One Life to Live
RUMC 16 August 2015
Once upon a time, a man opened up a newspaper and was surprised to see that it was dated six months ahead into the future. As he read through this special edition, he read about events that had not yet taken place. In the sports pages, he saw the scores of games not played. He was excited to see the rise and fall of certain stocks on the financial page.
And with this special information, he could become a wealthy man. He figured, if he invested in stocks that were now low, that they would certainly grow and fatten his portfolio. If he bet on certain sports teams, he would have it made. He couldn’t believe his good fortune.
But when he came to the obituary column page, he was stunned to see his name and picture. You see, the knowledge of his death had now changed everything. He had to rethink his values. What would all that wealth really accomplish?
My scripture text comes from Ephesians 5:15-20 in the New Testament. And it is about how we are to be careful on how we are to live our lives to God:
15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
In life, there is a right way and a wrong way to proceed. If our lives are to be meaningful, we need to be intentional in the decisions we make and in the way we live out our faith. We can’t be haphazard and expect things to automatically fall into place.
Paul the Apostle underscores this when he tells us we should be careful in the way we live and I think it would be profitable to take a daily inventory of our lives with an eye to the future.
As I prepared for this message, I had seen some interesting programs on the Internet called the Life Span or the Death Clock Calculator. What these programs do is predict how much time an individual has left to live. This is done through the use of some base calculations.
Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see how I would do. This seemed to be more fun than the actuary insurance tables. The type of questions I was asked. DOB; ht/wt/sex, smoker or non-smoker; alcohol; outlook on life, drugs, exercise; sunlight exposure; major medical treatment; fruit/vegetables, vitamins, seat belts, air pollution, diabetes, cancer, motorcycle, 2 wheels versus 4, and family medical history.
When I got the results, I was not happy. I was told I would live 73 years. Surely there was a mistake. So I took the test again and changed my weight just to see if I would live longer and there was no change. I was determined to o increase my longevity, so I took 3 other tests and my scores improved to 77, 80, and 86 years.
There are definite flaws to these programs and like everyone; I hope to live a real long time. But on the other hand the Bible does echo that there are limits to how long we are to live. For example:
- Psalm 90:10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.
- Job 14:5 “Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits
- Ecclesiastes 3:2 A time to be born and a time to die.
- James 4:14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
What the scriptures and the life calculator tests underscore is the need to live well and for the Lord. Paul the Apostle exhorts us-Don’t be foolish, but understand the will of God and be filled with the Spirit.
Chuck Colson, who was the Special Counsel to President Nixon, went to jail because of Watergate, had a dramatic conversion experience and then became the founder of the Prison Fellowship Ministry. In his book “A Dangerous Grace” Mr. Colson wrote about the time that he visited Mississippi State Penitentiary. Colson noticed, “Most of the death- row inmates were in their bunks, wrapped in blankets, as they stared blankly at little black and white TV screens, just killing time.”
But in one cell, sat a man on his bunk; reading. As Colson approached the cell, the man looked up and showed him his book. It was an instruction manual on Episcopal Liturgy. The prisoner’s name was John Irving and he had been on death row for more than 15 years. And believe it or not, he was studying for the priesthood. He told Colson, that he was allowed out of his cell, one hour each day, but the rest of the time he studied.
Colson noticed that he had nothing in his cell, but a few books and thought to himself, God has blessed me so much; the least I can do is provide something for this brother. Then Colson asked, “Would you like a TV if I could arrange it?” The prisoner smiled gratefully and said, “Thanks, but no thanks. You can waste an awful lot of time with those things.”
Even though John was on death row, and had a limited amount of days. He was determined not to waste the one commodity he had and that was his – time. I did check on the internet to see whatever became of him and there is no record of a man named John Irving.
But it made me think, that the way John approached life was directly from Ephesians 5:15-20. Be careful on how you live. Make the most of your time. Do not be foolish but understand the will of the Lord.
There is an old saying. God doesn’t steer parked cars. If we want God to guide us, we need to start moving on those things we already know he wants us to do. So I commend all of you to continue to make your faith in God and important part of your life. To be deliberate and focused as we serve the Lord. To be filled with the spirit. Paul the Apostle tells us to sing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs and give thanks to God. In our age of technology and social media, we can be very creative in our worship of God.
When I first invited Christ into my heart, there was a vitality and newness to my relationship with God. But to sustain it, I’ve had to intentionally set aside time for spiritual activities. To come to the house of God and worship on a regular basis and have quiet time, otherwise my relationship with God would become formal, intellectual and academic. When we are in a relationship with Christ, it influences our thoughts, actions and motives.
One image that I have of our Christian faith is the track event seen in the Olympics. As believers, let us finish our race in grand style, not stopping short of the finish line or walking or limping in, but going in with a blaze of glory. May we run the race and obtain the prize of eternal life.
Let me close with the words of the Apostle Paul. Be very careful then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.