It was February, 2015 in Libya, when 21 Coptic Christians were paraded before a camera along the Mediterranean shore, forced to kneel in the sand and given one last opportunity to renounce their faith. Their black hooded captors demanded they repeat these words, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
That day, the icy waters of the Mediterranean Sea were turned to blood as each man gave his life saying, “Lord Jesus Christ.”
The day may come for us to stand for our faith or be executed. I know in that day and hour God will give us the words to say. But think for a moment. If you were given the opportunity to say one final word, what would it be?
Down through the ages, men have left us with their final word.
- Joseph Wright, the man who edited the English Dialect Dictionary, said, “Dictionary.”
- Italian artist Raphael said, “Happy.”
- Composer Gustav Mahler said, “Mozart.”
- Writer T. S. Eliot’s final word was his wife’s name, “Valerie.”
- Bo Diddley, after listening to the song “Walk Around Heaven,” said “Wow.”
- Truman Capote’s last word was, “Mama.”
- Surgeon Joseph Henry Green checked his pulse as he lay dying and said, “Stopped.”
A Patriot’s last word might be – “Freedom.”
A soldier’s might be – “Charge.”
John the Baptist’s might have been – “Repent.”
Scripture tells us one of Jesus’ last words were – “Tetelestai,” meaning, “It is Finished.”
Not “I am finished,” “It,” the payment for our sin, was finished.
So I ask you, what would your last word be? We are people of words. More specifically, people of the Word. Let me set this aside for a moment.
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents.
The rich man told his servants to invest it. To one, he gave five talents, to another he gave two and to another, he gave one a talent being valued around $30,000. For our purposes, let’s consider a talent to represent words. To one writer, God may have given 150,000 words and told to invest them.
To another He may have given 60,000 words and another 30,000 according to their ability and told to invest them and grow them. The one servant who had five talents doubled his story into a saga and returned to his master ten talents or 300,000 words, possibility a series of novels.
What if you have been given a story idea of about 30,000 words? Have you invested the time and energy to do the research, character development, plot development, scene painting and all the other literary devices to expand your story to 60,000 words? Have you been careful to weave the message of God’s love and forgiveness between the lines and spaces?
The next servant who was given two talents or 60,000 words he doubled it into a sizable novel of 120,000 words and laid it at his master’s feet later to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”
But the last servant came with his one talent, his 30,000 word first draft and had to admit his failure. He had not invested the time to develop it. Rather, he buried it in a drawer someplace and left it, unembellished, undeveloped, unimproved. And of course we all know he faced severe judgement.
Let me return to my original question. “If you were given a chance to say or write one final word, what would it be?”
In the reiteration of the 21 Coptic Christians, they said, “Jesus.”
Some of you might say – “Love,” others might say, “God.”
That’s all well and good, but not enough for a complete thought or message. However, if you double it, as in our parable, now what would you have?
“Love God.” Or, if you turn it around, you have “God Loves.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. We have a message. It’s an imperative or a declarative message. Either way, it’s a powerful word for an impotent world. It gives hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless. And we’ve done it in two words.
They say, “Less is move.” You can’t improve much on that. No need to edit it. But then you could develop it. You could try doubling it.
“For God so loved . . .” Now we’ve got an antecedent phrase. In a musical sentence, there are two phrases: an antecedent phrase and a consequent phrase.
Isn’t it interesting, God, the author of our faith, has reduced His message of grace to one salient verse in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .”
That is the antecedent phrase. It is thirteen words long with “Son” being the pivotal word. The consequent phrase made up of twelve words – “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Completes the thought and give us the gospel.
That’s God’s final word. And so I leave you with my original question, “What’s your final word?