What would you do if you woke up tomorrow morning and found your obituary in the Birmingham Newsor Shelby County Reporter? That happened to Alfred Nobel once, and, given another chance to write his own life story, he determined to change his legacy for the good.
You probably recognize the name Nobel. Yes, it’s the same Nobel for which the foundation was named that gives out “prizes” each year, including the Nobel Prize for literature which was awarded yesterday to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The Nobel Prizes, which have been announced one by one over the past week, recognize people from around the world for their work in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and the most noted category, peace.
Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have included Mother Teresa, Desmund Tutu, Albert Schweitzer and Martin Luther King, Jr., just to name a few. The 2016 winner, announced last Friday, is Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, who was recognized “for his resolute effort to bring the country’s more than 50-year civil war to an end.”
Alfred Nobel and I share a birthday–he was born 127 years before me. He was born and lived his life in Sweden, and was highly educated. He was fluent in several languages, and wrote poetry and drama. He was also a chemist, engineer, inventor and businessman who held over 355 different patents. He amassed a significant fortune in his lifetime, and especially made a name for himself for his invention of dynamite, and the development of explosive weaponry used in war.
When his brother died in the 1890’s, a Swedish newspaper mistakenly thought it was Alfred who had passed away and printed his premature obituary instead. As he read his own obituary, which condemned him for profiting from the sale of arms, he wondered if that was what he really wanted to be remembered for: Alfred Nobel, creator of weapons of mass destruction.
So, in the remaining years of his life, he set about to change his own legacy, and to make his life’s work count for something more than warfare. With his final will and testament, which he signed on Nov. 27, 1895, he left most of his immense wealth to a foundation he formed to honor people who have distinguished themselves in areas of the arts and sciences, and in making peace, not war. Over the years, millions of dollars in Nobel Prizes have been awarded by the foundation to individuals who made a positive difference in the world.
It certainly makes you wonder, what would your obituary say if you had a chance to read it now? Would you be satisfied with what it said? Are you leaving behind the kind of legacy that you would want to read about, or will you be known for something less than your life’s goals and purposes? The good news is, there’s still time to impact the world and make a difference, for the Lord’s sake.
My challenge to each of us is to live today like you would want to be remembered tomorrow, and “…whatsoever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) In doing so, not only will you write your own obituary, but our Lord will be honored through your life, and you will leave a legacy of faithfulness that will outlast your days on earth.
I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.