The American writer Ernest Hemingway was, it is said, once challenged to write a story in just six words. The story he supposedly produced has become legendary. "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn".
There is some debate as to whether Hemingway ever did write these words but wherever they came from they are poignant and incredibly powerful. A picture may well be worth a thousand words. Nonetheless the right words, however few, can speak volumes.
One American magazine picked up on the idea and has a regular competition inviting readers to describe their lives in just six words. One of the most moving I read was submitted by a widow who wrote, "I still make coffee for two." This tells us so much about the sense of loss that she is experiencing. We can almost picture her in her sorrow.
I feel that I am currently in good health but all this has led me to wonder about the words I would want to sum up my life. "Generally confused, but he meant well" springs to mind.
Anyone who has had to deliver a eulogy at a funeral will know the challenge of saying all that they want to in just a few minutes. To be given merely six words seems practically impossible.
There are, though, six words that come to mind that have formed the focus for my life in the, almost, 40 years since I committed myself to be a follower of Jesus Christ. At times the focus has become a bit blurred. At other times, by the grace of God the focus has sharpened again and motivated me to continue this daily challenge to be serious about discipleship in all that I do.
The six words? They appear in Matthew's gospel. Jesus tells a story of three men commissioned by their master to carry out a task. The one who does what is required is given words of approval. These are the words that I strive to hear and I commend them to you as a goal for your lives: "Well done, good and faithful servant."