It is sobering to realize that everyone, regardless of race, education, wealth, or fame have only one life to live. Death is society’s great equalizer. The greatest kings in history ultimately died, leaving their possessions, power, and people behind. Alexander the Great was invincible in battle, but he succumbed to death while still a young man. Harry Houdini could escape everything but his mortality.
What is also true is that humanity has only been granted a limited amount of time to live its mortal life. Only twenty-four hours a day. On average, a scant 75 years. Some people take those few years and cram them with accomplishment. Others fritter them away producing nothing of consequence. Our lives are often a testament to how seriously and intentionally we lived the one life we’ll ever have.
On April 17-18, 2015, I witnessed the celebration of a life well lived. Over 700 people gathered from across the nation at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, GA to celebrate what God had done through the ordinary life of Henry Thomas Blackaby. Sermons were delivered by Frank Page, the Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Convention, Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the 19,000 member First Baptist Church Woodstock, and Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, the producer of several Christian films such as Fireproof and Courageous. There were also testimonies given by people such as Burl Cain, warden of Angola Prison, Mac McQuiston, CEO of the CEO Forum, William Blackaby, Henry’s younger brother, and Gerry Taillon, National Ministry Leader of the Canadian National Baptist Convention. People such as Anne Graham Lotz, Rick Warren, and former president, George Bush sent birthday greetings. One of the highlights was when seven of Henry’s grandchildren led a time of worship and then Mike Blackaby, Henry’s oldest grandchild, spoke on behalf of his generation.
A favorite passage of Scripture for my father in recent years has been Isaiah 59:21: “’As for Me,’ says the Lord, ‘this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,’ says the Lord, ‘from this time and forevermore.’”
My father claims that he determined to live out his walk with God so vibrantly and joyfully that his children would conclude that if that was what it looked like to walk with God, they would choose to do so also. Dad’s plan worked. All five of his children are serving God in full time Christian ministry. Dad also has 14 grandchildren. All of them appear to be choosing to walk with God as their grandfather did. The oldest three are currently in seminary, two of them working on Ph.D.’s in apologetics. Others are feeling led into some form of Christian service in the future. A few months ago dad had his first three great grandchildren. He’s praying for them now. It looks like his legacy is secure for many years to come.
At dad’s celebration, it was announced that a Henry Blackaby Legacy Fund was being established so that his ministry, Blackaby Ministries International, could continue taking Henry’s teachings around the world to introduce to newer generations. Hopefully people who have not yet been born will one day learn that they, too, can experience God!
Most of us will never have a large worship service to celebrate our life’s contribution. However, the question is: did our life make a difference for good? Was God’s kingdom advanced in some measure because we lived? Did we squander our years or were we busy pursuing the purpose God had for us? Did our lives bring God glory or dishonor? Did our life accumulate regrets or accomplishments? Will our latter days be characterized by remorse or celebration?
My father is an ordinary man. He does not possess extraordinary gifts or intelligence. He had no special privileges or advantages handed to him. He simply lived his life with abandonment to God. I am one of many who have lived in the glow of that decision.