach with our lives up to the very end, Today I am off to a brain scan since my oncologist suspects the cancer may have migrated to the brain. I am as busy as I can be preparing my dear wife for the inevitable, teaching her to pay the bills via computer (she is old schoo!) and relishing the conversations with the likes of Richard Topping and others. Am I afraid? No, not really. I was taught the Heidelberg Catechism which answers the question “what is your only comfort in life and death? ” ….that with body and soul I belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ……etc” I will miss my family, friends, many a colleague but a great glory awaits. I must stop. This para took an hour to write; Keep up the good workl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tony, wow, thanks for all the effort and thought you put into that comment! I’m so glad you did; it’s so rich. And I’m so glad that you’ve received such an outpouring of support. That is incredible. And even more incredible is your great faith, hope and love. And, of course, on top of that, the faithfulness, hope and love of God. “A great glory awaits.” Those are words to ponder for a lifetime. Thanks again, Tony, and I will keep you in my prayers…


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