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10 Necessary Things to Do in This Life before You Kick the Bucket

  • Dawn Wilson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Necessary Things to Do in This Life before You Kick the Bucket

Some writers provide detailed “before-you-kick-the-bucket” lists, including Joe McKeever on Crosswalk who offered 50 things believers should do before heaven.

Instead, I believe there are 10 necessary areas I need to deal with before I die. That concept is more relevant to me today. Recently diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I don’t know how many years the Lord has planned for me, but I do know I need to make eternity my center point and—as much as possible—not leave any unfinished business.

Rather than a bucket list, I have a before-I-die focused list. Here are my 10 “necessary things.”

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1. Take Spiritual Inventory

1. Take Spiritual Inventory

This begins with an understanding of where I’m going when I die. Am I destined for heaven? Have I followed God’s plan for getting there? But settling the eternity question is only the starting point.

Am I taking anyone with me? Am I sharing the Gospel? Am I growing in the grace and knowledge of God through the Word of God and leading of the Holy Spirit? What are my priorities—God, husband, family, ministry?

It’s never too late to begin practicing the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and Scripture memorization. I’m memorizing Ephesians because I want to be an “expert” on that book, and I want God to be my teacher. Scattered among more contemporary titles on my bookshelves are classic Christian volumes—books like A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God and Richard Owen Roberts’ Revival. I bought them in my 30s when I wanted to “impress” people, but now, with eternity just around the corner, I actually want to know what they say! 

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2. Establish a Heavenly Focus

2. Establish a Heavenly Focus

It’s been said heaven is “a prepared place for a prepared people.” But how prepared are we? My thoughts turn more often toward heaven now. I read Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven; I want to make sure the years I have left are focused on eternity. In the past, I found it hard to balance earthly responsibilities with a heaven-ward focus. I thought they were antithetical.

Trying to find greater balance, I read Making Today Count for Eternity by Kent Crockett. “Contrary to popular opinion,” Crockett wrote, “being heavenly-minded always inspires us to be of more earthly good.”  "We don’t need to look for more things to do,” he said, “We just need to do a better job with what God has already assigned us to do.”

The truth is, we should take earthly responsibilities seriously because God will award divine assignments based on our obedience and faithfulness. “What is the most important thing you can do with your life?—whatever God wants you to do at the moment,” Crockett said. “It doesn’t take huge accomplishments to make God smile.

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3. Attempt Ministry Upgrades

3. Attempt Ministry Upgrades

Crosswalk author Joe McKeever said, “Make sure all within your ‘sneeze halo’ are saved.” The sneeze halo represents your closest family members, co-workers, and neighbors. Also, are you serving and loving them like Jesus would? Then, expand your ministry. Volunteer at local ministries, nursing homes, shelters or hospitals. Visit a foreign mission field and find a way to serve Jesus there.

Ministry upgrades might include giving more—upping the tithe or offering more generous designated gifts. It might mean using spiritual gifts to bless others. Practically speaking, it could include buying your pastor or another servant of God new technology or clothing. It might mean enabling your pastor’s wife’s desire to attend a women’s conference. Whatever you do, follow the example of Jesus and serve with humility (John 13:1-5).

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4. Seek Financial Freedom

4. Seek Financial Freedom

On my blog, author and financial expert Ellie Kay and financial planner Janice Thompson share financial principles for success, and both stress the importance of financial freedom. Personal debt has skyrocketed in our affluent society. Clearly, we need to go on a debt diet and learn God’s timeless truths about financial health. I recommend Faith-based Family Finances by Ron Blue and Jeremy White.

Financial freedom is not only an outgrowth of embracing biblical principles of finance and stewardship; it’s also important as we think about what we will leave behind at our death: a huge debt or a resource God can use long after we are gone.

Pay off all bills and get out of debt. Determine to live out a pattern of stewardship and financial freedom—not only to honor God but because your family is watching and learning from you. A wonderful new resource, recommended by Janice Thompson at Kingdom Advisors, offers a money coach to help individuals work toward greater financial health. Check it out at Moneywise Radio.

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5. Pursue Relational Growth

5. Pursue Relational Growth

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and then love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Before we die, we need to be sure we have obeyed these commands.

Start by telling loved ones how much you love them. Find practical ways to express lovingkindness. Then reach out to individuals you have hurt or someone who has hurt you. Ask—and give—forgiveness. If you struggle, I recommend ChoosingForgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wolgemuth).

It’s never too late to build relational bridges. Take time to find the people who have changed or greatly influenced your life. Write them a note of gratitude, speak a prayer blessing over them, or think of a special way to honor them. 

6. Cultivate Emotional Health

6. Cultivate Emotional Health

Too many people make excuses for negative emotions, but the Lord wants to change our hearts. God is still working on my emotions; He wants to steady me. Before I die, I want to become a person who shuns bitterness and laughs easily. I want to be a person who creates beauty around me that pleases God while stimulating my God-given senses. I want to cultivate activities that feed my joy in God’s presence and His creation.

I also want to make progress in overcoming debilitating emotional habits—like anger about things that don’t matter, jumping to conclusions, and believing lies from Satan that prompt negative reactions. I especially want to conquer envy and comparisons.

I’ve noticed the Fruit of the Spirit has an emotional element—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.—but they’re also choices we make to become more like Jesus. We cooperate with the Spirit in obeying God’s Word, and He gradually changes our emotional responses.

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7. Expand Mental Stimulation

7. Expand Mental Stimulation

Get wisdom and cherish understanding; allow God to transform your thinking. Joe McKeever suggested doing things to “widen” ourselves—broadening interests by visiting libraries and reading magazines or taking notes in church or at a conference. He also suggested ways to “deepen” ourselves. We might pick a field or topic that fascinates us and dig in deeper to learn more at the library, a community college, or online.

To stretch mental stimulation, plan some adventures with God, some pilgrimages! Ask a friend to join you at a Bible conference, and then get together later to digest what you learned. Study travel magazines, and book a vacation or cruise where you can learn while you de-stress. Visit Israel and see firsthand the places you’ve only read about in the Bible.

Assemble boxed puzzles, do crossword puzzles or play word games to keep mentally alert. Become a better conversationalist. Learn how to tell a good, clean joke! Knit, crochet, do cross-stitch, work with wood or make jewelry. As we age, the mind isn’t always clear. Be grateful you can stimulate your mind for as long as possible.

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8. Pump-up Physical Strength

8. Pump-up Physical Strength

Keep on working to improve your physical strength and functionality. God knows your timeline; but from your perspective, try to prolong that inevitable “kick the bucket” appointment! Glorify God in your body and plan for better fitness. Don’t get lazy!

Aging brings many problems, but there are always options to pump up physical strength, even a little bit. I have a breathing issue that prevents strenuous exercise, but I can still walk slowly at the mall, build strength in my arms with light weights, or exercise in a pool. Don’t focus on what you can’t do; focus on what you can!

Choose foods wisely with an eye to color and nutrition, and lose weight to coax your body into better health. Guard against gluttony. Get regular physicals and check-ups. Too many avoid the doctor or dentist, hoping to avoid any “bad news” about a disease, but it’s better to have bad news now than the undertaker before you’re ready!

9. Purge Your Life and Home

9. Purge Your Life and Home

The closer we get to heaven, the more we’ll want to shed the distractions and hindrances of earth and lay up treasures in heaven. Our entire family helped my husband’s elderly parents move. Dad and Mom went through the natural process of downsizing at their age—and it was hard! They struggled to sort through precious memories, and tears flowed when letting go.

Afterward, I determined to purge my own home so my sons’ families wouldn’t have to deal with so much after I’m gone. During that purge, I committed to taking one box per week to a charity—things I hadn’t used in five years or didn’t absolutely love. There are many resources to help with the purging process, and specialists like the Organizing Pro, Marcia Ramsland.

When I received my Myeloma diagnosis, I also decided to purge my life—something I should have done years ago. Some things just needed to go: things that didn’t please God, things that hindered me from serving others, and meaningless time-wasters. So much can rob us of joy,  peace or contentment. Purging one’s life is even more impactful than purging a home.

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10. Remember Practical Preparations

10. Remember Practical Preparations

Please take time to make a will. It’s not just about the distribution of financial wealth to family members, gifts to charities or churches, etc. Financial expert Ellie Kay wrote, “The main section of this critical document will assign a guardian for your children.”

An additional Living Will—“advance directives”—can be controversial. Be sure to express your desires concerning health care treatment before death. Christian attorneys are usually familiar with “unique types” of directives, including a durable power of attorney for health care.

Many believers don’t realize they can also include a “Christian Preamble” to their will, a statement of faith and communication of legacy truth. Janice Thompson at One Degree Advisors says, “A legacy is most often thought of in terms of money or the ‘stuff’ you leave behind. Far more impactful, however, are the values, wisdom and life lessons that have shaped you. Everyone leaves a legacy; the question is whether you are intentionally designing it—or not. What will your legacy be, and how many generations will it touch?

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Now, What Will You Do?

Now, What Will You Do?

I have spiritual, social, emotional, mental and emotional goals, and many other “necessary things” to do before I pass into eternity, and each one has focal points for growth and change. The Lord may speak to you about other issues. The important thing is, will you listen? Will you obey?


Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach. 

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