The world is currently shaken by the exit of one the greatest footballers in world history, Diego Maradona. Football fans have never adored any striker as much as Maradona since the Pele of Brazil hanged his boots. Endowed with exceptional kinetic intelligence and passion for the game, he excelled at it without putting in as much hard work as some others. Some football fanatics concluded he was not an ordinary human being and chose to deify him by establishing a church in his honor, worshipping both God and Diego in an unprecedented form of syncretism.
The above story I believe forms an understanding of why many humans who made exceptional impact on their times have been turned into deities today. Very religious ones are canonized and turned into saints who become mediums through which prayers are offered to God in another form of subtle idolization.
Like Diego, millions have passed to the great beyond this year, particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Suffering Covid symptoms in March 2020 myself made me rehearse a mental exercise I carried out about 17 years ago on a flight from the United States of America to the United Kingdom en route Nigeria. I had purchased a book at an airport bookstore, half of which’s content I later detested because it was full of eastern mysticism repugnant to my faith in Jesus Christ. However, in the first half of the book which I enjoyed thoroughly, the author had advised that the reader attends his or how funeral in their imaginations as part of a process of vividly articulating their lives purpose. As I began to find it difficult to hold my breath for more than 30 seconds without coughing, panting for breath after a short climb of stairs, I rehearsed the mental exercise of 17 years ago and concluded it was not yet time to die. It wouldn’t have been the funeral I envisioned if I passed away in March 2020. There is work to be done, grounds and territories to conquer and multitudes to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Death is inevitable and yet the emotional grief associated with it has made it such a dread that we don’t want to think about it. Yet, one of the greatest keys to wisdom is to imagine the end so we can take a more discerning look at how the present aligns with it. A look from the end with the help of the Holy Spirit will allow necessary ‘course corrections’ that will guarantee a safe and fulfilling arrival at the right shore.
Looking back I remember how well dressed I was, how I parked my car in the parking lot, approached the church funeral service, collected a printed program at the door and sat in the pew. My eyes panned through the crowd as I saw my grieving wife, children and grandchildren. Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the pain of their loss in advance. I saw associates, friends, church members and representatives of the body of Christ at large. As I settled into my seat in the funeral service, I began to read my biography and the eulogies and tributes. Life had passed away so quickly but I was full of gratitude that it was well spent. Dreaming of becoming a lawyer and a politician before I met Jesus Christ my Lord and master, my motives were nothing but fame and fortune. The Lord changed my course to a lifetime of ministry. Seeing souls saved, purpose discovered, captives freed, prayers answered and many more have been the joys of several decades and of far more excellent worth than my former dreams.
It is so easy to drift away from what really matters. We get easily distracted by what others are doing, peer pressure, the rat race, baseless competitions, and human expectations. When life has come and gone, most of the things men value are of no worth at all. Only the things that make for eternal value really matter. Diego cannot take his medals, money and fame to the afterlife. According to the scriptures, we can only take eternal life, which is available by trusting in the substitutionary and sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary (John 3:16, John 11:25), our good works made up of our obedience to the call of God according to His eternal purpose (Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 5:16) and also the treasures we have laid up by giving our substance to the poor and to evangelism(Philippians 4:17-18, 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”” -Revelation 14:13 NKJV