What Will Be on Your Tombstone?
When working with corporations, organizations, and individuals on goal setting, one of the first things we discuss is, where are you right now and where are you trying to go. We need to establish what it will look like when the established goal is reached. For a corporation, it could be a financial goal they are trying to reach. For an organization, it could be establishing ground rules or setting up an initial board that will nurture the organization for growth or making a specific impact. For an individual, it could be anything from finding their purpose, their passion, or making a significant change in their employment. It could be creating a healthy family unit, rebuilding their marriage, or finding their way to financial security. Whatever the scenario may be, the first thing we do is to write the goal or vision down in bold print, then post it where it can be seen every day. This keeps it at the forefront and sets it as a life priority.
I speak quite often on the Tombstone Principle. I heard about this principle many years ago at a business conference I was attending. The principle made such an impact on me, I could barely sleep thinking about it. The principle states that if we fast forward throughout our lives and come to the place where we are standing in front of our own tombstone, what would we read? I understand some of you reading this will think, what a morbid thing to think of. But, the principle and thought must strike you as intriguing. What would our loved ones write on our tombstone that would capture our entire life into 1 or 2 sentences? What would they say about our character? What would they write about when it came to our integrity, our honesty, or our humility? It makes one think.
I attended a funeral a few years ago for a friend who was in motorcycle ministry and served relentlessly. He pulled a large red sleigh every year behind his bright yellow Honda Goldwing, delivering food and toys to under privileged families and children. He attended almost every bike event, helping out at ministry booths, passing out tracks, or speaking to folks who were looking for prayer. It seemed that every local event that had anything to do with motorcycles or an outreach to kids, he was there. Honorable? Yes. Dedicated? Yes. Charitable? Yes. He served this way until he went home to be with the Lord. He had a servant’s heart and dedicated his life to serving those less fortunate.
At his funeral and celebration of life, there was literally standing room only as the auditorium was filled with family and friends from all over. The motorcycles were lined up and down the street from local ministries and clubs from throughout the region. Some nice words were spoken about him and then the Pastor asked if anyone would like to come to the podium and say a few words before he invited the family to come speak. Naturally, many got up and shared about their experiences of serving, riding, and giving with our friend. There were many laughs as well as many tears throughout the crowd as story after story was presented. One could only sit back in awe about what an impact this man had made in the community and ministry world.
When the line of people went down and all the stories were told, the Pastor invited the children to come up if they wished and share a little about their father. The room became solemn as you could see the son came up to share a little. He looked out at the crowd in silence, overwhelmed with the number of people in attendance. You could hear a pin drop as we waited for the words to come out. He leaned over to the microphone and said “I wish my father would have spent more of his time with me as a young man growing up. I missed him so much and even to the end of his life, he was never a part of my life. I lay him to rest today, not really knowing who he really was or what he was really about. Thank you all for coming and I am proud he left an impact on all of you.” He slowly turned around and walked to his seat. We were all in shock. Tears were flowing, noses were blowing as we all sat there in shock from what this young man had just said. Was he talking about the same man? What was the circumstances of their relationship? No one really knew, but obviously, it was diminished by absenteeism from his son.
The Pastor looked down to the daughter and motioned her to come up. She slowly walked to the podium, and as he brother did, she slowly looked around the room in amazement at all the people in attendance. It was a very awkward moment to say the least. What was she going to say? Our friend may have had a strained relationship with his son, but not with his daughter. He was a pillar in the ministry. He was a servant in the ministry. He gave of his time, his treasure, and of himself unselfishly for so many years. She looked down and slowly raised her head with these words, “I never knew my dad. The only memory I have of my father was that of frustration, anger, and not being there for me. Although he helped many people and would always be gone serving others, it almost felt like I never had a father. Even as a young woman on my own now, we never spent time together and I knew nothing about his life. Thank you all for coming and being here for our family.” She slowly walked off the stage and sat in her seat.
I tell you this story, not to bring you down, but to lift you up in the character of Christ. To set a precedent in working on your own character and to think about what your family will write on your tombstone one day. A vison or goal of great character should be of the highest calling. Paul wrote to the Philippians and said:
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you will live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation - the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ - for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (Phil 1:9-11, NLT)
The righteous character produced in our lives by Jesus Christ! The righteous Character of Christ Jesus in our lives can be summed up in the two greatest commandments we read about in Mathew 22:37-40:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."
If we must consider our families as neighbors, let it be so. The greatest goal any of us should have is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and lead our families in love, honor, and respect. If we can’t hear our families screaming for us due to the fact that we are serving others first and we are never around, we will someday be standing in front of our tombstone reading the words that were spoken about my friend, “I never knew him.” BUT, if we can build on the fruit of our salvation, practice living on the character of Christ, cherishing our families, our neighbors, and our God, the words on our tombstones may read, “He was a loving father, husband, and friend. A good and faithful servant to all and lived his life for his family and others.”
Let us live by the fruit of the Spirit, never forgetting that our number one ministry has always been and will always be, loving and leading our families in the knowledge of Christ. There is no greater calling than to lead our children to the cross and live an exemplary life in Jesus. To leave a legacy in Christ Jesus is the ultimate goal or vision of every great Father and Mother. I pray this message affects you in an extraordinary way and touches your heart so that you will make an impact in and on your families.
May the Lord bless you in every way and build in you a confidence in Christ that is unwavering.
I welcome your partnership. I work with people suffering from identity crisis, fighting the satanic grips of addiction, and helping folks find the “courage to change the things they can.” I host workshops for teens called, “Prepare 4 Impact,” helping them be prepared for life with character development, communication skills, goal setting, and the basics of finance. I am an anti-bully advocate and speak corporately and scholastically on the power of identity, unity, and togetherness. I often get invited to guest Pastor or speak throughout the region. If you would like more information on how I could be of service to you and or your congregation, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You Are Never Alone,
Pastor Johnny Lujan
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about our motorcycle ministry and Thunder Road Biker's Church, contact me or visit www.ThunderRoadChurch.com.
P.S.S. Get Breakfast with Solomon, a daily wisdom journey through the Proverbs, by signing up HERE!
Pastor Johnny Lujan is PTLB's newest team member and we couldn't be more excited to have him aboard. Johnny’s favorite word in the dictionary is “action.” He has built and led ministries since 2002, and for the past 17 years, has been a motivator of people, churches, businesses, and organizations. His leadership skills are extensive, having led ministries, sales teams, and regions to dynamic growth through team-building strategies, strategic relationship principles, and character-building workshops. Johnny uses his primary gifts of evangelism, leadership, and service to encourage organizations and individuals to develop a new story.
He is the Lead Pastor at Thunder Road Biker Church in Rancho Cordova, CA, and Roseville, CA, and helped launch Brisbane, Australia in 2015. Thunder Road Church is a strategic church reaching a demographic of people that some call the “least of these.” He is also the co-founder of “Unchained Men,” bringing authenticity, vulnerability, and truth through training and workshops to encourage men to break free! For more about Johnny and his services or to support Johnny's ministry, click HERE.