I wonder how much you have accomplished this year? As we approach the beginning of a new year, no doubt many will be making new years resolutions. As we look back on the past year we may be more resolved to make better use of the time God gives us. Some people pass time; some people make time; some people kill time; while others do time. But how can we make the best possible use of the time God gives us in this upcoming new year? I believe we can make the best possible use of the time God gives us by…
REALISING THE BREVITY OF LIFE
Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach [us] to number our days, that we may apply [our] hearts unto wisdom.”
My father-in-law recently told me that there are three signs of old-age. The first sign of old-age, he said, is that you keep forgetting things. But he couldn’t remember what the other two were. Every grey hair, every new wrinkle, every aching bone is God’s gentle reminder to us that life is short and that we are to apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Late one night while I was working for the dean of men’s office at the Bible college I attended, a young man named Randy came to me and asked if we could talk. He shared how he had deliberately broken some of the college rules. They were small offences — what many would term insignificant — but God had been working in Randy’s heart and he knew that no sin is insignificant in God’s eyes. And with tears flowing down his cheeks, he repented of his sin and told me that he was prepared to accept whatever the punishment might be. I prayed with him and told him I would get back to him after I talked with the dean. But less than twenty-four hours later, Randy’s roommate came running into my dorm room shouting, “Randy! Randy’s dead!” Randy had been killed in a drowning accident.
One Sunday evening several years later after our church service was finished, I stood at the back of the building greeting the members of our congregation. We walked to the car park and one of the elderly ladies in our congregation pulled along side us in her car and waved. I had just turned around when I heard a terrible crash. She had just pulled out into the path of a speeding van that hit her broadside. I rushed to her car, but it was too late. She was killed almost instantly.
Life is so short. We have this one brief opportunity — this one brief moment in eternity — to make an impact in this world for Jesus Christ. Don’t waste it!
There are many appointments that we can avoid (I successfully avoided an appointment with the dentist the other week). But there is one appointment that we can never avoid – our appointment with death. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). How much differently we would live our lives if we knew we had only 24 hours to live. We would use every second to it’s fullest.
A pastor shared with me about a man who came to his office a number of years ago after reading a book which predicted that the Lord would return before the end of the year. This man was convinced that the Lord would return within a number of months. He was deeply concerned because although he was a Christian, and although he had attended church every week, he knew in his heart that his life had counted for little or nothing of any eternal value.
I am convinced that so much more could be accomplished for the kingdom of God if we would only take seriously the brevity of life. By realising that life is a race against time and there is no second chance. Someone said, “Life is like a coin: you can spend it anyway you want, but you can only spend it once.”
Secondly, I believe that we can make the best possible use of our time in this upcoming new year…
BY BEING A CONSISTENT EXAMPLE BEFORE THE WORLD
Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”
The greatest influence for Jesus Christ upon my own life was my Godly father. Everyday I was confronted with the reality of his commitment to Jesus Christ in our home. The home is where you discover the reality of a person’s spirituality. If you want to see how an animal really behaves, you don’t go to the zoo or circus where they are on display or perform, you go to it’s natural habitat – it’s day by day environment. If you want to find out what a Christian is really like, where do you go? You don’t go to the Church! No, you must go to the home. If you want to find out the sincerity of a man’s commitment to Jesus Christ and to following Biblical principles, you don’t ask his Pastor or Church leaders, you need to ask his wife and children. I am convinced that the reality of a person’s spirituality is not found in the church, but in the home. If our Christianity is going to be effective in reaching a lost world for Jesus Christ, then it must first prove itself in the Christian home.
Do your children see the reality of your spirituality in the home? Do they see you behave one way in the church and another way in the home? Your children – more than any others – will resent your hypocrisy and inconsistencies and most likely reject the God you claim to be serving!
There is a common thinking among many Christians today that we can just throw our spiritual gears into neutral and coast our way through the Christian life. That kind of thinking is dangerous for anyone, but it is especially dangerous for Christian parents to have that attitude. The truth is that if there are inconsistencies in the lives of the parents, one Christian leader has stated there will be at least three consequences that can occur in the lives of the children:
1. The children will resent the leadership of the parents. This is one of the basic contributing factors of rebellion among many Christian young people today. If the parents claim to be under the authority of God’s Word and the children see inconsistencies (and children readily detect even the smallest) it causes them to be resentful and rebel against the authority of their parents and, ultimately, against the authority of God’s Word.
2. The children will excuse to excess what parents allow in moderation. If the parents tolerate even little compromises, it will often have a devastating effect upon the children. A respected elder of an evangelical church once shared with me his concerns about a rebellious teenage son. In that same conversation, this church leader boasted about travelling down a motor way at 125 mph. He also reacted against a new government tax by insisting that he would not pay it. Yet this man failed to see the correlation between his son’s rebellion and his own rebellious attitude. What the parents allow in moderation the children will excuse to excess.
3. The children will be exposed to the realm and power of Satan’s control. God has designed the parents to function as a spiritual umbrella of protection over the children. If you allow failure in your moral life, if there are inconsistencies, if you neglect your relationship with the Lord, you will open a leak in your protection through which Satan can bring destructive temptations to your children.
The world should be able to look at our lives and families as Christians and see that God’s principles really work and that they offer a far superior way of life than anything that the world has to offer. But they’re not seeing it! Our marriages are crumbling, our children are rebelling, and our churches are splitting and falling apart because we have failed to take seriously the principles of God’s Word.
A third principle for making the most of the time God gives us is…
LIVING WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus said, “19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Almost 2000 years ago in a filthy, rat-infested prison in Rome, a man awaited his death at the hands of a Roman executioner. His only possessions were a cloak and a few parchments. His friends had deserted him, and over his head hung the sentence of death. His only crime was that he had lived his life totally committed to Jesus Christ. In the eyes of the world he was a misfit, a fanatic, a waste. But in the eyes of God he was a hero, a victor, a success! His last recorded words are, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8).
1000 years earlier lived another Saul – chosen by God to lead the nation of Israel. A man with so much opportunity to serve God but who chose rather to serve himself. At the end of his life, in 1 Sam 26:21, we read that he regrettably said: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
How will your epitaph read? Will you be able to say with Paul, “ I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith…” Or like Saul of the Old Testament will you lament, “…behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.” What are you doing with your life that is going to make a difference in eternity? When you get to the end of your life, what will you be able to look back on and say, “This is what by God’s grace, I have accomplished for the kingdom of God.” One of the most tragic things is that Jesus Christ might say to you or me, “Look at what I could have done w/ your life, but you wouldn’t let me…Look at the souls that could have been snatched from a lost eternity…look at the lives that could have been changed…look at the difference you could have made.”
May God help each one of us to realize the brevity of life, to be a consistent example before the world and to live life with an eternal perspective!
Morris Hull, Home Life ministries