Is Your House In Order?

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!

Image of Heaven: Your Real Home...From a Higher Perspective
Heaven: Your Real Home...From a Higher Perspective by Tada, Joni Eareckson (Author) Amazon logo

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.

[1631 words]

10 Replies to “Is Your House In Order?”

  1. Well said. And we are remembering you in hospital Bill. While Iam sure you would go to a better place, we still need you abd your bold insightfulness. I had a serious, 12 hour operation on my back where the Dr promised one of three outcomes. Somewhat better, no better, or worse. I took the risk as I felt the current situation held no hope and was becoming intolerable. In Recovery after the op I knew things weren’t good and I had heard a Nurses comment as I was coming out of the anaesthetic, as the tube was being removed from my mouth, saying “the air is still turned on”. Obviously it should have been turned “off”. I soon realised I could not breathe without a sustained effort on my part sa I seemed to have no capacity in my lungs to breathe normally. I was forcibly taking short, shallow breaths and was unable to relax and just breathe normally. I mentioned this to various staff who all told me not to worry, it would improve. Night staff came on and a Sr had never worked in Recovery before. She was not wanting to hear I had problems and halfway through the night when I was feeling more desperate for air and quite hopeless in improving my situation I really thought I might die. I tell you this because I felt completely peaceful about the idea. I had known the prognosis and taken the risk, and now I wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t think of anything better than going to see Jesus face to face, no worries at all just a wonderful expectation. My only concern was not saying ‘Goodbye’ to my wonderful family. I tried to tell the Night Sister my concern about making it through the night and could she please tell my family that I was fine and I held no-one responsible. She was horrified, and told me ‘not to talk like that and close my eyes and go to sleep’. Well going to sleep was right out of the question as I was fighting for my every breath, and relaxing and sleeping was far from reality. I was somewhat relieved when the understanding Day Nurse got me up and sat me beside the bed when some of the pressure was removed from my lungs and I was able to breathe a bit easier. I demanded x-rays which showed I was indeed full of air(some is normal after a big operation) but it took 11 days to right the problem , Various Specialists were called in and were furious with the delayed response by staff. It was the most wonderful testimony to me hat I could indeed say I had no fear in death, that knowing Christ was all that mattered. I have found my attitude to life has changed. I don’t hang onto the things of this world anymore. For instance my passion for taking photo has taken a back seat . “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” “Heaven is my home, and I am going there.” “I am in this world but not of this world.” And we should be talking about Eternity a lot more. It is something to look forward to in a big way. I certainly do these days. And I pray earnestly that all my family and friends will join me there. As I get older prayer has become central to all things and talking unashamedly about Jesus my main delight. This is what life is all about.

  2. It is a timely reminder to us all to get our house in order.
    How much more should we be prepared as we look to our eternal home in heaven, when our loved ones who have rejected the gospel will also have conscious existence for all eternity.
    Part of our preparation needs to include living a life that demonstrates the love of Christ towards those who do not know Him.
    Personally I care more for those in my family who are unsaved, because the god of this world has blinded their eyes, and while I am sure of my eternal state, they have no idea of the fate that will befall them.

  3. Thanks for that. As far as retirement from earthly occupation, I don’t know when that will come, if ever. I don’t believe that we as followers of Jesus should ever retire in the way the world sees retirement. Maybe just switch to a less intensive job. As far as retiring from serving Jesus, never of course. I have been in in an extremely hazardous occupation for the last 48 years and there have been at least three times that God has preserved my life, that I’m aware of. I don’t really have any fear of death, definitely not looking forward to the long lingering Illness type though. Whatever God has in store in that respect, I know that he is with me and in less than a blink of an eye, I’ll see him face to face when that moment comes. The way the world is going, I’d say it’s a real toss up now whether I’l see physical death or going up with all the rest of you brothers and sisters to meet our Lord in the air. May the Lord continue to have his hand on you through your upcoming medical procedure. He will, absolutely.

  4. Loved the image of one of Arthur Stace’s chalked “Eternity” messages. If we knew exactly when our allotted earthly days would end, I fear most of us would procrastinate “to the max” … just like the uni’ student who said: ” I must ask the lecturer for an extension of the deadline on that assignment… Haven’t done anything yet… Well I suppose it’s the thought that counts.” !

  5. “Surely a man goes about as a shadow!” And “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

    Reminds me of Shakespeare “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more.”

    So many take the attitude “if I’m wrong I’ll recant on my deathbed” without realizing so many aren’t lucky enough to have a deathbed others are unconscious when they get to their deathbed so no possibility of recanting there. Basically they think “I’ll live like a sinner and right before I die pull a fast one on God and then I’m in.” They think God is gullible or stupid. I find the later the hour gets the more temptation we face. “We are surrounded by signs and portents and I feel a darkness pressing at our back”.

    I don’t always get to your articles right away as my sight is having greater problems, I may go blind who knows, but I read them when I can. I may only be in my early 40’s but I desperately long for home. No matter what I do I never feel I have done enough with what God has given. I often disappoint myself I just pray I am not a disappointment to God. I think hearing I’m proud of you would mean more than well done thou good and faithful servant. Hope all went well with you.

  6. As they say, better late then never. I am ever so glad I read your
    Eternity piece. It’s good to make sure your house is in order.
    There is much clearity in the observations you write about here.
    It’s been uplifting for me, thank you Bill for these sound reminders of our fregility and mortality.

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