Viewing Eternity – With Just Moments To Live

Christians always need to keep one eye on eternity:

We are all here on this earth living on borrowed time. Our end can be at any time, and the worst thing we can do is be presumptuous about how long our lives will run for. I just saw on the social media photos of items left behind from those massacred by Hamas at the music festival on October 7. There were pictures of all sorts of personal belongings accompanied by these words:

There is something so heartbreaking about these images.

These are all of the items found at the site of the Nova music festival – clothes, bags, sunglasses, keys, wallets and so much more. Each personal item tells a story of its owner, perhaps frozen in time forever.

The personal items were taken to a location in Caesarea and are currently waiting to be claimed.

Some 260 people were killed and dozens taken as hostages on that day. None of those young people would have thought that morning that this was to be their last day on earth. Nor did all the others killed by those bloodthirsty terrorists. Loved ones who remain can only grieve and lament at their great loss.

But sometimes we do get an inkling of how long we might be around for. Take for example those who are told they have a terminal illness with only so long to live. My wife of course was in this camp. Pretty early on we were given indications of how long she might last as she dealt with her cancer.

A few days ago I heard about a gal with breast cancer that had been diagnosed over five years ago. It was said that this was the ‘magic number’ and so she is now cancer free. I had not heard that before, so I looked it up and it seems to be a thing. When we first saw the oncologist almost two years ago we heard nothing about that. We just heard about what a rare, aggressive and hardcore cancer she had. She lasted 18 months….

Everyone should be grateful for each day of life – for themselves and for loved ones. It can end far too quickly as is, but things can come up and make for a shorter end, as in Israel, or getting in a car crash, and so on. We simply cannot control most of what happens all around us. As I type this, a strong burst of wind could topple a nearby tree, and it could come crashing down on my house where I am sitting.

But let me get back to the matter of a medical diagnosis that can send shivers down the spine of the one on the receiving end. One friend of mine who is also dealing with cancer recently posted this online: “If you knew you only had a possible 6 more months to live, what would you do?”

It is a good question indeed. Would you live life any differently, or would it be business as usual? I thought right away: yes and no. On the one hand, the same things may well continue. That is, if we are living a dedicated Christian life, seeking to please the Lord in all we do, then we basically keep on keeping on with that. In that sense no radical changes may be required.

But on the other hand of course if we knew we had six months or six weeks or six days left, there would indeed be some things that we would change or do differently. If I knew I had a month or two to go, some of my usual habits would certainly change. I likely would not order many more new books for starters.

If I had a bunch of speaking engagements planned for the near future, I might cancel those so as to spend more time with family and so on. That in fact is what I did when I learned of my wife’s cancer situation. They were all turned down so I could spend all my time with her.

Getting one’s house in order would be another set of things we would do: making sure a proper will is in place; making sure instructions are left for the children as to dealing with various things, etc. Tidying up loose ends would be essential – at least if we cared about those we are leaving behind.

And that is exactly what my wife had done. She had put together long lists of things to be done, and detailed documents telling us about important financial, medical and other information. She listed all the stuff we needed to know about how to continue on once she was gone. She had always done all the financial matters and paying of bills for example, so I and others now have to learn the ropes.

So she was very good at planning ahead in this regard. Likely some of it she had done even before she learned about her cancer. And toward the end she wrote letters to each of the three boys. She had wanted to write a few more, but she never got to complete those.

Some folks, if they have the time, the energy, and the available health, might make a bucket list and start crossing off items. In our case that really did not happen, given the severity of her cancer. But others might take that European cruise down the Rhine river that they always wanted to do, or go to that fancy restaurant they had long talked about, and so on.

And especially important for many folks would be making sure that family relationships are right, and if needed, reconciliation and apologies and the asking of forgiveness is undertaken. You would want to seek to mend some broken bridges, and seek to make right certain wrongs, etc.

But of course a major thing would be to make sure you are right with your Maker. As I said above, if you are walking closely with the Lord and seeking to put him first in all things, there may not be a need to change things very much. But many believers might need to spend some time on their knees before God, asking him to search their hearts and show them if anything needed to take place real soon.

Those who had up till now been living a rather shallow and slack Christian life might need to begin by asking God for forgiveness, and deciding to put Christ first in the days or weeks that remain. But the important thing is to always be living as if this were your last day on earth. In one sense we should always live as if eternity is just around the corner – even today.

Sure, we also have long-term plans we work on. We work to provide for our family, to pay off the mortgage, and so on. We continue on as if we will get our threescore and ten. But we also keep a close eye on how short this life is. Getting that balance can be difficult, but it needs to be done.

As has been said, if we live with eternity in view, it should change the way we do things. You will give your spouse a big hug and a kiss each morning before going off to work, knowing that this might be the last chance you will have to do this.

I do have some regrets in terms of my wife. I took too much for granted. I was not as grateful as I should have been. I was not always the best husband and father I should have been – nor even the best Christian. During her final days I told her this. She graciously said we cannot dwell on things of the past, but just move on with Christ. She was quite right.

I realise I am rambling a bit here. But it is always good to be reminded of how quickly this life goes by. Whether we get hit by a truck while a teenager, or live to be in the 90s, it still goes by way too fast. The Christian of all people should always live with eternity in mind.

Yes, we seek to make a difference here on earth, and we do what is needed to look after our family and do what needs to be done in the here and now. But we always must keep in mind that this is not our home – we really are just passing through.

Don’t let a tragedy happen before you start thinking this way. Do not wait till you leave the oncologist’s office with the bad news of your or your loved one’s medical prognosis. Live today as if tomorrow you will be ushered into eternity. But balance that with ‘occupying till I come’ as Jesus put it.

A few quotes by Leonard Ravenhill will be a fitting way to close this piece:

“I’m convinced that the greatest thing about those Puritan preachers (is) they lived in eternity six days a week and came down to earth on the seventh!”

“We are not eternity conscious enough.”

“I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something, or there’s going to be a big sale downtown somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity!”

“Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more! Wept more, bled more, grieved more, loved more, prayed more, given more!”

[1616 words]

8 Replies to “Viewing Eternity – With Just Moments To Live”

  1. I believe that last quote from Ravenhill is true. It often comes to my mind. Lord help me to be/do better for You!

  2. Hello Bill. I just recently stumbled upon your website and have found it to be a blessing to me. This article really hit home. I pray you are encouraged to continue your work with joy as God is certainly using it.

  3. Thank you Bill,

    for your timely reminder of how short life is, and how we shoul occupy our time in “Eternity” mode, rather than than in the “She’ll be right” mode.

    Cheers & blessings

    Eric Hansen

  4. While it is true that we should keep one eye on eternity, we also need to stay involved with what our Lord and Saviour wants us to keep doing here on Earth. Like your beautiful Averil probably did, Bill, my beloved late husband Ernest set his affairs in order, sought reconciliation with those we had differences with and we both shared relevant works of Catholic faith to help tide us over his impending departure for heavenly glory. It still hurts to not have him here alongside me, and I think I probably always will. However, I keep my mind, body and soul busy in pastoral care work in urban mission because I still think my sacred former vocation of nursing can yield good works as an essential element of my Christian faith, even if I am retired now. Until I am called to rejoin my husband, it is important to continue my daily walk and serve Our Lord.

  5. These words are most encouraging especially coming from your thought, with the loss of your dear one. Thank you Bill for uplifting my thought on negative issues that affect my life at times. So glad that you freely share from the gift of writing which the Lord has laid upon you, and you willingly express.

  6. Yes it’s important for us to keep our eyes on eternity. This life is only temporary and it will eventually end. I’m constantly keeping my eyes on God and eternity.

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