A Christian man (a church elder and Bible teacher) joked that when he died, he wanted to “come back” (be reincarnated) as my pampered cat. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 85, but happily, he accepted the gift of eternal life in his Lord.
Several ironies have captured media attention recently. A big-budget film called The Bucket List (the things you want to do before kicking the bucket – dying) was released in 2008; author and professor Dr. Randy Pausch, famed for his Carnegie-Mellon University “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” succumbed to cancer; and Dave Freeman, co-author of 100 Things to Do Before You Die, actually died in an accident in his home, not on the horns of a Pamplona bull. (Dave Freeman CNN obituary)
Some people make lists of things they’ve dreamed of doing before they die: riding an elephant, running with the bulls, bungee-jumping in New Zealand, climbing Kilimanjaro, swimming in an Icelandic thermal lake, riding every roller coaster in America, or touring the Holy Land.
Others measure their lives in monuments such as walking their daughter down the wedding aisle, meeting a financial goal, patenting an invention, earning a scholastic degree, expressing music, dance, or visual art, or winning a prestigious award. Someone once said, “My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am.”
What’s on your “bucket list”? Have you made one? Making goals and keeping track of your progress in reaching them is actually a predictor of success. Just wishing and visualizing, but not acting strategically, won’t get your items checked off or that sense of satisfaction or reward when you reach accomplishment.
Your objectives, at least the priorities, will almost certainly change through the years of your life. The list you made 10 years ago will not be the same as the one you’ll make five years from now. But a list is the first step in your plan to reach the desires of your heart.
My bucket list includes:
1 Learn to speak French
2 Have my book published
3 Live and work a year in a foreign country
4 Play Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu at tempo
5 Learn to play drums and other percussion instruments
6 Discover every last ancestor on my family tree
7 Improve overall health by balanced living
8 Reach the bottom of the ever-growing to-be-read book stack
They’ll take application of tuition, budgeting, persistence, research, patience, and some risk-taking. They’ll take some phone calls, some first steps, some networking, some sacrifice. Probably a large sacrifice!
As Christians, we know that it’s not our goodness, performance, or ability to keep God’s laws that will make the difference at the judgment. It’s not even God’s grace plus our best efforts.
“This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’” Romans 1:17 NLT.
Faith in what? Faith in God’s ability – and desire – to fully love, fully forgive, and save eternally. Even our faith doesn’t come from internal fortitude. Faith itself is also the gift of God, as you’ll see in the verse below.
So what is the point of life-list-making in a Christian’s life, if it doesn’t get us to heaven? Glad you asked that! The apostle Peter made an all-purpose bucket list for use in this world:
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8 NIV.
Notice that Peter’s bucket list is about BEING, not DOING, and that he said “make every effort… in increasing measure… effective… productive.” Sounds like a strategic plan to me!
Maybe we need more than one bucket list. There are lists for temporal accomplishments, the relationships we form along the way, and the eternal list (the one we can take with us, the treasure laid up in Jesus’ care).
What would you put on your list before Jesus comes? How about:
1 Positive and sunny
2 Sweet and humble
3 Ready with a soft answer
4 Encouraging and ever-thankful
5 Affectionate and compassionate
6 Patient and understanding
7 Forgiving and merciful
8 Seeking grace with every step
9 Honorable and upright
10 Discerning but not judgmental
This last list, not really a bucket list, but maybe a kingdom list, will have eternal consequences, but not only for the list-maker. Everyone on the planet will be blessed in some measure. You can’t really check items off this list, but they are worthy of pursuit!
The kingdom list of Peter’s, or the one you develop, will be about a state of being, which is what the psalmist is talking about: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6 NIV.
It’s not about God providing a nice home, a great job, healing from disease, or a spouse if you pray hard enough or show enough faith. This verse is about the desires of your heart for commitment, trust, justice, and righteousness. These desires are about WHOSE you are, not WHAT you do. They are echoes of God’s desires for us.
So sharpen that pencil and apply it to paper. Make your bucket list, make your kingdom list, and maybe even a list that bridges both. Make a plan to accomplish your items. Live with purpose and forward direction. Don’t think so much about kicking the bucket, as “livin’ the life” with gusto. Do it Sans plus attendre, "without further waiting."