The Life Plan of Tommy Adkins
On August 3rd, 2014, a remarkable man passed on. He was 95 years old, and his name was Thomas (Tommy) Spencer Adkins. World War II Veteran, missionary, and church leader, Tommy and his wife, Ellen, lived a life wholly dedicated to serving others. In this article, I want to share with you Tommy’s personal life plan which he had written and kept as the blueprint for his life.
Clear and concise, this life plan offers any leader a model of how to live with purpose. I hope you will find it as insightful as I did.
Lives of Service
First, allow me to share with you a little bit about Tommy. Twenty years ago, my family moved from Mobile, Alabama to Fort Worth, Texas as my father was appointed the pastor of a small local church. That’s where I met Mr. Adkins, as most people called him.
The last 22 years of their lives, Tommy and Ellen served whole-heartedly at the church. As both the church’s Council Chairman and Finance Director, Tommy drew on his 50 years of experience as the Director of various hospitals and organizations in many places all around the world, including Hong Kong and Gaza.
Tommy and Ellen loved people. They lived with purpose. They sought no glory or glamour. They did whatever was needed without fanfare. They taught Bible studies, drove people to church, and were confidants and counselors to the pastor and church leaders. They were paragons of quiet, resolute, and gentle commitment. Even though they were successful missionaries for much of their lives in charge of big projects, they chose in their last years to serve at a small mission church.
Solid, confident, and stoic, this former college football player was always a foundation of strength for our church, and for all who knew him. I visited them in their home about eight months ago. Even in their mid-90’s, both Tommy and Ellen were focused, sharp, and as loving as ever. We spent some time in Tommy’s library. He showed me the formidable manual he was putting together to be used in churches for teaching. He was not slowing down.
I was honored to have been asked by his family to play the piano during his memorial on August 9th. As I sat there, playing a few favored hymns, I reflected on the life Tommy had lived. Below are some of Tommy’s words, the foundations of his life journey. From them, I hope you can uncover many lessons about life and living.
Values to Emulate
Tommy included this poem in his life plan. These words describe the man I knew, and the man I want to be. I think you may find these words about choosing edifying as well.
…So Choose Wisely
Choose to love, rather than hate.
Choose to laugh, rather than cry.
Choose to create, rather than destroy.
Choose to praise, rather than gossip.
Choose to heal, rather than wound.
Choose to give, rather than steal.
Choose to act, rather than procrastinate.
Choose to grow, rather than not.
Choose to pray, rather than to curse.
Choose to live, rather than die.
Clarity of Purpose
Tommy wrote out his life plan, which was shared at his memorial. With the permission of his family, I want to share it with you here. It taught me so much.
- Write out your life plan.
- Make God the cornerstone of your plan.
- Be deliberate and intentional with how you live.
Even though you may not have known Tommy, I think you will be able to see the man he was by the following words:
- My Philosophy: Man was created in the image of God for the purpose of having fellowship with God. Therefore, he is of supreme worth, and his life is to glorify God.
- My Purpose in Life: My definite purpose is to do the will of God, to glorify His name, and to be an instrument worthy to the Master’s use in accomplishing His purpose. To God’s call, my answer is, “YES, LORD.”
Spiritual: Recognizing that my relationship with God is of primary importance and urgency in order that I may be usable in carrying out His purpose, my spiritual objective is: to maintain a dynamic, viable devotional life, through studying and memorizing His word, and in meditation, prayer, and sharing with others “that I may know Him.” To use and develop my gifts for the edification of the body of Christ.
Physical: To maintain my physical body tone and health by proper exercise, diet, and rest.
- Mental: To keep mentally alert and actively and inquisitively aware of current world affairs. To maintain a “learning” attitude.
- Financial: Recognizing that I receive God’s gifts not only to deepen my own worship experience, and to edify the Body of Christ, but also to share with others. I therefore commit my life anew to fulfill His purpose, to be a good steward of all material blessings, and to share with those in need to the glory of God.
Family: To be a loving, caring husband and father. To help and support other members in my family in any way I can. To encourage and strengthen each one to become his/her best self.
Society: To promote and develop social relationships with people in all walks of life for my social enrichment, for their social benefit, and for the Master’s glory.
- Career (Ministry): To use the talents, skills, abilities and resources God has given me, and those which He may help me develop and/or acquire, to serve others in His name, and to share the Good News.
Since God has enabled me to develop the gifts and skills He has given me in administration, teaching, management, and handcrafts, my objective is to use those skills all my life in whatever place and under whatever conditions He may lead. Plans need to be reviewed periodically, to set new goals in each area that are measurable in time, relevance and direction, and to evaluate progress. Words on paper without action are worthless. I don’t expect anyone else to copy what I have set down as MY plan, but I challenge each one of you to develop your own plan, as God leads you, then pattern your life for success.
It is also worth noting that Tommy’s sweet wife, Ellen, also aged 95, who also was a formidable person of high and humble character, passed away only a few weeks before he did. To both of them I say, thank you.
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