It’s New Year’s Day, which means it’s time for the inevitable “Year in Review” articles from news outlets and every blog under the sun. One of my perennial favorites (morbidly so, I guess) is the list of famous people who died during the year. It’s not that I’m glad or sad that any of them have died; I just kind of like to keep track of who’s still with us and who isn’t. For some reason, it’s kind of disconcerting to me to wonder what someone like Buddy Hackett is up to these days, only to find out he died ten years ago.
Anyway, I happened upon one of these lists this morning from my local news affiliate entitled “2013 Notable Deaths“.
I kept turning that word over and over in my mind. Fifty-five point three million people across the globe die each year, and yet here are 135 whose deaths are considered notable. Why? What makes them any more notable than the tens of millions of others who died in 2013?
To be honest, I’ve never heard of 90-95% of these people. Most were either famous before my time, or they were marginally famous, or they were famous in a field or genre I don’t keep up with. They were actors, musicians, scientists, politicians, writers, athletes, business people.
“He was best known for his role as…”
“She won the Nobel Prize for…”
“She was the author of…”
And for the vast majority of them, that’s where it ends. A brief epitaph in an end of year summary article. In a generation, only a handful of the most historic of these 135 will be remembered. And for what? Ruling a country? A scientific breakthrough? Pardon my ennui, but, so what? You can’t take those things with you when you die.
A line from one of my favorite poems reads:
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
You’ve likely never heard of C.T. Studd, although he probably would have made the “notable deaths” list for 1931. He was a famous British cricketeer who gave up the game to become a missionary to China, India, and Africa. Some of his work is still being carried on by others today, and countless Asian and African souls will spend eternity in Heaven thanks to his selfless desire to advance the gospel instead of himself.
There have been untold millions out there who, like Studd, have labored faithfully for Christ and His kingdom. They have died on the mission field. They have steadfastly proclaimed God’s word to tiny country church congregations, never being offered a book deal or a speaking engagement at a major Christian conference. They have nursed the sick, cared for the orphan, visited those in prison, and loved the unlovely. They have been mothers and factory workers and teachers and seamstresses and businessmen and bakers who scattered the seed of the gospel as they went about their daily duties.
They never made it onto anybody’s “notable deaths” list. Neither will I, and you probably won’t either. But for those of us who belong to Christ and serve Him faithfully, who “aspire to live quietly, and to mind [our] own affairs, and to work with [our] hands,” our deaths are notable to Someone, eternally.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.