Recently I was asked to help a family come up with some words for the headstone of their 3-year-old child, who had passed through death to eternal life. In a few words we described the character and nature of this precious little guy. We looked at his whole little life and came up with appropriate adjectives that put his unique persona into word form so others would come to know him too — a few words that summed up a whole life.

Can we sum up in a few words what our life looks like right now? How about what it looked like last year? Typically, when looking back, we see that we have not done all we wanted to do. And, when we look at the present, we see we do not live how we want to live. And yet the hopeful future allows us to look forward to a new year’s clean slate to write better words on.

If your life were required of you today, this moment, what would be the adjectives that describe you right now? What words would your husband, children, friends, and family say? Here is my honest-to-not-so-goodness list of things that could be written about me today:

Unfaithful in her relationship with her God (she could have been more faithful)

Impatient in her relationship with her spouse (she could have been more patient)

Unkind in her relationship with her children (she could have been much kinder)

Judgmental in her relationship with friends and family (she could have shown more mercy and grace)

Scattered in all her doings (she could have been more organized and prepared)

Unfaithful, impatient, unkind, judgmental, scattered — not exactly the words that would make a good epilogue of my life. ­These are not the words of life, but rather they are the words of a woman who still has too much death residing in her. What kinds of words should describe my life at any given moment in time? More importantly, what words would God want to hear? How do I get from my earthly words to hearing these heavenly words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)?

I believe God wants to say those words to us even more than we want to hear them. Our lives seem to show that fact daily. Thus, He gives us what we need to live a life worthy of those words. His Words of life need to replace my words of death. I must know them to get from here to there. In other words, if I want to hear Him say “well done,” then I should work backwards and determine the meaning of these words: good and faithful servant. What does it mean to be good? What does it mean to be faithful? What does it mean to be a servant of God? These are the things that will cause God to say those famous last words: “Well done.”

Famous Last Word: GOOD

I want to be good: a good Christian, a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good teacher. But I am none of these things. Several times, the Bible states that “there is no one good; not one” (see Psalm 53:1–3, Luke 18:18–19, Romans 3:10–12), so then how do we reconcile this lack of goodness in us? How can we be called “good” if there is no one good? If we look at the context of that passage in Luke, you see that Jesus is telling the rulers that if they were calling Him good, they were calling him God, for the only place goodness is found is in Him. It looks to me like they didn’t even understand their own words, let alone what Christ was implying. Can we see the logic here that they couldn’t see: Jesus is good; therefore, Jesus is God, for there is none good but God.

However, a myriad of Scriptures pronounce God’s goodness, so if His Spirit dwells in these earthen vessels, then what they are filled with is His goodness. It’s not that the vessel is good; rather, what is in the vessel is good. Even though we have all sinned, the sin of our vessel is covered in order that we might have the words His righteousness declared over us: