What Do You Want to Be Remembered For?
When I drove to the airport in Munich some time ago, I noticed several billboards on the roadside picturing a long, elegant limousine and some famous people from show business. The heading said something about “the rich and the famous.” These two words, rich and famous, represent what is important to many people today. This is what many strive to achieve. This is what many desire: to become wealthy and to have the attention and the admiration of many.
If there were only two words that you wish you would be remembered for at the end of your life, two words that would depict what you stand for, two words that express what was most important to you in your life, what two words would they be?
Being rich and famous will not satisfy your soul and will never bring you lasting joy or satisfaction. The most important things in life can’t be bought. Love, hope, trust, friendship, happiness—these cannot be bought!
But two other words, faithfulness and kindness, should be what we are striving for.
Granted, faithfulness is not as spectacular as money or fame. But it is more essential and far more important to God. Though you can be a little famous and you can be a little rich, you cannot be a little faithful. Faithfulness has something exclusive about it that demands undivided attention. Either you are faithful 100 percent, or you are unfaithful. If you are faithful 95 percent, you are unfaithful. Faithfulness requires total commitment. God wants your full, complete dedication.
In the Old Testament, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den because he was not willing to compromise his faith in God. When Daniel distinguished himself as a wise and good leader for the king, his enemies became envious and looked for ways to accuse him of wrongdoing. “But they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful” (Dan. 6:4, NASB). May our enemies discover the same about us! May we be people who are known and respected for our faithfulness in the daily things we do. And, like Daniel, may we be people who are faithful to God and to His will.
I can testify from my own life and from the experience of my family that this is true. Being faithful to God brings lasting joy and satisfaction. It brings peace of mind because you know that what you are doing is right and good in God’s eyes. Being faithful to your spouse will protect your marriage and guard your love for each other and will be a tremendous blessing not just to you, but also to your children and to your family and to society at large. Faithfulness is like gold. It shines!
Faithfulness shows its beauty in the challenges of life. Our life does not always run smoothly. There are difficulties; there are great challenges. This is the very context in which faithfulness grows and shows. God never promised to deliver us from every difficulty and evil, but He has promised to be with us in those challenges and difficulties. God did not deliver Daniel from the lions’ den, but He was with Daniel in the lions’ den. God is faithful. And because He is faithful, God desires us to be faithful, too. God’s love never changes.
Lovingkindness is a universal language. When my youngest son, Daniel, was a child, he played with his friends at Bogenhofen, Austria. They came from many countries and spoke many languages—Portuguese, French, Russian, English, German. One of the children’s mother, who spoke several languages fluently, introduced the children to one another and at the end turned to Daniel: “Daniel, do you speak French?” Daniel shook his head. “Do you speak Italian?” Daniel shook his head. “Do you speak English?” Again, Daniel shook his head.
Then, as if she wanted to build a bridge for Daniel, she asked him in German, his mother tongue, “Do you speak German?”
“No!” Daniel responded.
“Well, Daniel, what language do you speak?”
Daniel responded: “I speak friendly!”
There is no language barrier for friendliness. A friendly smile, a helping hand, support in times of need, a word of encouragement can go a long way to make life easier and much more pleasant. Let us be people who are known for their lovingkindness. It is by our love that we are known, and our kindness, perhaps, gives the best testimony to our faith in God.
Through compassion for others, love reaches hearts beyond the borders of religion and race, beyond wealth and rank. It is something that all respond to, because God has created us that way.
My grandfather, Franz Hasel, an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister, was drafted into the German army during World War II. His request to serve in the medical corps was denied, but when he refused to use a weapon, he was assigned to a unit as a clerk on the front lines. He took his conviction not to kill so seriously that he carried a wooden gun in his holster during the duration of the war.* When he was serving in Russia, far away from home, his unit was assigned to search through all the houses of every village that the Germans had captured on their advance into Russia. They had to search for partisans and resistance fighters, who would hide in some of the houses. Their orders were to shoot every person they found hiding, indiscriminately and on the spot.
One day he was carefully searching a house. When he entered one room, he found it empty, but he had the impression that something was suspicious. He carefully looked around. When he looked under the bed, he saw a young man, staring right at him. My grandfather knew that if he would take this young man and drag him out, he definitely would be shot. They just looked at each other for a split second that seemed like an eternity. My grandfather left the room and did not report what he had seen. He had pity on this young man.
Several weeks later, he was assigned to patrol an important railway track. His duty was to make sure that no resistance fighters bombed the tracks. He was on patrol alone when a group of Russian Cossacks rapidly charged at him on their horses. There was no way to escape. When they reached him, they encircled him. Their commander was the same young man he had seen under the bed in that house. They immediately recognized each other. The young Cossack commander pointed his gun at my grandfather and said: “I could kill you now, but you were kind enough to save my life. So, I will spare your life!” The Cossacks rode on. In God’s providence, the life of my grandfather was spared.
You never know how your acts of kindness will impact other people and will help to make this world a better place. May God bless us as we walk in His footsteps. May we use our talents and skills not to impress other people, not to seek earthly riches and fame, but in faithfulness to Him who gave them to us in the first place, so that we can be a blessing to others, and that others, because of our kindness, will want to know more about the God we serve so faithfully.
*The story of Franz Hasel is told by Susi Hasel Mundy, A Thousand Shall Fall: The Electrifying Story of a Soldier and His Family Who Dared to Practice Their Faith in Hitler’s Germany (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald, 2001).