Thoughts on Life Before Death
What will you do with life today?
I once saw an interview with Groucho Marx, who at that time was in his 80’s. He was asked, “Do you believe in life after death?” Groucho replied, “I have serious doubts about life before death.”
Putting Groucho’s humor aside, we know that if there’s one thing we do have, it’s life before death. What will we do with the years we have?
More specifically, what will we do with life today?
As the saying goes, yesterday is gone and tomorrow will never come. How will you live your life in the here and now, today?
Living Today to the Max
Last November, my beloved mother passed away at the age of 94, and a few days ago, I got word that an old family friend is now under hospice care, ready to leave this world, also at 94.
We will give account to Him for how we used the gifts he gave us.
I first met him back in 1971 when I was just 16, which seems like several lifetimes ago. I asked myself, “If I live to be 94, how will I look back to these years now, as I find myself in my early 60’s?”
The answer was obvious.
These would be my still-youthful days, days full of vigor, days to be lived out to the max, days of energy and vision and vitality, days to be seized in full.
And so, rather than think ahead to times of slowing down and getting old, I choose to run my race to the full today, while I have the strength and stamina. Let me burn brightly while the wick is still long and the fire is still hot!
‘Aim at Heaven’
Yes, I absolutely believe in life after death, and my hope is set firmly in the death and resurrection of Jesus, through which I will live forever. But that doesn’t detract from the importance of this current life. To the contrary, it enhances it.
First, having an eternal vision gives me a sense of perspective. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”
Second, I realize that what I do in this world will have eternal repercussions. How then should we live? In the sobering words of the Methodist preacher W. E. Sangster, “How shall I feel at the judgment, if multitudes of missed opportunities pass before me in full review, and all my excuses prove to be disguises of my cowardice and pride?”
Every one of us has some unique gift from God, something that is specially committed to us. Some of these gifts are obvious and conspicuous, others more subtle and hidden. But they have been given to us by God — especially if we are His followers — and we will give account to Him for how we used those gifts.
Did we bury our gift in the ground (to borrow imagery from one of the parables of Jesus), or did we use it for the good of others?
Using Our Gifts
Last week, I spent a day in Orlando, Florida, recording broadcasts for our Word on Fire program on GOD TV. We were able to get a lot of shows done in one day, all with excellence, and the camera crew was amazed at what we were able to accomplish.
As I reflected on this later that night, I said to myself, “This is a gift God has given me, so I want to maximize it. Why else did he give it to me?”
Gifts are to be used to serve others, not to be set on a shelf to be admired. We must use our gifts for the glory of God and the good of this hurting world.
Seize the moment, and you’ll never have to regret wasting this precious commodity of life.
Of course, I’m quite aware of the many gifts He has not given me — and they are truly many — to the point that something your average person could do in ten minutes I could not do in ten hours. (Suffice it to say that my wife, Nancy, has her own toolbox and that one of my best friends loves to tell the story of the time he had to explain to me how to use an Allen wrench. I actually starting hammering Allen wrench screws into a bookcase before he stopped me.)
At the same time, I know the gifts He has given me — to write and to speak, among others — so I give myself to Him and His purposes to the full, running my race so as to win (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27), not in order to gain God’s favor but rather because I have His favor.
How about you? What gifts has He given you? What opportunities has He placed in your path? What doors has He opened for you?
Seize the Moment
Be faithful in little, and He will trust you with more. Be faithful in things that belong to others and He will give you things of your own. Be faithful with earthly riches and He will entrust you with spiritual riches (see Luke 16:10-12). Be faithful when no one is watching and He will reward you for the world to see (see Matthew 6:1-18). Be faithful in life before death, and God will reward you with endless life after death.
Centuries ago, Ecclesiastes penned these wise words, “So remember your Creator in the days of your youth — before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” (Eccl. 12:1, NET)
For me, at 62, these are still the days of my youth, and God willing, I’ll feel that way for years to come. And when it comes time to slow down, I want each of those years to count all the more, hopefully having attained greater wisdom as the decades have passed. At that time, in those closing days, I imagine my words will be fewer, but I pray they will carry greater weight.
So, to every teenager reading this; to every young parent; to everyone middle-aged; to every senior; to everyone in the final stages of life, I say to you: Seize the moment! Live to the full your life before death.
If you do, you will never have to regret wasting this most precious commodity of life today.