No One Was Sorry When He Died
Rev. Tony Cooke
“No one was sorry when he died.” That is a tough statement to hear, but it was made of Judah’s fifth king, Jehoram.
“Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery” (2 Chronicles 21:20 NLT).
What does it take to gain such infamy for oneself? For starters, he killed all his brothers and other recognized leaders as soon as he was established in his position. His wife was one of Ahab and Jezebel’s daughters, and he promoted of idolatry and pagan shrines. Upon his death, he was denied the honor of customary burial in the royal cemetery. The Message version renders part of the above verse this way: “There were no tears shed when he died—it was good riddance!”
Around thirty years ago, I went to a funeral home for a visitation. A somewhat older gentleman in the church had died, and his widow said to me, “Please don’t be surprised if you don’t see me showing a lot of emotion or shedding any tears. While my husband was very friendly at church, behind closed doors he was a very difficult and unpleasant person to live with. About the only thing I’m feeling right now is relief that he’s gone and that I don’t have to put up with him anymore.”
Those were very sobering words to hear, and I thought how sad it was for a person to live his entire life only for them to have those kinds of sentiments expressed at his death. That’s not the way it is for those whose lives are a blessing to others. Proverbs 10:7 (NLT) states, “We have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away.”
What a Good Life Looks Like
In contrast, there was a godly woman mentioned in the book of Acts. She wasn’t royalty and there is no indication she had any lofty position by societal standards. However, when she died, people mourned lovingly and deeply for her. People were feeling the loss of a good and kind woman.
Luke tells us of Dorcas, who “was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36 NLT). You remember the story of how she died and God used Peter to raise her from the dead, but don’t forget how she was being remembered by those who had been impacted by her life: “The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them” (Acts 9:39 NLT).
Here is something important to notice: Our influence is not ultimately determined by our position or title, but by our character and actions. King Jehoram may have had a greater position and more potential for influence, but he did not exercise it well. He could have used his position for the common good and for the benefit of others, but he didn’t. He squandered and wasted the potential he had, probably on self-promotion and self-gain.
Dorcas, on the other hand, seemingly had little potential, but she multiplied it over and over again through simple acts of generosity and kindness. Love was so big on the inside of her that it always found a way to be expressed.
Though Jehoram seemingly had all the resources, he was disdained at his passing. While Dorcas seemingly had so little, she was blessed, honored, and esteemed. Jehoram had more (by earthly standards), but Dorcas gave more. In short, through God’s grace, Dorcas was a great influencer.
To Be an Influencer, You Must First Be Influenced
You can’t give what you don’t have. On the God-side of the equation, Paul asks, “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT).
On the negative side of things, how many people have been the recipient of other peoples’ sinful words and actions, only to pass on the same pain they’ve received to others. How many abusive people were first abused by others? How many harsh, unkind people learned that behavior from others?
While that is valid, we don’t have to keep passing on the poison we may have received from others. One of my pastor-friends, Mark Bintliff in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, ends every service by leading his people in this outstanding statement of faith: “What God did in Christ Jesus far exceeds any damage done to me by Adam’s fall.” It is a huge realization when a person recognizes he or she does not have to remain a lifelong prisoner to their past.
While Christ makes the new birth available, and while we get to enjoy being a new creation, there is still a process of growth — of renewing the mind and learning new behaviors. This is why Paul tells believers to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT).
In my own spiritual journey, and in observing and helping others over the years, I’ve noticed three things that typically happen when a person is endeavoring to implement the principles just mentioned from Paul. First, there must be a recognition of the sinfulness of the old behavior as well as an acknowledgment of the virtues of the new lifestyle. Second, there needs be a resolve to allow God’s transforming power to work in our lives from the inside out. God won’t force us to change if we insist on continuing to embrace the old. Third, there must be a replacement of the old behavior with new actions as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In other words, we were influenced one way in the past. Whether it was bad examples set by certain people we looked up to, lessons from media, or simply from the sinful nature, we had influences that endeavored to shape our nature and our lifestyle. Of course, we may have also had good examples, and that is certainly important. But ultimately, Jesus becomes our overarching influencer. His Word and His Spirit infuse us with life and begin to facilitate the growth of godly fruit in our lives. When we have been influenced the right way, we are ready to not just be changed, but to become a change agent — to become influencers ourselves.
Even in natural things, we can receive influence from others and be grateful.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Sir Isaac Newton
“Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”
– Albert Einstein
When we add the biblical and supernatural elements to these principles, we come up with a realization of our responsibilities of providing godly influence through every aspect of our lives. We don’t claim to be perfect, but we share what we have in order to glorify God and help others.
Jesus taught us, “Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8 NLT). The apostle Paul expanded this further when he instructed believers, “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us”
What kind of influence are we to have? Daniel foresaw believers making a massive difference! He wrote, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3 NLT). My prayer is that this is exactly what the church will be — exactly what the church will do — in these last days!
May we be intentional about expressing the tangible love and compassion of God. We may not have lofty positions or impressive titles. Maybe we are more like Dorcas. She just had a needle and some thread, but she used what she had to care for and minister to others. She made a difference. She impacted lives. That is why we are here.