Take a look at this for a moment:
Big long line. Can't tell where it starts, and it just goes on, to the right. Oh, and a little bitty red dot on the left.
A verse I used to try to impress on my two older children, in homeschooling, was Ecclesiastes 9:10 —
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,My intent was to discourage slack, inattentive, halfhearted work, and to encourage them to give their all to what they were doing. They'd not get their childhood again, they'd not get a chance to lay the foundations again. Now was the moment to act, and to act heartily.
for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Our lives are like that line. We're all going to exist forever; and we who have been saved by Christ are going to live forever. This little bit we're having now, this 20, 40, 60, or 80 years, is like that little red blip off to the left. It's a passing nothing. It starts, it's over.
But there are unique qualities to this life, there are onlies about this life.
In all eternity, in the thousands and millions of years that stretch on ahead of us, this is the only opportunity we'll have to walk by faith. Now we love Him and rejoice, though we don't see Him (1 Peter 1:8). Then we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2), shall see His face (Revelation 22:4).
Specifically, this is the only chance we'll have to honor our father and mother, to love our wives, to respect and subordinate ourselves to our husbands, to raise our children in Christ, to tell unbelievers of Jesus, to love our enemies.
This is the only chance we shall have to suffer for Christ, to accept suffering in faith, and rejoice in trial. It is the only opportunity to be humbled by our own personal thorns in the flesh, and know the grace and power of Christ in them.
Only now do we live in a time of warfare, strife, constant battle.
- We constantly battle — or are supposed to be battling — with our flesh and remaining corruption (Romans 7:14-25; 1 Peter 2:11)
- We wrestle with principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:11ff.)
- We contend with those who forsake the law (Proverbs 28:4)
- We know danger from false brothers (2 Corinthians 11:26)
- Insofar as we walk with the Lord, we live in a world that hates us (1 John 3:13)
This life is a battlefield. As far as we know, it is the only battlefield we shall ever experience. Therefore, it is the only opportunity we shall ever have to fight for the Lord, to do battle for Him, to overcome for Him, to score victories for Him, to win any trophies for the Crown.
So if we're going to do this, we need to do it now. Soon, all we shall have from this life is a once-in-eternity record. That, and a great many regrets, I wager.
Do you honestly imagine that there is any chance you'll regret trusting the Word too much? That you'll regret believing in God too heartily? That you'll regret giving too much of yourself to Him, in His service? That you'll regret having mortified the flesh too much, having walked in the Spirit too much? That you'll regret having been too godly of a husband, wife, parent, child, churchman, citizen? That you'll wish you'd indulged your fleshly passions more, loved the world more, pursued your private agenda more, absorbed yourself in the world's passing distractions more? That you'll wish you'd gotten more things, better things, and given less of your time and energies to the Word and the Lord?
I have wondered this often as I've seen believers going on and on in patterns of sin, laziness, stubborn disbelief and disobedience. Do they ever think thus? Do they ever think of the passing transience of this life (James 4:14)? Do they ever think of eternity, of the perspective of God, to say nothing of His judgment?
You've been in a pattern of fleshly indulgence in your marriage. You know what God calls you to, but you just won't do it. When were you going to start? Do you imagine that this is some sort of dress rehearsal, and real life, life that counts, will start... when? When were you going to start putting on the Lord Jesus, and making no provision for the flesh? When were you going to start putting to death the practices of the body? When?
You're a young adult about to leave home, but you've never learned to honor — honor! — your father and mother. Were you going to be born into some other household, and practice your Christian faith there? When?
And what to parents? My dear wife discovered a poem once called Babies Don't Keep. Forget that it brings tears to her eyes, she's a great mother — it brings tears to my eyes! I can't say it better.
You're in a church where you're hearing the Word, but you're doing nothing with it. You're not involved, not serving, not growing, not giving; indulging in self-absorbed fascinations. When were you going to start doing all those "one anothers"? In the Millennium? After?
You've heard the couplet; you're about to hear it again.
Only one life, 'twill soon be pastThis is a thought that haunts me, as I try to project myself forward, looking back at what is my present. The time God has given you and me to walk by faith and not by sight is now. In fact, that is the only time.
Only what's done for Christ will last.
What should we be doing, that we aren't?