The Brevity of Life
This week, the world has lost two American celebrities and icons. Farrah Fawcett died at the age of 62 after an extended battle with cancer. On the same day, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, died at age 50 from what many suspect to be a heart attack. Both deaths, Fawcett’s being less of a surprise than Jackson’s, have me considering the brevity and uncertainty of life.
I’ve heard people define life differently over the years. “Life is a rollercoaster.” “Life is an adventure.” “Life is a mystery.” While I can understand how some come to these conclusions, one thing is for certain and the Bible states it clearly – Life is short. The Word of God describes life to be a vapor that passes away (James 4:14), as fragile as grass (Isaiah 40:6-8) and our days to be as long as the width of one’s hand (Psalm 39:5) and quickly consumed like smoke (Psalm 102:3)
A couple weeks back I was on the phone with my mother who broke the news to me that a high school friend, Angela, had died suddenly in a car accident. This was the second fellow graduate whose life was cut short in an automobile accident. I had the same reaction as I learned about my friend Michele’s death a few years ago. I was silent and without emotion; I presume out of shock and disbelief. Then later when I told my wife what had happened I broke down in tears wishing I had one more opportunity to say goodbye to my friend. Life is certainly short, sometimes much shorter than we expect.
In light of this truth, what shall we do? We could start a healthy diet and exercise program to do what’s in our power to live longer. We could decide to “live it up” knowing that we only have so much time left. Or we could ignore the fact that our lives are so short and simply carry on without a care. But I suggest, we ask God, through His Word for His perspective.
I’m sure there are plenty of principles that the Bible teaches about how to live our lives considering that we are finite creatures and that eternity is forever. Here are just three of the ways the Bible implores us to live in light of this reality.
Redeem the Time
I’ve been asked the question, “If you knew you only had a year to live, what would you do?” I think a better question might be, “Not knowing how long you will live, what are you doing now?” The Bible tells us that we need to redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16) because the days are evil. The word “redeem” means to buy up, to ransom or to rescue from loss. The greatest example of redemption is what God has done for us in sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) To be instruments of God’s redemptive plan for humanity, it is our responsibility to first seek forgiveness for ourselves through Christ’s atoning death, but secondly to spread the word of that redemption to others.
Boasting is the product of a life lived without God in mind. It was Lucifer himself who boasted of what he would and would not do before God cast him down to size. (Isaiah 14:12-15) And Jesus reminded us of the futility and foolishness of boasting when he told the story of a rich man who planned to “take (his) ease, eat, drink, and be merry” not knowing that his life would end that very night. (Luke 12:16-21) And it was James the brother of Jesus who penned the wise alternative to boasting, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (read James 4:13-17) The problem with boasting is that it is rooted in pride and independence from God. The alternative, is to humble ourselves before God holding lightly to our own plans, but clinging dearly to the promises of God’s Word.
Focus on eternity
Finally, if life is so short, we ought to consider in contrast, just how long eternity will be. It’s a hard concept to grasp, probably as difficult as considering the expanse of the universe or the eternal existence of God. It’s so much easier to focus on the tangible, material things in this world. Yet, the reality is that eternity is so much closer to us than we imagine, just ask Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, or my friend Angela. We’d be wise to adopt the philosophy of the Apostle Paul, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Stop everything and just for a few moments, close your eyes and consider eternity.
If this thought brings about fear or uncertainty, I encourage you to place your life and faith in Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)