March 15, 2023
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Nancy Reagan called it "the long goodbye." Her beloved husband's slow slide into the black hole of Alzheimer's Disease. America said goodbye to Nancy Reagan too, and we remember her as a great First Lady and a wife forever in love with her "Ronnie." Her boundless devotion to him became almost legendary. And at her funeral service, more people talked about that than anything else. See, when he was the famous Hollywood star and when he was a transformative leader of the Western World, Nancy stood by his side, but especially through his long, ten-year goodbye.
As Ronald Reagan's memory began to fade through the ravages of Alzheimer's, his Nancy wanted to make sure that he could still maintain the dignity of going to his office at Century City. Several times a week he'd get all dressed up, he'd go to the office. And even though as time went by there wasn't a whole lot he could do there.
This is where the story comes in that has affected me profoundly ever since I read it years ago. Actually, I read it in a national news magazine's special commemorative edition of Reagan's life. It reported how visitors would come to visit Mr. Reagan. And, of course, they'd ask him about when he was governor of California, when he was a movie star, and when he was President. But slowly, the conversations about the past became more frustrating, because as Alzheimer's began to erase various memories, his years as a movie star vanished from his memory bank. And then you might as well not talk about being Governor of California. He didn't remember anything.
And finally, he couldn't even remember even the great accomplishments as President of the United States. Amazingly, though, there was one memory that remained almost to the end.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "A President and Your Purpose."
The memory actually explained a picture on his wall. People would go, "Now, what's the picture of that river over there, Mr. Reagan?" groping for some conversation that could have some traction. And he'd smile and he would say, "Oh, wait! That's the Rock River in Illinois. That's where I was a lifeguard." Then came the recollection that brought me up short. He said, "That's where I saved 77 lives!"
Wow! Long after the traces of all his massive achievements were gone; Hollywood, Governor, the White House, there was one legacy of his life that remained; the lives he had saved. And so it will be for me. And so it will be for all of us who follow Jesus. When every other achievement of our life has faded to dust, one will remain - the lives we have saved.
In our word for today from the Word of God, Proverbs 24:11, God says, "Rescue those who are being led away to death and hold back those who are staggering toward slaughter." Jude 23 says, "Snatch others from the fire and save them." See, the Bible says we're "Christ's ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20). You're His face, you're His hands, you're His voice to the people around you.
Like any ambassador, we carry a message from the One who assigned us. Here's the message in 2 Corinthians 5, "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God..." I have nothing - nothing - more important to do than to get to that plea; to get the good news of Christ's death for them to people I know and care about. That's the only way their eternity can be changed. It's the only way they can be rescued. This is life-or-death information, and He's trusted you and He's trusted me to deliver it.
So after all is said and done, this is what we will have to show for this life that God gave us to live. It's the lives we've reached out to. It's the lives that God used us to save.