A new year is a great time to reflect on the previous year and think about the year ahead. It’s a great time to evaluate how we’re doing and where we’re going. For some of us, this year may be the last. So we want to make sure we’re living our lives the way they ought to be lived.
A writer named Michael Josephson said this about the passing of human life:
Ready or not, some day it will come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else. … What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what. Living a life that matters does not happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Sadly, there are people who live silly, shallow, wasted lives. As tragic as it is when a life is cut short, maybe the greater tragedy is a life that is thrown away.
Of course, when we say a life is cut short, who are we to make such a statement? It is God who determines how long we will live. The Bible says there is a time to be born, and there is a time to die. It reminds us that our times are in God’s hands.
Job, speaking of God, said, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer” (Job 14:5 NLT).
That is why it’s silly for us to worry about how long we’ll live.
Jesus said, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:27 NLT).
Of course not. I’m not discouraging you from exercising and eating well. But ultimately God determines how long we will live, not us. Maybe through exercise and diet we can improve the quality of our lives. But the quantity of our lives is up to God.
So we want to make sure we are living our lives well.
In his book “Nearing Home,” Billy Graham wrote:
I often wonder if God, in His sovereignty, allows the eyesight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so that we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever after.
People think so much about how to prolong life, and that is okay. But as Corrie ten Boom said, “The measure of a life is not its duration but its donation.”
Think about your friends for a moment. Think about the people you hang out with, your Facebook friends, the people you text the most and talk to the most. Think about the people you value the most. Are they helping you or hurting you in your spiritual life? Is the relationship a wing, or is it a weight? Does it speed you on your way, or does it actually slow you down?
For example, scuba diving equipment works beautifully in the water. The moment you’re underwater and deflate your BC, you feel weightless. As you’re cruising around, the weight belt helps keep you down so you don’t float on the surface. You have your regulator, and your fins move you through the water. It’s fantastic. But the moment you leave the water and walk to shore with all that stuff, it’s really heavy. I would hate to run a race wearing fins and scuba tanks. I would get rid of all of it.
The apostle Paul used the analogy of running a race as a metaphor for the Christian life. And in the Christian life, we can drag along a lot of excess baggage as we run our race. That includes relationships that hurt us. We need to be careful about the ones that can get us off track.
Paul also warned about looking back in the race. He said:
Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13–14 MSG).
It’s hard to run forward when you’re looking backward.
Jesus warned, “Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!” (Luke 17:32 NLT).
When God delivered Lot and his wife from Sodom and Gomorrah, he told them not to look back. But Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked back anyway. In the original language, the term used to describe her looking back speaks of something deliberate. It also could be translated, “She looked with longing.”
Have you ever looked with longing at something? Maybe it was something that looked delicious, and you thought, “Oh, I want that!” It’s how Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah, and she became a pillar of salt.
Jesus said, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NLT). Sometimes we might look back at the past through rose-colored glasses. But then you may find yourself, in time, turning back. In the race of life, don’t look back.
What if this were your last year on planet Earth? Think about it for a moment. If you had one year left to live, how would you live your life? Would you live it any differently than you lived it in 2017? This is something we have to come to grips with. We want to face the facts of the brevity of life on Earth and the reality of life in the future. We may have many, many years ahead. Then again, we may have only one year or part of a year ahead of us.
Don’t waste your life. Don’t waste your year. Don’t waste today. Make every day count. Make every month count. Make this year count.
Greg Laurie is an American author and pastor who serves as the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, Harvest Church at Kumulani in Kapalua, Hawaii, and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California.