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Thinking ahead and planning for the end of our lives is important to living well.

We’re coming to the last two stages in our journey through these seven essentials that I believe will help you finish well. I hope the message has continued to come through clearly that God has given us life, and redeemed us through His Son, for a purpose that He wants to continue unfolding for all of our lives. There are no useless hours, days, or years in God’s plan!

We’ve looked at the life of Joseph, who seemed to have wasted so many years in slavery and prison in Egypt. But what a legacy God was building for Joseph and the people of Israel, and even for us. Joseph looked ahead to his death and told his family to bring his bones back to Israel with them. This wasn’t just a burial request; it was a reminder that God would fulfill His promise to bring the Israelites back to the promised land. By looking ahead to when he would not be there, Joseph was able to leave his family with an incredible witness to God’s faithfulness that carried on long after he was gone.


What a reminder that God has a purpose He is working out for our good and His glory—and it doesn’t have to stop with our death!


Think about that for a moment as we get ready to look at the sixth essential today. Our statement is that we will plan ahead for when we will not be here. I chose this title to reflect the importance of looking ahead to the end of life and planning backward from there to today. Many wise people, including financial counselors, will tell you this is the best way to make your plans. One of these counselors happens to be King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. The lesson we’re about to study is packed with valuable advice that Solomon left for us in the book of Ecclesiastes, so I’ll just mention it here for your anticipation.


I was born in 1949, but I don’t know when my death date will be. Yet there is an end date for our lives, we can be sure of that. God recorded the number of our days before we ever born. David said so in Psalm 139:16. Some people might think that’s a little morbid, but it’s not at all! I’m encouraged to know that God has every day of my life firmly in His control. And guess what? The fact that you and I are here right now means that God is not done with us yet!


And one reason God has left us here is to prepare for the time when we will not be here. There is so much you can do now to help ensure that the time of your passing is as stress-free as possible for the loved ones you leave behind. So let me ask you in preparation for today’s study, are you making decisions about the end of your life?


One of the most basic decisions—yet one of the most neglected—you need to make is what you want done with your body. Many Christians say things like, “Oh, I don’t care what you do with my body. Just throw it in the dump. I don’t care, I’ll be with Jesus.”


Well, that may sound pious, but it’s actually being thoughtless toward the family members left behind who have to make these decisions at a time of maximum stress. As a pastor for 47 years, I have sat with families left in bewilderment and distress because their deceased family member never communicated anything about their wishes for their final arrangements. Their children had no idea whether their parent wanted to be buried or cremated, or what kind of service they wanted and who they wanted to officiate it.


I would ask about the arrangements and the family would say, “We don’t know. Dad never left any instructions or made any arrangements.” I don’t want to do that to my family, and I’m sure you don’t either. That’s why I prepared today’s study to give you tools to help you plan ahead for when you will not be here.


One very important part of this planning is considering the message you want to leave with your family. I’m thinking here of Joseph and his message of encouragement and hope to his family as he lay dying. So in this session you’ll be asked to consider the testimony you want to share when you are no longer here. Your recounting of how God has been faithful to you could be of immense blessing for generations to come!


This issue deserves a lot of thought. And let me clarify that telling your story doesn’t have to wait until you’re gone. I encourage you to tell your stories now. You may think your kids and grandkids don’t want to listen to your stories. Even if that’s true to some extent now, you can write them down or record them some other way, and I guarantee you that your family will want to have them.


Again, that’s the value of planning now for when you won’t be here. Instead of just sitting back and saying, “If they want to know, they’ll ask,” take time now to answer the questions your family will ask after you’re gone. I want my kids and grandkids to know how God has led me, because they will experience the same kinds of joys and struggles I’ve had. I want them to know my values, which have helped shape my family as it is today. One of the greatest and most valuable lessons we can learn from Old Testament saints like Jacob and Joseph is to gather our family around us, so to speak, and pass on the blessing of God to the coming generations.


There are other vital things to consider in planning ahead. I’m confident you know how important it is to make sure you have an up-to-date will and estate plan so your final wishes will be in good legal order. Part of this is any medical directives you wish to have followed when the end is near. Some people wish to donate their bodies to science, or leave organ donation instructions. But those can be touchy subjects for family members, so it helps to have things like these discussed and, we hope, settled ahead of time.


These and other issues will be covered in the upcoming study. And as we’ve done with each of the seven essentials we’ve studied so far, we’ll also talk about the barriers that we as humans and the devil put in our way to keep us from planning ahead. One example is our natural aversion to thinking about death, let alone talking about it. I hear things like, “I don’t want to deal with it. It's a downer. My kids don't want to talk about it, either. Even if I try to bring it up, they don’t want to hear anything about it.”


As a pastor, I’ve even dealt with people in the hospital at the end of their lives who still don’t want to face the subject of death. I say it’s natural to avoid the subject, but that doesn’t mean it’s wise. Satan will use all of these fears and reluctance to keep us from doing what Joseph did, and what any sensible person ought to do, which is think about the end of life and plan backward from there.


God wants us as Christians to wrap things up, so to speak, and finish strong. I want to be able to say as Paul said at the end of life, in Second Timothy chapter 4 verse 7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” That finish line is ahead for all of us, and we will cross it. The only question is how well we will finish.


Paul went on to say in verse 8, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”


There it is, the real prize for which we serve the Lord. We’ll deal with this aspect of planning ahead in our seventh and final essential. I love Moses’ prayer in Psalm chapter 90 verse 12, which reads like it was written for this study: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Let's follow Moses’ advice and get out lives lined up well now so we can finish well. God bless you as we study this lesson together.

NOTE: This text is an edited transcription of the ESSENTIAL FIVE: BE AVAILABLE video by Dr. Hal Habecker, edited by Philip Rawley.


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