The last words spoken by a person dying are often very precious to the loved ones. Last words, such as the ones in our text, can bring comfort and peace from knowing the loved one died trusting Jesus as their Savior.
Paul, who was passing the torch on to Timothy, wrote these words, and they lingered long in the hearts of the people who belonged to the congregations Paul started. They were a sign that he had been faithful to his calling and now was being called by God to his heavenly reward.
No one knew better than Paul himself that all the works he had done for the Lord Jesus would never save him, and no one proclaimed that message better and clearer than Paul. He knew that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Paul lived in such an intimate, personal relationship with the Savior, it was only natural that he would want to live exactly the way God wanted him to live. However, this was impossible for him to do, since he was a sinful person. From time to time he would say, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do Ð this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:19-20). St. Paul was saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. That faith gave him the assurance to do God’s will in his life.
Paul’s words give us a tremendous example of how our last words affect other people. We know it is very important to have a will so our family knows what to do with our belongings as we pass. How much more important are the last words of a person regarding the spiritual relationship between him and his maker. For example, as a fairly young person is lingering and dying, he says to his parents, “This is the end of my stay. I hope I am going to heaven.”
His mother, who is zealous in her faith and clear in her theology, says, “Son, you can know where you are going. Jesus died for your sins. By grace through faith, you can know you are saved. Can’t you say to us, I KNOW I am going to heaven?”
But he would not. He simply said, “I can’t quite believe that salvation is by faith alone.” His parents were left with questions in their hearts as they grieved his death.
Another person who had been very faithful in the church said as he lay on his deathbed, “I hope I have lived a good enough life to merit a place in heaven.” This man was one of the pioneers in the church, and his statement stunned me. His words were much like those of the son in my first example, only this man was a bit more specific when he said he hoped he had done enough good works. He had done many good words for the Lord Jesus, and many people (myself included) considered him a marvelous person. His family found little comfort in his remarks. It is extremely important for us to know, beyond all doubt, that Christ has died for us.
One evening, a young man came home from the university and sat down with his parents to talk about his relationship with the Lord. He said, “Dad and mom, I respect your convictions, and I wish I could share them, but I don’t believe in a life after death. Everything we have is right here, and when we breathe our last, that is the end of it.” His parents had tried their hardest to provide him with a faith in Jesus Christ, but he did not accept it. The influences of this world caused him to turn away from his faith, and his parents went to his funeral with tears in their eyes for their son who had denied the Savior. How very, very sad.
I recall a woman dying of cancer, who was leaving behind her two young children. As she laid there in her bed of pain, she said to them, “I don’t like to leave you, but I know God will comfort you and strengthen you. One day we will be together again in our heavenly home, and that will be forever.” She died shortly after uttering those words, and we had the funeral. As I walked from the grave to the car with her parents, they said, “Oh, we hate to lose her. We will not be as good of parents to those children as she would be. But we are so thankful to know she died knowing Jesus Christ as her Savior, and she knew she was going to be with him.”
That is much like the person who said to his mother, “I am thankful to God for all you have done for me spiritually. You led me to Christ and showed me the importance of the church. You taught me to choose a Christian spouse who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and the importance of bringing our children up with the truth through Scripture reading and church attendance.”
Now these examples are some actual words I have heard over the years while serving the congregation. I repeat what I said at the beginning of the sermon, The last words spoken are very important and precious to their loved ones.
Here are more words I would like to center our thoughts on. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).
How many of us have trouble coming to the final decision to turn our entire life over to Jesus? Perhaps you have attended church your whole life, but Jesus is still not quite yours yet. Go and talk with your pastor and some of your good friends. Tell them you are anxious to be a part of the faith. If you are very concerned about this very thing, listen to these precious words written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
None of us know when our last day is coming. If you are in that state, I urge you, I plead with you, ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and create a faith that will make you one of his.
One Sunday morning, a lady came up to me and said, “I have been reading my Bible looking for strength from God, and I found this little verse: ÔFor God will not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline’ (II Tim. 1:7).” Then she told me of a conversation she had with a group of her friends. It was clear they were not certain about how to get to heaven and how much God loves them. So she opened her life completely to them and said, “This is what I believe. You may not like me anymore, but I cannot be timid.”
One lady said to her, “I like you, but I don’t like what you are saying, because I don’t think any of us can know for sure if we are going to be with God in heaven.” But then the lady said to her in love, but with power, “There you are wrong, for God in Word has made it so clear! This is one of God’s precious promises in his Word, and it is extremely necessary for us to believe it as we carry on in this life.” Then she got up and went home not knowing what her friend will think of her the next time they see each other.
Her words became very important in the life of her unbelieving friend, who later said to her, “Now I know what you mean. Thank you for being so up front with me.”
Sometimes when we have something physically wrong, we don’t know what to do. We’ve been to the doctors, we’ve been prescribed all kinds of pills, and even have an operation, but the pain is still there. It isn’t something that will necessarily take our life, but it is making us miserable. St. Paul once had a thorn in the flesh, and he pleaded with the Lord three times for it to be taken away. But God responded, “My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).
Those were the favorite words of my sainted father-in-law. He had a very necessary job in the church, which dealt with pastors and congregations in very unpleasant situations. This was somewhat difficult on him, and his stomach was eaten up with ulcers. As he prayed for health, he always came back to this: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
When we put a tombstone on his grave, it read, “My Grace Is Sufficient for you.”
The last words spoken by us can be very precious to other people. The words spoken by other people can be and should be very precious to us.