Robert Jeffress - How To Die With A Smile On Your Face
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. One day, all of us will pass from this life into the next one. So when your time comes, how do you wanna be remembered? Today we're going to look at the final moments in Abraham's story. The words that summarize his life would make a beautiful epitaph and one that we should all strive for. My message is titled, "How To Die With A Smile On Your Face," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A book titled "Die Broke" offers a unique perspective on death and finances. In this best-selling book, the author proposes that instead of trying to accumulate a lot of money and leave it behind, you ought to spend everything you have while you're alive until you have zero in your bank account. He says, "In fact, your last check you write ought to be to the undertaker, and that check ought to bounce". That's how you know if you're successful. A lot of you're on the way to that, right? Amen. One popular writer notes that in addition to dying broke, a lot of people are dying broken.
As they come to the final years of their life, their lives are marked by regrets, isolation, loneliness, bitterness. Do you know people like that? You just feel the bitterness oozing out of their body whenever you're around them. I don't know about you, but when I'm around those people, I wanna run as far and as fast from them as I can. But more importantly, I wanna make sure I don't become like them. Instead, I wanna face life and death just like our character, our friend Abraham. And today we're going to look at the final chapter in Abraham's life, and discover some important principles for how to die with a smile on your face.
If you have your Bibles turn to not Genesis 25, we'll get there, but turn over to 2 Peter chapter 1. You know, some people wonder why do we devote so much time to Abraham? Why does he receive so much ink in the book of Genesis? F. B. Meyers says, "It's because Abraham models that one quality God desires most in each of us, the quality of faith". Remember Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith it's impossible to please God". Abraham is a model of faith and all of the qualities that stem from faith. I want you to notice that Abraham's faith like ours should be growing. He had a growing faith.
You know, so many people think that once they trust in Christ for the forgiveness for their sins that's it, that's the ultimate, that's the destination. No, that's just the starting place of your Christian faith, that's the basic faith. But God wants other things in our life as well. Look at 2 Peter 1, beginning with verse 5. "Now for this very reason, applying all diligence, in your faith you supply". And then he mentions seven qualities, "Moral excellence, knowledge" and so forth. This word diligence refers to a runner who's giving it everything he has as he gets toward the finish line. He said, "We're to have that same attitude again, not about earning our salvation, but working for our Christlikeness, our sanctification, and that takes effort".
There's this faulty philosophy among Christians that, oh, just as you can't do anything to earn your salvation, there's nothing you need to do for your sanctification. Just let go and let God "Que sera, sera". Whatever happens, happens. You will end up with a spiritually bankrupt life if you do that. It requires effort to live as a Christian. You supply and Abraham is a model of every one of these qualities. The basic thing is faith, we exercise faith. Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed what God said in his faith was counted as righteousness. But Peter says, "To your faith, add moral excellence". That was Abraham.
Now he wasn't perfect. He made some mistakes, remember the Hagar fiasco and his trip to Egypt? He had some zigs and some zags along the road to godliness, and you do too, and I as well. But generally, his life was characterized by moral excellence. For example, when he got those rewards from the kings of the East he could have kept it, they were rightfully his, but he was concerned more with the glory of God than his own wealth, and so he freely gave that away. That is moral excellence. "To your faith, add moral excellence and then knowledge". Not just knowledge in general, but a knowledge of God.
Abraham grew in his knowledge of God from the moment he trusted God at age 60 till the moment he went home to be with God at age 175. One writer says it this way about Abraham, "All of his life he was a student in God's college of divinity". Are you learning more every day about God through your relationship with him? Add knowledge. "To your knowledge, add self-control". Proverbs 16:32 says, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty. And he who rules over his spirit, is better than he who captures a city".
You see that over and over again in Abraham's life. For example, when Lot takes advantage of him, takes the choice land, he doesn't become angry and resentful, he guards himself against anger. When he hears the news that Sodom and Gomorrah have been destroyed knowing his relatives there, he doesn't become overcome by worry, but overcome with faith. Self-control. "To your self-control, add perseverance". I've cited it before but I love Eugene Peterson's book, "A Long Obedience In The Same Direction". What a perfect description of the Christian life. It's going the same direction.
Again, you'll have detours along the way, but over the long haul, your life is characterized by marching toward God and godliness. I think about Abraham, especially those three days he and Isaac walked to Mount Moriah the place of sacrifice. As I imagine that experience, I think that Abraham had to pray for strength to take every step he took. Every additional step, knowing that he was about to sacrifice that which he loved the most. The only reason he was able to do that is, remember, he believed that God is able to raise his Son from the dead, he believed God that much. And I'm sure as he tried to find that strength to take the next step, he had to say over and over again, "God is able, God is able, God is able".
That's perseverance continuing to march toward God and godliness, and that's the next word. "To your perseverance, add godliness". That comes from an English word, God likeness. Abraham was like a piece of metal that was drawn by a magnet to God. His heart was always drawn to God. Whenever he went to a new location, the first thing he did was to build an altar to worship God, that's godliness. "To your godliness, add brotherly kindness". Remember that word kindness means usefulness. To really care about somebody is to give them what they need, not what they deserve. Abraham did that. He rescued Lot taking him from the kings of the east even though Lot didn't deserve Abraham's kindness because of what he had done to him in taking that choice land, Abraham was still kind, he did what was useful for Lot.
Aren't you glad God treats us with kindness? Titus 3:4 says that "God demonstrated his kindness toward us by sending Christ to die for us". Even though we deserved eternal death, God offers us eternal life. And the final word, love. This word love is not some surfy sentimental kind of love, its agape love, a God love. You see that in Abraham. Genesis chapter 22, he was willing to offer that which meant the most to him, his son Isaac, because of his love for God. Abraham's final years, his faith was growing. But I want you to also notice something about Abraham. His final years were marked by a special attitude I'll call bullish. He was bullish in his attitude toward these final years of life.
Now I want you to think about Abraham. Put yourself in his sandals for a moment. His wife Sarah had died, his son was finally out of the tent and on to have his own family and so forth. He had all the money he could possibly want. Remember the Bible says "Abraham was wealthy, literally heavy, he was loaded with wealth". He could do whatever he wanted to do. Now, if you were Abraham, what would you do? Move to Florida? Buy a condo? Spend your time chasing a little ball with a stick around a putting green? Get in a Winnebago and tour of the country? Not Abraham. He still had things to do, he had a bullishness toward life. And you find that in three ways. First of all, he got a new wife.
Look at verse 1. "Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah". We don't know much about Keturah, I think one thing we can safely assume was, she wasn't a Canaanite because of Abraham's instruction to Eliazar about the son for Isaac. She wasn't an unbeliever, but we don't know much about her at all, right? Abraham decided he was going to have a new wife. Oh, here it comes. And with the new wife came a new family. Abraham had six more children with Keturah. He was 140 when he started the new family. Had a new wife, he had a new family, and notice there was a new a growing generosity in Abraham. He realized everything he had wasn't his it was God's, he was just a manager. And so verse 5 says in Genesis 25 while he was living, he gave a generous gift to Isaac and to his other children.
Now look, we are stewards and the Bible says we need to take care of the money that God gives us and that's why every Christian for sure ought to have a will that specifies what happens to your money, when you're gone. You either get to decide or the government gets to decide. I'd rather decide, wouldn't you? Make sure you have a will and your money's going to take care of your family? But Abraham did it while he was alive. You know, I think about my grandfather. He wasn't an extremely wealthy person by today's standard, but God had blessed him with some money and for more than just tax reasons, he decided he wanted to give money away while he was alive. He wanted to see his children and grandchildren enjoy what he had worked for, and take care of some of the needs that they had, that's a wise way to live. That's what's Abraham did, he had a growing generosity.
Now, here's Abraham's life. His faith was growing, his attitude was bullish. New wife, new family, generosity. Now we come to Abraham's death, his departure and the one way that describes the way he faced death is the word satisfied. Look at the verses describing his death. Genesis 25 verses 7 and 8. "These are all the years of Abraham's life that he lived. One hundred and seventy-five years. And Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man satisfied with life; and he was gathered together with his people". Boy, I would love to have that as my epitaph, wouldn't you? He died at a ripe old age, satisfied with life and gathered together with his people. How do you pull that off?
I want you to notice from Abraham's life three facets of being satisfied with your life. First of all, he was satisfied with his past. He was at peace, he was content, that's what the word satisfied means, content. He was content with his past. It doesn't mean he had a perfect past, he didn't. The first 60 years of his life, he was an idolater, he was an idol worshiper just like his father had been. He had made big mistakes, not only before he was a believer, but even after he was a believer. He sinned, but he knew his sins had been forgiven. That's the only way you'll be at peace with their past.
Genesis 15:6, "Abraham believed God; and his faith was counted as righteousness". Remember in Romans 4, Paul uses that experience as an example of what saving faith is. Romans 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. 'Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not take into account.'" Abraham knew that as blemished as his past was, his past had been forgiven, forgotten forever by God, because of his faith. Do you have that assurance? Do you know that your sins have been wiped away through the blood of Jesus Christ? That's the only way you're gonna end your life Satisfied.
If you're satisfied with your past, not only that, Abraham was satisfied with his present, his present life, especially with his children. He knew as he faced death that he had successfully passed on the baton of faith to his children and his children's children. Where do I get that? Listen to Hebrews 11 verse 17. "By Faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac: and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son". Now, look at verse 20. "By faith Abraham's son, Isaac, blessed Jacob and Esau, his grandchildren, even regarding things to come. And then by faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, his great-grandson, Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on his staff. And by faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel and gave instructions concerning his bones".
You get that by faith, by faith, by faith down the generational line. Until 430 years after Joseph when Moses was ready to lead the exodus, the children of Israel remembered the instructions of Joseph made 430 years earlier. Why did they remember them? Because the faith had been passed on, and on, and on throughout the generations. Dr. Criswell used to say, "Every civilization is only one generation away from barbarism". If we don't pass the faith to the next generation, the faith is lost. Abraham knew he had passed on his faith successfully. Now, I know some of you feel guilty about that right now because maybe your faith hasn't been passed on to your children and your grandchildren.
You know, I remember my parents who are now in heaven. When I was a little boy, I used to walk into their bedroom and there was a picture on the wall of me, and my brother, and my sister, and the verse under it was 3rd John verse 4. "I have no greater joy than this, than to know my children walk in the truth". There's a great joy when you know your children are walking in truth. There's a great pain when they aren't walking in truth. If that's true of you, let me just remind you, ultimately you're not responsible for your children's response. God was a perfect Father and yet he had two wayward children named Adam and Eve who departed from the faith even though they had been raised in a perfect environment, the Garden of Eden. But just remember this, the final chapter of your children's life hasn't been revealed yet.
Your duty is to pass on that faith and keep loving them, keep praying for them, the end hasn't been revealed yet. Abraham did the best he could in passing along his faith to his children and to his grandchildren. Thirdly, Abraham was not only satisfied with his past and his present, he was satisfied with his future. Look at verse 8. "Abraham breathed his last and died at a ripe old age an old man satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people". What does that mean gathered to his people? Some people try to downplay this, I read some commentators who said, "Oh, that just means he was buried with his ancestors".
Well no, that's not what happened. He wasn't buried with his ancestors, he was buried with Sarah, but none of his other ancestors. Now, who were Abraham's people? They were the godly who had gone before him. Seth, Enoch Noah, Methuselah, all of those where were his people not in the cemetery, they were in heaven. This is expression for going to heaven. When Abraham died his last, he died at a ripe old age and he was gathered with his people in heaven. Let me ask you a question, when you shut your eyes for the very last time here on earth, who are the people you're gonna be gathered with? Even though he was a wealthy man, he never owned a piece of land until the end when he bought a cemetery plot. He never built a permanent house. He lived in a tent even though he could have afforded much more, why? He was looking for something better and at the end he experienced it because of faith.
Abraham was willing to let go of his desire for money, for approval, for fame, in order to grab hold of that which is eternal. That's why we honor the life and the death of Abraham. When I think about letting go of the temporary to gain the eternal, I think of that legend from India that Erwin Lutzer recounts in his book, "Your Eternal Rewards". Remember the legend of beggar stood beside the road with a little bowl to beg for rice from those who would stop by? One day a wealthy chariot pulled up and a wealthy rajah descended from the chariot. He went over to the beggar, looked into his bowl and said, "Give me a grain of rice".
The beggar was perplexed. Why would a wealthy man want a grain of rice? But he gave it to him, felt obligated to it. The wealthy rajah asked again, "Give me another grain". And now angry, the beggar gave him another grain. "I want another," the rajah demanded, and seething with bitterness, this beggar gave him the last grain of rice that he had. The rajah left. The beggar was standing there not understanding, resenting what had just happened until he looked into that little bowl and he noticed something glittering. It was a piece of gold, a grain of gold, the size of the grain of rice that had been taken, and as he looked further in the bowl, there was a second, there was a third.
For every grain of rice he had given to the wealthy man, the wealthy man had exchanged it for a grain of gold. And then Erwin makes this application, "If we clutch our bowl of rice, we shall lose our reward. If we are faithful and give God each grain, he gives us gold in return and the gold God gives will surely survive the fire". Abraham was willing to let go of that which was temporal to gain hold of that which is eternal and will never fade away. He's a perfect demonstration of Hebrews 11:6, "For he who comes to God must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after Him". That's the life of Abraham.