James 4:13-14 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Ephesians 5:15-16 15 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
James’ words here in chapter four are pretty sobering, right? The reality, even for those who live to be what is considered an old age is this: Life is short. The older I get, the faster time seems to be elapsing. Those of you who are young now, just wait. It goes faster and faster each year. None of us knows what will happen tomorrow.
Paul tells us in our Ephesians passage to live wisely, to make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. So, time is short, and with the time each of us is given, we are urged to live wisely.
It’s probably easy for all of us to get into a rut, to drift through life, to go on auto pilot and rather than live wisely or live to make the most of every opportunity, rather than live to seize the day, we just live. We just breathe. We just get by. That’s not the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.
Recognizing that life is short and that we need to live wisely, I want to make some suggestions about how to live, to offer a strategy for life that will help us make the most out of life.
While we live, let’s live rested and refreshed. We live in a culture of stress. This is a problem. Life is too hectic. The pace is not only too fast, but it’s too packed. We are trying to fit too much into our schedules. We are overwhelmed and overloaded. We are tense. We are short-tempered. We are dealing with stress-related illnesses. Headaches, stomach aches, back aches, neck and shoulder pain. We are wound up and wound tight. Anxiety is robbing us of great joy. We are living on the run. We are the culture of fast-food and too little sleep. When we are tired, life’s challenges and our inabilities are magnified. Where is our down time? Where is our breathing room? Where is our margin? Where is the time to enjoy all these things we think we have to work in order to provide them for our families?
How can we de-stress our lives? Psalm 23:2 says God is like a Shepherd and that He can help us find rest in green pastures. He can lead us beside still waters. There is nothing more relaxing to me than the sound of running water. Just picture yourself today being led by God beside a quiet brook of cool, running water. The last part of that Psalm 23 verse says God will restore our souls. That speaks to me of inner peace. It makes me think of someone who can get their spiritual breath. Does that sound like something you need today?
Our relationship with the Shepherd, God, is the pathway to this kind of free living. Matthew 11:28-29 says, “28Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives.” NCV
While this verse speaks to laying down the burden of religion and entering into a freeing relationship with Jesus, giving up our sin and letting God forgive and love us, there is also an admonition to accept Christ’s teachings. That means that we are to learn what the Scriptures have to say about all of life.
For the Christian, just like worshiping, serving, giving and praying are to be built into our spiritual DNA, so too has God prescribed a pattern for rest in our lives. The creation account in Genesis is told in such detail. The writer could have stopped after six days because everything that has been created was created during that six day process. However, on the seventh day, God in essence created something else for us to enjoy and understand. He created rest. He gave us permission to recharge. He instituted a time of refreshing to refocus and relax.
God knows that rest is good for us and will produce great benefits in our lives, not the least of which is a reduction in our stress level. In a book called “Escaping the Stress Trap,” author Mary Southerland shares this illustration (pg. 66):
A visitor saw several shepherds in Nazareth bringing their flocks to water them at the well. When the sheep had drunk their fill, the shepherds called and their sheep immediately followed. The visitor asked the shepherds if the sheep always followed their own shepherds when they called. “Yes,” said one of the shepherds, under one condition. The sheep that don’t follow the voice of their shepherd are the sick sheep. If a sheep is healthy, it will always follow its shepherd, but if there is something wrong with the sheep, it will follow anybody.”
Southerland makes the point that when we are tired and become run down, we are in danger of following the wrong voice. Rest will keep us sharp so that we can hear the Lord when He speaks to us.
Rest makes our bodies more efficient which will enable us to do our work more efficiently. In order to be good stewards of the bodies God has given to us, we are going to have to build rest into our schedules.
Take some time for the Shepherd to restore your soul. Take some time for yourself to recharge and rest. While we live, let’s live refreshed instead of stressed. Life is too short to live stressed out!
While we live, let’s live for God’s purposes. We know that God has blueprints for our lives. He has plans for our lives. He has a purpose for us to fulfill. We have been wired with specific gifts and abilities for a reason. We are supposed to make a difference while we live. We are supposed to have an impact on the world.
Our purpose has everything to do with what we make a priority in our lives. I read a cute story about priorities as I was preparing for this message. It was about a young investment banker who was driving a new BMW sedan on a mountain road during a snow storm. As he veered around one sharp turn, he lost control and began sliding off the road toward a steep cliff. At the last moment he unbuckled his seat belt, flung open his door, and leaped from the car, which then plummeted to the bottom of the ravine and burst into a ball of flames.
Although he had escaped with his life, the man suffered a ghastly injury. Somehow his arm had been caught near the hinge of the door as he jumped and had been torn off at the shoulder. A passing trucker saw the accident in his rearview mirror, pulled his rig to a halt and ran back to see if he could help. When he arrived at the scene, he found the banker standing at the roadside, looking down at the BMW burning in the ravine below.
Incredibly the banker was oblivious to his injury and moaned,“My BMW! My new BMW!” The trucker pointed at the banker’s shoulder and said, “You’ve got bigger problems than that car. We’ve got to find your arm. Maybe the surgeons can sew it back on!”` The banker looked where his arm had been, paused a moment, and groaned, “Oh no! My Rolex! My new Rolex!” He possessed the wrong priorities! He was living for the wrong purposes. What is our call as Christians? What is our purpose? What do we make a priority in our lives?
The first place we are supposed to impact is in our home. If we live with a spouse or have children at home, we are to be focused on them as a God-given priority in our lives. If we live at the hectic pace I described in point one, we won’t have the time to make our family a priority. God’s desires the success of your family. He desires for every member to know Him and to live in harmony with Him and with each other. He desires for each person to be encouraged and supported towards His loving purposes for their lives.
In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was an unnecessary accouterment and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic!
In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, “The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me … I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do … whether coaching football or talking to the press, I’m always a Christian … Christ is first, my family second and football third.” And that is the way it ought to be.
Those of us who are married need to spend quality time with our spouses. We need to evaluate how things are going from time to time. We need to dream together. We need to pray together. We need to have fun together doing things that are relaxing and things that cultivate a spirit of peace and refreshing not only in our personal lives, but in our marriage relationships as well. We need to ask each other:
- How can I love you better?
- What do you need from me so that I can focus on doing the things that help you feel supported and encouraged?
- If I could do one thing to make our marriage better, what would it be?
- What can I pray about on your behalf?
And men, you are the spiritual leaders in your home. I encourage you to take the lead on these kinds of questions and these kinds of conversations. The first ministry you have as a Christ-follower, if you are married, is to minister to your spouse and to treat them as a cherished gift from God.
Our children are also precious gifts from God. We don’t really have them with us under our roofs that long. Our job is more than just providing for our children. Our job involves training them. Your job isn’t just to keep them alive but to teach them how to live. We have to teach them the Word of God. We have to teach them how to handle disappointment. We have to teach them how to deal with conflict. We have to teach them how to assert themselves. We have to teach them how to walk away from temptation. We have to teach them about sexual purity. We have to teach them how to make good decisions. We have to teach them about how to find a godly spouse. We have to teach them about how to pursue the right education or career. We have to teach them how to handle their finances. We definitely need to teach them how to pray and how to confess their sin to the Lord and how to defeat Satan in Jesus’ name. And we need to make sure that what we are teaching them is consistent with God’s Word on whatever the subject.
We need to answer their questions. We need to listen when they want to talk whether face to face or text. We need to ask them questions! We need to ask how they are doing in every area of their lives (Maybe not all in one conversation! J). Do you know what your children’s hopes and dreams are? Do you know what they struggle with the most? Do you know your kids’ friends by name? Do you know what they are proud of? Do you know what they think about current events and cultural issues? Do you know who they are crushing on? Do you know what scares them the most?
Are we parenting well? Are we getting it right? Are we modeling what is right? After a boy turned in his homework, the teacher said, “This is terrible! How can one person make so many mistakes?” “One didn’t,” the boy answered. “My dad helped me.” Our children will do as we teach them and model for them. If we get it wrong, they’ll get it wrong. But if we’ll train them according to God’s Word, we’ll get it right–and eventually they’ll get it right too. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Notice the Scripture doesn’t say, “Provide for them well, and they will go in the way they should go,” but train them well. Teach them well. If you need help teaching your kids and parenting your kids, we have Christian resources listed in our bulletin and at the youth booth that you can buy and some that you can borrow. Take advantage of the resources available that are designed to help you be the best possible parents. It takes effort and work to parent well. Listen, if parenting was easy it wouldn’t start out with something called “labor!” J We have to work to be good parents. It won’t just happen by virtue of giving birth and providing food, shelter, and a taxi cab service.
Not only do we need to seek God’s purposes in our families, but we also need to know what God’s purpose is for each of us as individuals as we live out our faith in the workplace, marketplace, and world. I was so moved by the story of Brooke Bronkowski, a beautiful 14-year old girl who was in love with Jesus. Her pastor, Frances Chan, tells her story in his book, “Crazy Love.” When she was in junior high, she started a Bible study at her school. She spent her babysitting money on Bibles so she could give them out to her unsaved friends. Youth pastors who heard about this brought her boxes of Bibles to give away.
Brooke wrote the following essay when she was about 12. It is titled, Since I Have My Life Before Me”
I’ll live my life to the fullest. I’ll be happy. I’ll brighten up. I will be more joyful than I have ever been. I will be kind to others. I will loosen up. I will tell others about Christ. I will go on adventures and change the world. I will be bold and not change who I really am. I will have no troubles, but instead will help others with their troubles.
You see, I’ll be one of those people who live to be history makers at a young age. Oh, I’ll have moments, good and bad, but I will wipe away the bad and only remember the good. In fact that’s all I remember, just good moments, nothing in between, just living my life to the fullest. I’ll be one of those people who go somewhere with a mission, an awesome plan, a world-changing plan, and nothing will hold me back. I’ll set an example for others. I will pray for direction.
I have my life before me. I will give others the joy I have and God will give me more joy. I will do everything God tells me to do. I will follow the footsteps of God. I will do my best. (Crazy Love by Frances Chan, pgs 53-54)
During Brooke’s freshman year of high school she was in a car accident and her life on earth ended when she was just fourteen, but her impact didn’t end. Nearly 1500 people attended her funeral and people read poems she had written about her love for God. Everyone talked about what an example she was. Her pastor, Frances Chan, shared the Gospel and at least 200 students came forward to be saved at her funeral. Ushers gave Bibles to each of them. They were Bibles that Brooke had kept in her garage, hoping to give them to all of her unsaved friends. In one day, in her death, Brooke led more people to the Lord than most do in a lifetime, why? Because she knew her purpose. She lived her purpose. She had said in her essay when she was twelve that she would be one of those people that become a history maker at a young age. Truer words couldn’t have been spoken. She could only make history in her death because she had lived for HIS STORY in her life.
Some people may think about the tragedy of a fourteen year old being killed so young is a waste of a life. Brooke Bronkowski wasted nothing. She lived life to the full while she lived. Brooke Bronkowski understood that life is short whether it is fourteen years of 100 years. She lived with purpose on purpose for God’s purposes every day.
There was no shortage of things to say at Brooke’s memorial service. People had more to say than simply, “She was so young” or “She was a nice person or she was a beautiful girl.” They had more than good things to say. They had God-things to say about Brooke. Because everyone knew what she stood for in life, even in her death, her purpose, her impact spoke loudly and clearly. Her life counted. Her life produced spiritual life in others. Isn’t that the big purpose for which we are all called to live?
While we live, let’s live ready.
If someone asked you right now, “If you died today, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?” If your answer isn’t a resounding, “YES” you have a problem. I would like to recall one more story from Pastor Frances Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.” He told the story of a man named Stan Gerlach who was a successful businessman and was well-known in the community. Stan was asked to speak at a memorial service, and he decided that he would share the Gospel about Jesus as part of his remarks. Stan said, and I quote, “You never know when God is going to take your life. At that moment, there’s nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?” Stan then sat down, fellow over, and died. True story.
As Pastor Chan went to the Gerlach house to comfort Stan’s wife, and he decided to read this scripture from Matthew 10:32-33. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” He then asked the family to imagine what it would have been like for Stan as he took his last breath on earth and his first breath in heaven. He said to them: In one moment at that funeral service, Stan was telling the crowd who Jesus is, and in the next moment he was before God hearing Jesus say, “This is who Stan Gerlach is!” The Pastor went on to say, “One second he was confessing Jesus, and a second later, Jesus was confessing him!”
Will Jesus confess you before the Father in heaven? Do you know that you know that you know that you are ready to enter into eternity? Have you made your peace with God? Are you living ready for whenever that day comes? You could be the next one in your family to slip into eternity. You could be the next member of this church to slip into eternity. I’m not trying to scare you. I am trying to prepare you. You have to be ready when that moment comes. There is no more time for preparation when God decides our time is up.
We also know that Christ will return one day and when He does it will be the end of this world as we know it. At that moment, those who know Him will be taken to live with Him forever in heaven, and those who haven’t confessed Christ will be sent into an eternal punishment. If today was that day, would you be ready?
Life is short. Live wisely. And the wisest way to live is ready for the next life.
Life is short. Let’s live rested and refreshed.
Life is short. Let’s live for God’s purposes.
Life is short. Let’s live ready for the day our time on earth is through.