Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Goodness -- Writing My Own Epitaph

Have you ever written your own epithet? I think I would like my epitaph to be, “She loved the Word of God and her family, served Him faithfully, and was fierce.” I know it’s morbid, but that is how I hope people will remember me.

There’s a woman in Acts who has a great epitaph. In Aramaic her name is Tabitha. In Greek her name is Dorcas, and her story can be found in Acts 9:36-42. Tabitha’s story is very reminiscent of the story of Jairus’ young daughter who died while Jesus was healing the woman with the bleeding condition. Peter witnessed Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter, and that may be one of the reasons he handled the situation the way he did…but I’m getting ahead of myself AGAIN.

Let me introduce you to Tabitha. She was a disciple. Yes, a female disciple in the early church. In verse 36, the Bible gives her epitaph, “She was always doing good works and acts of charity.” Have you ever written your own epitaph? I can’t remember if mom had us write one in high school or not. (I had my mom for a high school English teacher in high school at the private school I attended.) I may have had to write one in college. What I wrote, I don’t have a clue. Take a moment to write your obituary and epitaph. What would it say? How will people remember you? Tabitha had an amazing epitaph…always doing good works and acts of charity. So not only was she one who studied the Word of God, but she lived it. Reminds me of the verse in James that tells us to be DOERS of the Word and not HEARERS only (James 1:21-22). If this is stepping on your toes, I’m sure you aren’t alone.

So, Tabitha dies. The people who she has helped over the years come together to mourn her death. They lovingly wash her body ceremoniously and place it in the upstairs room. Some other disciples realized Peter wasn’t far off, and they sent two men to beg him to come to Joppa. Peter went, and when he arrived he was led upstairs to Tabitha’s body. According to verse 39, “All the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made…” Isn’t it amazing how the fruit of the Spirit actually produces tangible things to meet the needs of others? Patrick's mom loved to sew. She smocked and sewed outfits for my kids. We now have those beautiful outfits to pass on to their children, since G has passed away.

If you have the Spirit in you, the Spirit produces fruit. By practicing the fruit, there is tangible evidence of God working through you. Lives are changed. Souls are touched. Needs are met. And if other Christians are living in the Spirit, then you can count on them to stand in the gap. These widows were standing in the gap for Tabitha/Dorcas because she obviously couldn’t do it for herself. I remember when my mom got sick with cancer and how people she had taught or ministered to or had encouraged stood in the gap for her. That is how the body of Christ is supposed to work, people. ACTIONS! SERVICE!

Peter sent them all out of the room and prayed. When was the last time you got down on your knees and prayed? You don’t have to be on your knees with your eyes closed and head bowed to pray, but there is something about the position of praying on your knees. It’s intentional. It’s submissive. After praying, Peter told Tabitha to get up, and he went to present her as alive. What rejoicing there must have been! I bet they weren’t freaked out at all. They were expecting it. Otherwise, why would they have called for Peter after she had died? Do you expect God to do anything in your life?

Now, here’s the I wonder part. I wonder what Tabitha saw, heard, and felt after she died. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to come back here after seeing Glory. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to leave the presence of God. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened or what she experienced, but you know it had to be incredible. You know she had to have a renewed sense of purpose for her life on this earth. I wonder how the experience changed her ministry. You see, in verse 42 it says, “and many people believed in the Lord.” God expanded Tabitha’s tent (her circle of impact) (1 Chr 4:10). Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Often times when bad things happen to good people like Tabitha, it’s hard for us to comprehend why God would allow something like this to happen. God used Tabitha’s death as a tool to bring people together. He used her new life to bring those people whom she had been serving to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Don’t you know that Tabitha was delighted to be a vessel God could use to save those whom she had ministered to?

The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Tabitha did good in her life. She did what she could with the talents and resources she had, and she ministered to the widows. In her new life, she may have been able to reach even more for the kingdom of God. What will your life, your actions, your choices, and your death say to those who are left behind?

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