Learning from David Cassidy’s Last Words
Shortly after entertainer David Cassidy passed away at the age of 67, his daughter Katie revealed the last words he spoke, “So much lost time.” What sobering, sorrowful words.
As Katie tweeted on Friday, “Words can’t express the solace our family’s received from all the love & support during this trying time. My father’s last words were ‘So much wasted time.’ This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love as to never waste another minute….thank you.”
I too take Katie’s resolve to heart and believe that the words “so much wasted time” should be a daily reminder for each of us.
Time is the one thing we can never regain or recover. Once it is gone it is gone. How much time do we waste in the course of our lives? There is a time to rest and relax, and that is certainly part of the cycle of a healthy life. But how much do we simply waste? At the end of our lives, how many years or even decades have we squandered?
Traits Worth Remembering
Early in 1832, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, then a 19-year-old Scottish Presbyterian beginning his preparation for ministry, entered these words in his diary: “Feb. 2 — Not a trait worth remembering! And yet these four-and-twenty hours must be accounted for.”
Will this be the verdict at the end of our days? “Not a trait worth remembering” — yet we too must give account. How have we used the time that God has given us? How much of real value actually comes out of our lives?
We are often more concerned with the quantity of life than with the quality of life. We want to be healthy, active and strong, living our lives to the full. But we can live 90 years and still have an empty life. We can span a whole century and waste it all away. One diamond is of greater worth than a thousand ordinary stones.
Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian and philosopher in the 1700s, made 70 resolutions by which he patterned his life. Here are just a few of them: “Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. . . . Resolved, To live with all my might while I do live. . . . Resolved, Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”
It was Jonathan Edwards who prayed, “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyes.” He lived every day in view of forever. “There is nothing like the light of eternity to show what is real and what is not” (Catherine Booth).
Are We Living to Bring Glory to God?
Many of us let the circumstances of the moment rule us. We are governed by the pressing needs of the hour. We do not know how to make our schedules submit. We are too busy to accomplish anything of value for God. What matters the least occupies most of our time. What matters the most seldom gets done. Our life is a series of unfulfilled goals. There is plenty of action, but little lasting satisfaction. Our lives are running us instead of us — under God — running our lives.
We must ask ourselves some pointed questions. Are we making the most of every opportunity? Are we living to bring glory to God? Do we realize that we are only passing through this world? As Corrie Ten-Boom warned, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” And as Leonard Ravenhill asked, “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?”
The few short years we have on this planet could be marked by frustration and futility, or they could be marked by fruitfulness and fulfillment. Who knows just how much could be accomplished through one life yielded up to God? Who knows what God could do through you, if you yielded your all to Him?
While earning honors at Cambridge in Mathematics and Classics, Henry Martyn (1781-1812) was known as “the man who never lost an hour.” He continued in this pattern as a believer and missionary. When he died at the tender age of 31 after 6 short years of missionary labor, he had made excellent translations of the entire New Testament into Hindustani (Urdu) and Persian, in addition to translating the Psalms into Persian and the Book of Common Prayer into Hindustani.
The work of several decades was accomplished in less than 70 months.
Just think of what we could do in many years of service — if we maintained a steady pace for God and continued to fuel the fires of our heart. As Paul wrote, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor . . . and fan into flame the gift of God which is in you . . . for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Rom. 12:11; 2 Tim. 1:6; Gal. 6:9).
David Brown, a friend and fellow-worker of Henry Martyn wrote to him saying, “you burn with the intenseness and rapid blaze of heated phosphorous.” This was the fulfillment of the desire which Martyn inscribed in his diary when he first arrived in India: “Now let me burn out for God.”
George Whitefield (1714-1770) also burned red-hot for the Lord. From the ages of 20 to 56, he delivered about 30,000 sermons and preached to crowds of up to 40,000, without amplification and with hardly any “advertising.” During his 34 years of ministry, he preached in virtually every town in England, Scotland, and Wales, visiting Ireland as well, sailed the Atlantic 7 times, and won thousands of souls to the Lord in both northern and southern America, all the while using 18th-century means of transportation.
“What right have I to steal and abuse my Master’s time?”
How did Whitefield accomplish so much in so short a period of time? He was driven by a deep passion for the Lord and for the lost, praying, “Lord, give me souls or take my soul.”
But he was also carried by discipline. Each night he would judge his actions and conduct for the day, using a carefully thought out list of 15 criteria. And while for some of us this would be maddening, this daily review helped Whitefield redeem the time and live a life of life of purity and devotion.
It was from John Wesley, Whitefield’s contemporary, that he learned the importance of a disciplined and regimented lifestyle. This was Wesley’s Rule of Conduct:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
In Wesley’s 53 years of ministry (he died at the age of 88) he raised up and organized a radical army of lay preachers, traveled about 5,000 miles a year by horseback or carriage, preached over 50,000 sermons, wrote 233 books and pamphlets (ranging from biblical commentaries to medical treatises), as well as read and reviewed everything of interest that was published in Europe. He pushed his 5’ 4”, 120 pound frame to the limit, and stored up for himself an eternal treasure that will never fade or perish.
And that’s why we still talk about Wesley and Whitefield and Martyn and Edwards today. They lived lives that counted.
On December 18, 1831, after spending an evening too lightly, Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote in his diary: “My heart must off break from all these things. What right have I to steal and abuse my Master’s time? ‘Redeem it,’ He is crying to me.” What is He crying to us?
(Some of the material in this article was adapted from Michael L. Brown, How Saved Are We?, published in 1991.)