My wife Tammy celebrated one of those “milestone” birthdays last year. In her life, Tammy has survived a lot, including a few life-threatening illnesses. But I could tell that this particular birthday, if not bothering her, certainly was reminding her of the passage of time. She pointed out that a niece, who was also celebrating a birthday on that same day, was forty years younger than her. Most likely, neither Tammy nor I will not be here when she is the age that Tammy is today. That is a sobering thought.
Or consider another example. Tammy and I spend some time with our niece and her three triplets each week. The boys are just over 17 months old. It crossed my mind that I might very well not live to see them graduate college or get married. Again, a very sobering thought.
That got me to thinking about time, something I do quite often these days. Although we live each day, and time can appear to go slowly, we are often jarred as we think about how much of life we’ve actually lived already. It’s almost like we blink, and we realize that our primary working career is already over. Many loved ones and friends are gone already, and others are older and experiencing significant physical problems and pain.
On the other hand, lately I’ve noticed many obituaries in our local paper of people much younger than I am. How many more years will I have? How many will you have? We aren’t guaranteed the next second. How can we make the most of the time that we are given?
Our pastor preached through the epistle of James. James tells us that our life is a mist, that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). After all, our time here on earth, be it 70 or 80 years, is going to be just a fraction, when you consider it in terms of eternity.
In John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life, he writes of a plaque that hung in his family’s kitchen over the sink as he was growing up. On the front, in old English script, painted in white, were the words:
Only one life
’Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Piper writes that the message was clear to him, that we only get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ. The burning question for him was what would it mean to waste his life? Or more positively, what would it mean to live well and not waste his life. That’s a question we should all consider, no matter what our current age is.
Along these same lines, Tammy has recently been pondering how best to steward her time, which is always wise and something that all of us should consider. I try to live a life with no regrets, but if I am honest, I have not done nearly enough for the Lord, including sharing my faith and telling others about Him.
How about you? Don’t assume that you will be given 80 years of good physical health and a clear mind. We aren’t guaranteed that. When you consider James telling you that life is but a mist, that appears for a little time and then vanishes, does that change how you will spend your time?
Let’s venture into this day using our time well by loving and serving the Lord and others.
The author is unknown, but is believed to be a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. This was found in his study:
“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made — I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.”
“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.”
“My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifices, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.”
“I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me … my banner will be clear.”
With this kind of resolve we will, with God’s help, have the strength to survive against our cultural stream, or perhaps even reverse it. Of course we are a minority, but armed with the promises of God we can have a spiritual impact that is greater than our numbers might suggest.
It may come down to a simple question: Are we willing to pay the price?