This year has made it official. I’m no longer a young man anymore. The white hairs began appearing first just beside my temples, right above my ears. First so scarcely I could hardly notice. Then as the weeks began to pass more and more of their little friends began to join them. Now they have moved on from the sides of my head and have begun sprouting on my face in certain areas. “How can this be happening?” The inner voice inside my head began to ask. “I’m not even thirty-nine years old yet!”
I turned on the television last week to see my all time favorite movie, Rocky on the screen. Sly Stallone was always my hero growing up. Later during a commercial break, they had a current interview with Sly as he talked about the making of Rocky. And looking at the current Sylvester Stallone, I asked myself the question, “When did Rocky get so old? It seems like last week I saw him training in snow and doing jumping jacks for the first time to the tune of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger.”
I can still remember graduating from high school. It seems like only yesterday that I was living off of Raman Noodles and midnight Taco Bell runs in college! I can vividly remember the very first time I laid eyes on my wife, exactly what she was wearing, and the goofing pick up lines I tried on her! I looked yesterday at my oldest child Andy, who is eight years old, and felt almost perplexed at how he’d gotten so big! I mean, wasn’t it just last week that we were teaching him how to walk?
Have you ever just stopped and marveled at just how quickly life passes by? Today I’m 38 years old. And when I’m 78, today will seem like yesterday! And the older I get, the faster the years seem to pass by. This realization has greatly begun to impact me in many areas of my life.
Our two oldest boys, Andy age 8 and Lincoln age 5, always want to be held at night. More than anything, I pretty sure its just an excuse not to go to sleep. It’s so easy as a parent to grow numb to this nightly request and tell them to close their eyes. Rather than looking at this as a brief moment in time that will too soon be gone. My oldest is eight. How much longer until he begins to think hugs and kisses from daddy are gross? How many more nights will I have that he would allow me to snuggle up to him? Even though they are getting so big, I still see them as those little babies in the delivery room. We bypass the gifts of God thinking that they will be here forever, when in reality, they are gone in an instant.
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14.
In the span of eternity, our lives are like the disappearing morning mist. The question is not, “Are you living your best life now?” The question we should ask ourselves is, “With the brevity of life that we have, what are we living for?”
One summer when I was in college, a friend of my parents offered me a job doing construction type labor in his warehouse for one week. The job would end after that week, because the construction would be over. I accepted the job, even though it was short. It was one of the hardest working weeks of my life. From sun up to sun down, I was lifting, stacking, and moving heavy metal pipes and platforms around a musty old warehouse. My body ached all over each night. And every night as I lay in bed, I contemplated quitting. “Surely there were more fun things I could be doing with my time.” But I kept reminding myself of two things. First, I kept telling myself that it was only one week. Before I knew it, the week would be over. And secondly, I respected the man who gave me the job, and knew that if I worked hard this week, he would give me his stamp of approval. And a recommendation from this man, on my resume, would open many doors in my future.
Our lives are much like a one week job. We could easily have the mindset that, “We only live once, so live for the moment.” But our Father in Heaven has created us, and offered us a one week job that is this mist we call life. And the measure of our hearts in this task will determine our eternities future. We were created to live for Him. To filter each breath we take through glorifying Christ.
There is one difference between the analogy I gave of a week of construction work and doing a lifetime of Gods work. I never really grew to love construction. I did it because I had to. However, if you are a child of God, the Lord’s work is what you were created, I dare say WIRED, to do. And in seeking and living a life for Him, you will find your deepest joys in serving Christ. Because again, it’s what you were created to do. And it’s never a burden to do the things that bring you joy.
“Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3.
A big problem with the human condition is that we tend to think we are the center of the universe. It is our nature to put ourselves in a place of importance, at least in our minds, and think that God desperately needs us. I remember my first job in ministry as a youth pastor in Florida. What an awesome church it was. And we had an amazing youth ministry of great kids who genuinely loved the Lord! When the time came for me to leave the church in order to take a lead pastor position elsewhere, I remember worrying and thinking, “I hope that this group stays strong for Christ when I leave.”
Looking back, how arrogant minded this was of me. To think that this great youth group had in some part been accredited to my leadership. How quickly I had forgotten that God had spoken in Numbers 22 through Balaam’s donkey. The Corinthians said this of the Apostle Paul;
“For some say, “Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” 2 Corinthians 10:10.
Basically they were left in awe and wonder by the powerful, Gospel centered words that Paul could write, but in person, the Apostle’s speech and appearance was weak and feeble! God receives all the glory and credit for our good works. And just like cuddling with my kids, we get the great privilege of being a part of that brief moment in time. To to be in that moment, we have to be available, and we must realize that we are not the center of the universe. We are, as scripture says, only a mist that is quickly evaporating.
Have you ever noticed how funerals happen in scripture? In Deuteronomy 24, the scriptures spend only two or three verses stating that Moses died. The next paragraph reads in verse 9, “And then Joshua…” As great a leader as Moses was, he is no longer a focal point in the biblical narrative. How humbling this is in a world where we want plaques and memorials built for us after we are dead. Even in thinking of death, we still want to be noticed. But God humbles us and reminds us that we are but a footnote in HIS story. He reminds us that the story is not, nor has it ever been about us.
I had the opportunity to be an extra in a movie that shot in Atlanta a few years back. I had my part as a cop, and I got to dress up and even throw a punch. I was told that I would have no lines, and that Id literally be on-screen less than five second, and even then you’d have to look for me to really see me. But that didn’t matter to me. It was such an honor to be asked and to play the part Id been given. I didn’t care that it wasnt about me, I just wanted to hear the director tell me I did a good job. I wanted to be the best inconsequential, no talking, five second appearing cop in that movie that I could be.
In this grand movie we call life, we are on-screen for a second as an extra in the background. No lines. No importance. In fact, if we were not in the movie at all, it would not change a thing. We are not the stars of the show. How silly I would have looked if I would have gone to my friends and bragged that I was a major player in this movie. They would have said, “Who do you think you are?” Our role in God’s timeline is so brief. And we have nothing to boast in but only the fact that He allowed us to participate. It may be just a bit part, but what a privilege it is to be chosen by God our Father, and given even the tiniest role in His story.
“But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:24
If you are a child of God, you’ve been given a script. And that script is not the starring role that you might want. It’s very small in the scope of the big picture. We have been called to live our lives for Christ. Sacrificing a self-deluded existence where we live life thinking that our happiness is the point. Those white hairs will come quicker than you may think. There are many things that a person on their death-bed will regret. Many wasted moments and passed by opportunities. But as the last vapors of mist exit their lives, no one will ever regret the hours they prayed, the moments they served, or the material things that they sacrificed so that Jesus would be more glorified. Standing before the Heavenly director on that day, many of the wasteful things we thought we so important here on this earth, we will regret that we spent so much time on them. Standing before the Lord, everyone will wish they had prayed more, served more, and given up more in light of the beauty of Jesus.
John Piper once told of a time that his father was preaching in church and a very old man who had been attending for years finally walked down the aisle to give his life to Christ. The old man was crying uncontrollably after Jesus became Lord of His life. The pastor asked the old man, “Sir, you have just been saved! Why on earth are you so upset.” The old man look up at the pastor through streaming tears and said, “My life…Ive wasted all of it!” How heartbreaking to realize that we wasted our lives on fleeting, inconsequential things and missed out on the great adventure of serving Christ!
So think of your life and this moment right now. Today you may be in your twenties or thirties. Tomorrow you will be in your seventies or eighties. It will go that quickly. Ask yourself, how radically are you living for Jesus now? How passionately are you leading and discipling your family for Jesus now? How fervently are you seeking to know Him through scripture now? It’s easy to make empty promises to yourself.
“I’ll begin leading my wife tomorrow.”
“I’ll start going to church next week.”
“I’ll start praying with my kids tomorrow.”
“I’ll start thinking about serving Christ on mission one day.”
Empty promises and professions to make ourselves feel better turn into wasted years and regretful memories of what might have been. Life is short. Do not waste the life and breathe you have been given on living for yourself. In this you will only find temporary highs that are based on circumstances. This opportunity to serve Him is short, but it sets the stage for eternity. Live for Christ in all that you do now!