Howard Hughes' last years were spent in isolation, hidden on the top floor of the Xanadu Hotel in the Bahamas. One biographer wrote about Hughes' appearance before he died: "He was emaciated, practically skeletal, with only 120 pounds stretched over his six-foot, four-inch frame. He was not dead, but it seemed his body was already in decay. Only the long grey hair that trailed halfway down his back, the thin straggly beard that reached midway onto his sunken chest, and his hideously long nails still showed sign of life. He lay naked in bed, deathly afraid of germs. He spent his days watching movies. He watched his favorite movie, Ice Station Zebra, at least 150 times. Finally emaciated and hooked on morphine and codeine, he died at age 67." (Bill Hybels, Character: Reclaiming Six Endangered Qualities, p. 47- 48)
When he died in 1976, there was no one to claim his body. Finally a distant cousin was given custody of his body. Time Magazine reported: "Howard Hughes' death was commemorated in Las Vegas by a minute of silence. Casinos fell silent. Housewives stood uncomfortably clutching their paper cups full of coins at the slot machines, the blackjack games paused, and at the crap tables the stickmen cradled the dice in the crook of their wooden wands. Then a pit boss looked at his watch, leaned forward and said, 'O.K., roll the dice. He's had his minute.'"
Howard Hughes really "lived it up" in this life, but he ended up losing what was most valuable--his soul. That's exactly what Jesus meant when He said, "What good will it be for a man, if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)
Compare Howard Hughes to the life and death of Jim Elliot. On January 8, 1956, he and three other men were attacked and killed by the Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador while they were taking the gospel to them. Before he went to South America Jim wrote these words in his diary: "God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one like You, Lord Jesus." ... "He is no fool to give what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he can never lose."
Although the world would say that Jim LOST his life that day, the truth is he lost his life to Christ before he ever went. He surrendered his life to Jesus and lived a crucified life. The Aucas couldn't really kill Jim Elliot that day because he was already dead; he was dead to self and alive in Christ.
Howard Hughes is a sad story of a man who attained great riches, but basically wasted his life. Jim Elliot is an example of man who surrendered his life to Jesus and ended up gaining everything for eternity.
(From a sermon by David Dykes, Don't Waste Your Life, 8/31/2011)
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Brian Mavis on Oct 27, 2000
You share Christ by imitating Christ. A story is told – by Fredrick Beuchner I believe – called “The Happy Hypocrite." It is a story about a man who was born with an awful facial deformity. He grew up alone and lonely. When reaching adulthood, he decided to move from his town to begin a new life. ...read more
Contributed by Tim Zingale on Dec 12, 2000
Remember the opening scene: the village and you see a fiddler on the roof and Tevye says:"A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? but in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. ...read more
Contributed by Owen Bourgaize on Oct 18, 2000
Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change ...read more
Contributed by Philip Makari on Jan 17, 2001
Here I speak of a special type of giving, the giving of our total selves first to God. It is the giving of body, soul and spirit for God’s use that we may achieve, for ourselves and for others, the higher ends of God. This is not, as you can see, charity giving. This is dedication giving. ...read more