It is amazing how differently you do things when you think your time is nearly up:
No, this is not something you might find in Good Housekeeping magazine. It is a bit more serious than that. The other day I told my wife that I am trying to tidy up loose ends and deal with some unfinished business. When she asked why, I said it is always possible I may go to glory while on the operating table.
Yes, that was said in jest, but much truth lies behind it. I AM in fact going into hospital for surgery today. So I would appreciate any prayers you might offer up for me, as most surgeries do have an element of risk. And the older you get, the less you can assume you are going to be on planet earth for decades to come.
So I am thinking about eternity somewhat of late. But it is not just us old guys, or those who are heading out to the hospital, who should have their minds on such matters. The truth is, we all should, even those who are healthy and fit, and still in their twenties.
You never know when you will be called into the next life. You could head out your door today and get struck and killed by a runaway truck, or by a bolt of lightning, or by a crazed gunman. These might be unlikely scenarios, and I wish them on no one, but they can and do happen.
Every minute of the day someone, somewhere will die – and for all sorts of reasons. And so many of these folks were NOT expecting to die – at least not so soon. Most of them were not ready. Most of them were not prepared. They had not set their house in order.
We still use that phrase today, and like so many famous sayings, it actually comes from the Bible. In this case, it comes from 2 Kings 20:1 which says: “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover”.’”
The Bible often speaks to how we must have our house set in order. We are often told that death can come at any time, or that Christ can return at any time. Are you ready for either one? Are you prepared to meet your Maker? Are you ready for how you will spend eternity?
Consider just a few passages which speak to the need to be prepared. Jesus famously gave such a warning in the parable of the rich fool as found in Luke 12:13-21:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Are you a fool? Or are you wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil? In Psalm 39:4-6 the Psalmist put it this way:
O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
Or as James warns us (James 4:4): “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.” Yep, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Yet most folks live as if they will live forever.
Sure, we hopefully seek to get the right balance. Insurance companies probably do not dish out policies to those who are in their late 90s. And hopefully we all know when to ease up on certain things when it looks like we are running out of time.
Let me offer a few examples of this, starting with some less important ones. I just came back from the shops recently with a four-pack of yellow highlighter pens, for underlining my books. Now if I really thought I was not going to make it through my surgery, that was a dumb purchase – but it was a steal at $2.50! But wait, there’s more. I not only have 30 books that I have ordered that I am waiting on, but I just went out and bought 6 new books. Now that is real faith!
Speaking of books, I still need to figure out what I am going to do with my quite large library. I know that there are quite a few evil book-lusterers out there, just waiting for me to get out of the way so they can get their hands on my books! But joking aside, I really do need to make some decisions eventually about what happens to all those volumes.
Or consider another matter that is an issue – at least for some folks. If you have a wine cellar, you want the bottles to sit around for some years – either as an investment opportunity, or because good wine gets better as it ages. But that too is risky. What if you slip on the proverbial banana peel tomorrow and die? What happens to that fabulous wine cellar, especially if none of your family and friends drink the stuff? What a waste! (And I know of one fellow who has a 1500-bottle cellar!)
Or you buy some expensive holiday home in the south of France, or something similar, hoping that in your retirement you can enjoy it to the max. But what if you die young? Jesus said we should not lay up for ourselves treasures in this world, but for the world to come (Matthew 6:19-21). We sure can’t take our villas, mansions, yachts, or gold bars with us.
And more important matters would include a scenario like this: Suppose you have a family member or loved one that for various reasons you have fallen out with, and have not spoken to for some years. If you knew you were going to meet your Lord tonight, would that make a difference to you? Would you not seek to work at reconciliation while you still had the chance?
Plenty of other vital matters could be mentioned here in terms of how we would act if we knew our time on earth was just about up. So I ask you again: is your house in order? Are you prepared to face your Creator and your Judge? Or do you really think you will somehow live forever in this life?
Let me finish with a few quotes. The famous Puritan John Owen said this: “Satan’s greatest success is in making people think they have plenty of time before they die to consider their eternal welfare.” And another Puritan great, Thomas Watson said this about our two eternal destinies: “Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise.”
John Wesley put it this way: “Get these three principles fixed in your hearts: that things eternal are much more considerable than things temporal: that things not seen are as certain as the things that are seen: that upon your present choice depends your eternal lot.”
And C. S. Lewis was quite right to say this: “Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever.”
One last quote, from the famed quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada who said this in her book Heaven: Your Real Home:
When Christians realize that their citizenship is in heaven, they begin acting as responsible citizens of earth. They invest wisely in relationships because they know they’re eternal. Their conversations, goals and motives become pure and honest because they realize these will have a bearing on everlasting reward. They give generously of time, money, and talent because they are laying up treasures for eternity. They spread the good news of Christ because they long to fill heaven’s ranks with their friends and neighbors. All this serves the pilgrims well, not only in heaven, but on earth; for it serves everyone around them.
Yep. So how are you living your life? Are you living in the light of eternity? Or are you living just like a non-believer? We all need to get our house in order. And we better work at it now before it is too late.