Many years ago I was walking down the main street of one of our small Mississippi towns that used to be alive and well but now only had a few stores that were still operating. As I walked along I stopped at a store that was not open but seemed to be in business and looked at the merchandise they had through the glass display window. Apparently what used to be a busy store that handled clothes and other items was now an antique store.
The things I saw there were not antique. They were old things. The one thing that caught my attention was a picture, a framed picture that looked like an actual photograph. It was a black and white shot of a landscape of an old country cemetery. It was a huge cemetery on rolling hills that you could just see. It went down and back up, and all along the hills and valleys were grave markers. The more you looked at the photograph the more it seemed it just went on and on out into the distance with almost no end to the cemetery, but then I noticed at the bottom of the frame, underscoring this picture, was a question. Whoever had put this together had it done professionally and while the picture would capture your attention, the question to me was even more probing. The question was – “Will it matter that I was?”
I had been captured by the picture and the question and my eyes would lift up looking at the cemetery that moved out into the distance and then back to the question – “Will it matter that I was?” It probed my conscience. I remember thinking, “I wonder how much that costs. I would really like to have that picture in question, to have it in my office or in my home.” Since the store was not open and I would soon be leaving, I would not be able to buy it even if I could afford it. As I walked on down the street, the picture went with me and is still with me until this day.
As a pastor for many years, now having been in ministry over 50 years, there are times when I have opportunity to go back and preach at a church where I used to be pastor 30 or 40 years ago. You can imagine what it is like to return to a church that made such an impact on your life years ago, decades ago, and now when you get up to preach nobody, well maybe a few but virtually nobody, remembers that you were there. They did not experience the things that you did or enjoyed with them. They have no memory of it because they were not around. So you get up to preach to people who have never seen you, never heard you preach, know nothing about the joys you experienced while you were there, or the challenges that you helped lead the people through and the question in the photograph comes into focus in your mind: “Will it matter that I was?”
I suppose at times you could be cynical and say no, it really doesn’t matter. You live, you die, you’re gone and the world moves on, but when you understand Scripture and the teaching of the Word of God that we are here for just a period of time anyway and what you do for Christ literally makes a difference not just in this world but forever, you have to say, “Yes, it matters that I was.” When you see life as an experience that happens more with than through the Lord you begin to understand that anybody, everybody in Christ is living a life that matters. Here are just three quick thoughts to carry with you about the things that matter.
One, everything matters. Everything? Yes, everything. Some of you may quickly respond to say, “Well, there are some things in life that just don’t matter.” Maybe, maybe not. Here’s the reality. What does not seem to matter to you may have great significance to someone else and what you soon forget even took place is carried with them for a lifetime. A word, a smile, an encouragement at a time of disappointment, a faithfulness through life’s disappointments – God can take your life, your actions, your words, and frame it into a beautiful, positive, unforgettable experience for someone you come in contact with. On several occasions I’ve had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham. The very first time was when I was about 16 or 17 years old and then later at various stages and places. Do you think he knows me, remembers me? Of course not, but did meeting him make any impression on my life? Absolutely.
Secondly, essential things matter. You could be a part of an experience in life that was absolutely essential for someone and they don’t even remember it, but you can never forget. It may be someone you witnessed to or someone you reached out and helped. Just because someone else doesn’t have a recollection of your faithfulness to touch their life, it does not mean at all that it was unimportant.
Third, eternal things matter. I have met a number of people through the years who actually believe when you’re born, you’re born and you live through this life and when you die, you’re dead and they bury you and that’s that. No, every one of us will spend eternity somewhere. For every believer, when you trusted Jesus, God wrote your name down in the Lamb’s Book of Life and the day will come when you’re not here but you will be with Him.
You may go through this life and never set records in athletic events. You may not achieve great academic success. You may never be able to play an instrument or even sing a song, but if you serve Jesus and if you share His love with others, when time is over and eternity is in place you will be able to see that the answer to your life’s question – “Will it matter that I was” – was answered – “Yes, yes, yes!”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.