Just the other day I attended the funeral of an 86-year-old gentleman I’d since I was a little girl. When our family first got to know Vincent 29 years ago he had just lost his mother and was living alone.
Vincent never married, though he enjoyed joking about the women who were “after him.” As a young man he had been engaged to a woman he truly loved. But when he came to know the Lord and she didn’t, there was no question as to Who came first in his life. From his comments through the years the effects of that choice weren’t always the easiest, though I never sensed any regret.
Fourteen years ago Vincent preached and recorded his own funeral sermon. Though in the last year or so he had become increasingly confused, coming through the sound system of the funeral home was the Vincent I had always known: a man whose number one passion was telling others about Jesus. As I listened to the familiar voice of the man whose body lay in the front of the room, I got a clearer picture of what Vincent’s life was all about and why.
Whether Vincent was in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, or in church, he was compelled to give his testimony for Jesus. If anyone happened to dial the wrong number and get Vincent, he’d tell them they hadn’t gotten the wrong number. And then he’d ask them if they knew Jesus. “I love being a fool for the Lord,” he said in the recorded sermon. While we sometimes cringed at the ways in which he made himself a fool for Jesus, there was no denying the fact that his “foolishness” touched many people’s lives for eternity. For years he spent two 12-hour days a week in the local jail where he was known by the men there as the “Good News Gospel Man”. His desire was to show the love of Christ to these men who, as he said often, never knew what it was like to have someone love them. At the end of each day he’d report to the chaplain the names of the men who had given their lives to Jesus.
What was Vincent’s secret for turning romantic disappointment into a successful life for the Lord? His voice clearly and firmly told us the other day: “Whatever the Lord gives you, use it for Him. Love Him more than you do yourself. Our biggest problem in life is ourselves.” How true.
Vincent never knew what it was like to live with the woman he loved, to have his own children and raise them to know Jesus. But was his life worthless? Was it a waste? No. In fact, I don’t think any of us will ever know the number of those who were born into the Kingdom of God as a result of his labors. No one can say that his spiritual “children” are any less than the children the married man raises to serve the Lord.
Some of us may never have the life we’ve always dreamed of having, whatever that may be. But that is not the greatest tragedy. The greatest tragedy of all is when we refuse to take what the Lord has given us and use it for Him.
than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name,
that shall not be cut off.
In the process of finalizing Vincent’s estate after his funeral, his pastor found nine little notebooks with page after page of names of individuals whom Vincent had led to the Lord. If laying up treasures in heaven is what God has called us to in this life, and He has, then Vincent was certainly successful. Because of his faithfulness, these individuals’ names are not only written in Vincent’s little notebooks, but in God’s eternal Book of Life. Vincent didn’t leave an inheritance to biological sons and daughters, but what a rich heritage he’s left to the rest of us who are challenged by his life!