March 17, 2019
Use your remaining time wisely
The sudden death of 23 people in Lee County on March 3 was a brutal reminder of the brevity of life. One minute we are minding our own business, engaged in the ordinary routines of life. The next minute we are dead, injured or bewildered, victims of a vicious tornado like the one that descended on Beauregard and other communities nearby.
Those of us who remain alive cannot help but realize our names could have been on the list of the dead had we been in the path of that tornado. We are grateful that we were spared, and if we are wise we spend hours, if not days, pondering the meaning of life. What really matters? Are our priorities what they should be? Are there changes we need to make in the way we are spending our days?
Such pondering caused me to remember the advice Saint Paul gave to the Ephesians (5:15-16): So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Why be careful how you live? Why not live like fools? Because none of us is guaranteed another day. Life can end abruptly. So it makes sense to reflect seriously on the how we are living. Such reflection could lead to the reordering of our priorities. Instead of living like a fool, we can live wisely, and to live wisely is to make the best use of the time allotted us.
In meditating on what we need to do in order to make the most of our time, I came up with these ideas:
1. We need to make sure we are ready to depart this life and meet the Lord. It seems wise to share with family and friends that we have made peace with God. Knowing we have done this will be a comfort to our family if our death comes suddenly without warning.
Christians may want to share with family and friends the time when they surrendered their lives to Jesus. For me, it is not necessary to know the day and hour but we should be able to tell others about when the great transaction was done. I don’t remember the exact day of my surrender to Jesus but I know it was on a night in June, 1947, at Perdido Beach or Camp Glory. My pastor, Brother Si Mathison, took a busload of teenagers there for a week of fun and preaching. There, in the sand, at the altar of an outdoor tabernacle, I knelt and confessed my sins and asked Jesus to take over my life.
If you are not ready, then you can get ready by confessing your sins and accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is the way Christians do it. Then you can share that with your family so, at your death, they will have no uncertainty about your salvation.
2. Once we are ready, having made peace with God, then the best way to make the most of our time is to get up every morning thankful for the gift of life and look for simple ways to serve the Lord.
Best to be a self-starter. Don’t wait for someone to call you. Don’t wait for some great task. Remember that most of God’s servants are not famous people. Consider these names: Epenetus, Andronicus, Junias, Herodian, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Patrobas, Hermas, Tertius, and Gaius. Who were they? They were not super Christians but ordinary Christians, like you and me. Paul mentions their names in Romans chapter 16. He said their names were in the Book of Life.
You and I can rejoice that there is a place in the Kingdom of God for ordinary people like us. We can do more than just making a living and indulging ourselves in pleasures; we can serve the Lord in simple ways – offering kindness, encouragement and friendship to people, praying for others and giving time and resources for the relief of people who have lost everything.
We can open our homes and invite people to come for food, fellowship, hospitality and prayer. My friend Chris Henderson found a simple way to care for others. On many Sundays, while the rest of us were having Sunday lunch, Chris was taking holy communion to the homes of lonely homebound people.
3. We can look for ways to focus on Jesus. In the aftermath of the controversial Methodist conference in St. Louis, our Bishop, David Graves, suggested that Methodists need to focus on Jesus. That’s a great idea! Jesus, after all, is the central Person of the Christian faith. The best thing we can offer others is Jesus. And we do that best when Jesus is so big in our lives that others want to get to know him because of the way we live.
I love the story of a rough, uncultured man who fell in love with a beautiful vase in a shop window. He bought it and put it on the mantle in his home. Its beauty became a judgment on the things around it. So he removed them. He cleaned up the room and put up new curtains. Gradually the whole room was transformed by the beauty of one thing – the vase.
When you and I put Christ on the mantle of our hearts, everything is transformed by his beauty. How can we focus on Jesus in our daily lives? You could put his picture on your desk where you work. Or put a cross on your desk or a wall. Instead of giving people a box of candy or a bird house, you could give them a picture of Jesus – maybe the striking picture known as “The Laughing Jesus.” Children put pictures of favorite celebrities on the walls of their rooms. Why not give them a picture of the laughing Jesus to add to their colletion?
My friend Cecil Spear, a retired civil engineer, loves to paint. He painted a picture of three crosses on a hill, decided to make calling-card copies, and his given away 2,000 of them. He just ordered another thousand. It’s Cecil’s way of focusing on Jesus.
We can dare to talk about Jesus in daily conversations. We talk about a thousand things but no one is more important than Jesus. When we find ways to speak his name in daily living, people realize how important he is to us.
4. We can serve the Lord with faith that he will use whatever we offer him. We will be wise never to doubt God’s power to bless others through the simple ways we serve him. I read about a teacher who was asked to tutor a child in a hospital, a boy who was having trouble with nouns and verbs. She was horrified to find the boy in the critical care unit, burned so badly over his body that he could hardly talk. She tried to work with him on his nouns and verbs but he said virtually nothing.
Going home the teacher felt she had failed. But she went back the next day and the nurse greeted her by asking what she had done to help the boy. “We had been so worried about him, but since you came, his attitude has changed and he’s fighting back; we think he is going to live after all.” Weeks later, after he had been released from the hospital, the boy explained with tears in his eyes: “I felt I was not going to die. They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and verbs with a dying boy, would they?” God was at work – in that teacher’s caring.
When Robert Moffatt, Scottish missionary to Africa, came home to recruit helpers, he was greeted by the fury of a cold British winter. Arriving at the church where he would speak, he found only a small group of brave souls in the audience. No one responded to his appeal for volunteers for missionary service in Africa. However, there was a young boy there that night who had come to work the bellows of the organ. He was inspired by Moffatt’s appeal, went to school, got a degree in medicine, married Moffatt’s daughter Mary and spent the rest of his life serving Jesus in Africa. His name was David Livingstone. God was at work – even when only a handful of people showed up!
As we “make the most of every opportunity,” we should never doubt God’s power to use our simple acts of service to bless people. And since none of us knows the day or the hour of our departure, we should do our best to use the time remaining as wisely as possible. To fail to do so is to live like fools. + + +