By Robert Halsey Pine
“You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes…The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (Psalm 119:49-72 NRSV).
If I was asked to write my own hopeful epitaph, I might borrow from the words of the psalmist and say, “Before he was humbled he went astray, but he turned and kept God’s word.” If we make the Kingdom of Heaven our focus while we are here on earth, we are securing our life here and guaranteeing our eternal life. In the gospel of Luke (12:32-34) Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It is hard for us to be humble. Being humbled before the Lord is not our choice. We have to be beaten down. It is not our strength that brings us to the Lord, but our weakness. There are those that say, “Religion is for the weak.” In a real sense they are accidentally correct. It is when we surrender to God that we make headway. When we realize our weakness and are forced to abandon ourselves to God, we begin putting up our treasure in heaven. Our source of strength is not in ourselves but in the Lord.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:22-23) he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are our gifts. It is our responsibility to share them with others by following God’s commandments and witnessing for Him. There is a popular song of the past with the theme, “I did it my way.” I have to admit that I like the song. It gives me goose bumps when I hear it. The goose bumps fade fast as I begin to realize that I’m not capable of doing things my way successfully. Sooner or later I will find that mountain that I can’t climb.
It would make more sense to replace “my” with “God” in the song. Then it might actually bring tears to my eyes. Maybe now I wish that my epitaph would read, “He repented and did it God’s Way.”
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.