First of all, special thanks to my friend and brother, Pastor Ken Roberts, for his excellent message, last Sunday, filling in for Pastor Jim Mindling. He really did confirm for me what the topic of this post would be. After my post, last Sunday, I was leaning in this direction as a follow-up. Pastor Ken clinched it for me. So, saddle up folks. Here we go again.
Last week, I used the upcoming astronomical event in September as a springboard to a discussion about just how fleeting human life can be, whether an “extinction level event” like a giant meteor hitting the earth happens or not. Sooner or later, in the blink of an eye, our “number is going to get called” and we will instantly pass from this earthly existence to whatever lies beyond. We all try to avoid it for as long as we can (diet, exercise, clean living…I’ll leave it up to you to check the boxes, if they apply). But like the Doors lead singer, Jim Morrison, once famously said, “No one here gets out alive.”
So, quoting Michael J. Fox, I think all of our priorities should ultimately be in line with making preparations to “Get outta Dodge.” Of course, Michael was having a little fun with the famous line from “Gunsmoke,” where Marshall Dillon suggested that “It’s time to got out of Dodge,” meaning Dodge City. So for the sake of this post, I am going to have a little fun with this reference to Dodge City by using it as a metaphor for “life on Planet Earth,” or our physical lives in the “here and now,” if you will.
Although, in our hearts, we all realize our time here is short when compared with the concept of eternity, the way we live our lives seems to imply that we may be fooling ourselves into thinking that there is “no end in sight.” The Apostle James, who was the half-brother of Jesus, says it this way:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 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. [James 4:13-14 NASB]
It’s true. We love to make plans for our future (not that it’s a totally bad idea)…as if nothing can get in their way. Even older folks (I would include myself in that statement) like to make plans or commitments, as if by doing so, we are delaying the inevitable. I really like what country legend Little Jimmy Dickens said, not long before his passing at age 95, “I am so old, I don’t even buy green bananas.” He wasn’t making any long-term plans, good for him!!
And of course, this is really not a new problem, a poem written by Robert Burns back in 1785, gave us the following often-quoted phrase regarding the futility of making plans:
But Mouse, you are not alone, in proving foresight may be vain
The best laid schemes of mice and men, go often askew (or astray)
And leave us nothing but grief and pain for (instead of) promised joy!
So once again, no man (or woman) is promised tomorrow, which is why we are so shocked and saddened when someone, especially a child, dies “before their time.” It’s not that our sadness or grief is a bad thing (it is an expression of our love for them), but it does raise the question, “What is the right time, or age, for us to die?” Sounds to me, again, that to some degree we are victims of our own false expectations, ignoring the harsh realities of life.
Let me toss out a question, for you, in the form of story. Let’s say, that if from the time we were children, we were taught that if we did certain things in certain ways, like maybe showing kindness to others or resisting the temptations to be mean or selfish, each time we did so, a gold coin worth $100 was deposited into an account that we could use, when we were older, to buy a house, pay for our children’s education or whatever we like. Do you think the world would be a kinder or more peaceful place? I do. Hey, if people were being paid to be nice, why not, right?
What if Jesus, Himself, implied to us that it does sort of work like that in a heavenly sense, with a spiritual bank account that will reward us in the afterlife. Well, during His most famous sermon, the Sermon On The Mount, He pretty much did just that:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Matthew 6:19-21 NASB]
The truth is, this life is but a drop in the bucket, compared to what comes after (be it good or bad). So, wouldn’t it make sense to work towards a better eternity, instead of putting all our efforts into enriching ourselves in this life. Especially, if the reality is we could be gone tomorrow and everything would be left for someone else to enjoy, as King Solomon wrote about in his Book Of Proverbs (and he was pretty rich, so I think he knew what he was talking about).
But, what if you have already spent most of your days doing the opposite, “looking out for number one,” maybe even to the point of hurting others to protect or increase what you worked so hard to provide for yourself? At what point have we gone so far in the wrong direction, that you have passed the point where “changing your ways” is going to make any difference in the “big picture” of life and how the scales might be tipped regarding whatever comes next. Some people believe it is like “the Scale of Justice,” where if the good outweighs the bad, you’re all set.
Well, here is what the Apostle Paul had to say about this subject. And keep in mind, he spent a great deal of time, in his life, as a zealous Jewish leader who was responsible for the deaths of many who were showing support for this troublemaker known as Jesus of Nazareth. If anyone had stepped over the line or reached the point of no return, because of things he had done in his past, he might be the “poster child” for that. He said….
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. [Colossians 3:2 NASB].
That would seem to indicate that Paul believed that making a major change in right direction (which is the definition of the word “repent”) at any age or point in one’s life is a good idea. In other words, it’s never too late (at least not while we’re are still living and breathing). If Paul thought it was worthwhile for him to change in the latter years of his life, after all the terrible things he had done, what would be our excuse?
The main point I am trying to make, here, is that while there is nothing wrong with working hard or having goals to do your best to provide for yourself and your family, or even to realize a lifelong dream or pursue something you are passionate about (you may have been gifted by God to do just that). We should always keep in mind that our time here is just like what Jerry Glanville, former coach of the Houston Oilers, said about the letters NFL. He said the letters meant “not for long” (if the refs kept making bad calls that cost him his job). Our time here on Earth, too, is “not for long” when compared to what God is preparing for those who love Him.
So like Jesus taught us, isn’t it better to store up treasure for what lies beyond the grave, than to put all our efforts into storing up things we will lose when we are put in the grave? You get the picture, I’m sure.
In closing, I’d like to include words from a recent hit record by Carrie Underwood. The song is called, “Temporary Home.” I think it ties this discussion up quite nicely.
This is my temporary home….It’s not where I belong
Windows in rooms…..that I’m passin’ through
This is just a stop, on the way to where I’m going
I’m not afraid because I know this is my….temporary home