Speaking From the Grave

In high school I had a coach who would give a little pep talk with a bucket of water as a prop before each season.  Like all pep talks the intended effect was to motivate.  But I always left more confused than motivated.

The illustration went something like this: he would put the full bucket of water on the ground, dramatically roll up his sleeves, and break the surface of the water just barely with one finger.  He would wait about 10 seconds and then ask – “How long did those ripples last?” Answer: “Maybe 3 seconds.”

He would then go full-fisted into the bucket and thrash around violently.  Removing his arm and then waiting about 15 seconds he would repeat the question – “How long did those ripples last?”  Answer: “Maybe 7 seconds.”

He would then look up and say something like “that’s about how long anybody is going to care about what you do here.  So you better thrash around and make as much noise as possible while you’ve got the chance, because in three years you’ll be forgotten.” 

Motivated to go out and dive on the floor for a loose ball now?

For whatever reason that pep talk has stuck in my head for years.  Maybe because it was so perplexing.  Maybe because it so poorly accomplished what it intended.  Or maybe because it hit just a little too close to one of my biggest fears – that I’ll die and no one will care.  No obituary, no people at the funeral, no mourning, no second thought.

It’s striking how different the biblical perspective is from the “bucket perspective.”  Hebrews 11:4 says this:

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.  And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

That’s not too bad of a life to leave behind, one that continues to speak even from the grave.  But how did all those mentioned in Hebrews 11 live in such a way worthy of this?

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Observations:

1. They trusted in and lived for promises that were far off.  This world offers many promises.  They are more immediate than God’s promises, but temporal.  Do you have the faith to trust in the far off promises of God?

2. They lived as foreigners seeking a different land.  If someone were to watch you and I would we look like we were at home here in Columbia, MO?  Do we live like foreigners?

3. They desire heaven more than earth.  Our true home is not here, it’s in heaven.  That’s why we’re foreigners and exiles.  But can we say along with Paul in Philippians that heaven is far better?  “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

May the God who grants blessings, bless each of us with this kind of faith.

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