12 December 2006

...and you were going to do this, when?

by Dan Phillips

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,
for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
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.

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 past
Only what's done for Christ will last.
This 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.

What should we be doing, that we aren't?

Dan Phillips's signature


Carla Rolfe said...

Excellent post Dan, thank you for this.

James Scott Bell said...

Thanks, Dan. Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life" is along the same lines. Great reminder which we all need constantly.

Seth McBee said...

very timely...may we look back to these days when the people of Christ stand for Him, may we look back on this time as a great reformation in the church as we do with Jonathan Edward's time.

Great post Dan.

Gryphonette said...

Excellent, excellent post, Dan!

It's a keeper, for sure.

Pastor Mike Paris said...

Dan, so would you say that your spiritual gift is exhortation? ;)

Great "I can't even imagine" paragraph. Maybe this could be another verse set to the worship song about heaven sung by Mercy Me!

And in keeping with your note at the end of the post about doing rather than waiting, I read this this morning only slightly before your post:

"Not until I move off the possibility that I can trust and serve God by actually doing it do I know the life of faith. Then the Holy Spirit can do with me and for me what I only thought possible."
Redeeming Light, Robert C. Hereth

And do I get another point b/c the quote includes another "only"? :)

Thanks Dan!

SJ Camp said...


Being a single dad of five children isn't easy some days, but is always a joy (four of them are teenagers). I am blessed to be their father. Your article sounds like you were eavesdropping on a conversation that I had with the older ones the other day.

This is excellent and I appreciate your words very much.

A brief note of encouragement: keep on writing these kinds of articles Dan and don't worry about how many comment. You're doing kingdom work with posts like this - and therefore, the numbers don't matter at all.

Grace and peace to you,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Neil said...

Thanks Dan. Will you forgive me when I plagiarize for a Sunday School lesson?

DJP said...

Pastor Mike -- Dan, so would you say that your spiritual gift is exhortation? ;)

A world of "No." God just beats up on me (less than deserved), and I share.

DJP said...

BB, you crack me up.

Well, since it's (reportedly) my position that nobody should ever read anyone, you're already in trouble with me, just for reading me!

donsands said...

It's always gonna be a struggle in this life. As long as it's a genuine struggle, then it's a good thing.
The struggle means I have a burning desire to live for Christ, but my flesh wants to live for its own sake, which is me feeling sorry for myself really.

These were some encouraging words. We surely need to be encouraged to walk by faith in love every day, even every hour.

Neil said...

Thanks Dan. Will you forgive me when I plagiarize for a Sunday School lesson?

DJP said...

Whoa. Groundhog Day.

Jon said...

First-time commenter here, Dan. Thanks for this post. It really resonated with me.

Kim said...

Very beautifully and powerfully put.

T-Shirt Ninja said...

"In all eternity, in the thousands and millions of years that stretch on ahead of us,"

Not quite accurate here. If I'm not mistaken there's no such thing as time in eternity. Basically, a year, month, minute, second don't exist because there is no such thing as time anymore.

"this is the only opportunity we'll have to walk by faith."

This and the rest of your post is uber-awesome. It makes me realize how little time there truly is.

DJP said...

Thanks, and I do think you are mistaken. We won't become infinite; time will still progress.

Screaming Pirate said...

Hey, Dan thanks for the exhortation, I needed the perspective.

HeWhoIsCalledTom said...

I so needed this today, you have no idea how much....
Thanks and keep up the awsome work, you truly are doing kingdom work

Connie said...

Why is it that we don't seem to ponder--much less understand or appreciate--this way of thinking until we've "aged" a bit?

Not trying to sound "high and mighty", but I'm beginning to understand what Paul was saying to the Philippians about staying here vs. going to be with X.

Thanks for the post, I need to be reminded not to waste the time God has ordained for me.

DJP said...

...we don't seem to ponder...this way of thinking until we've "aged" a bit

So, what are you trying to say?

Silly Old Mom said...

Top 10 in the category of "Best. Post. Ever."

Ebeth said...

If this isn't a challenge to those of us who struggle with procrastination, I don't know what will be.
All too well put.

freshwords said...

Hey DJ P!

Thanks for that excellent post. It's one of those things one should plaster on ones wall to read it all the time!

Just like this one.

Thanks again! May the Lord bless you in your effort to shepherd your bregade of sinners at home.

Grace and Peace.

Connie said...


I'm saying that the perspective you shared,

"... 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.",

seems to matter more and more as I understand that I have less and less time here on earth!

This has come to light in a variety of ways for me lately and I think that's why your post struck a cord in me.

I've noted in myself and close Xian friends that heaven is becoming "sweeter" as we get closer to it (age-wise). It causes me to "take stock" more frequently and weigh my spiritual investments of time and energy.

As I recently pondered going back to school it surprised me that a "what would it matter, I'm probably too old and it would profit me nothing" thought came in my head! Thankfully, my thinking was quickly corrected and I realized that it COULD matter in the kingdom of God since my desire is to become better equipped to minister/serve.

Sorry, that's a bit of a long and rambling answer to your short question! Just know that your post added to the "stirring" of my gray matter (which sits right under my rapidly graying hair!!!)

Connie said...

Dan: Shortly after posting my above comment, turning off my computer, and going about my daily business, a thought hit me!! That thought was this, "I'll bet Dan was being scarcastic when he asked that--he's "jabbing" me a bit!"

So in that same spirit let me answer your question with this,

Dan, what I'm trying to say is you're older and obviously have been pondering these things longer than I have.

So, how's that? :-)

DJP said...

Thanks, Connie; a good double-take is one of my favorite things in life.

(Like when a Presbyterian elder mentioned a radio program dealing with prophecy, and I asked mildly whether the speaker took prophecy seriously, or was an amillennialist. He answered me straight, and then about two minutes later, said, "Hey -- wait a minute...!" Sweet!)

C.T. Lillies said...

Well Dan, you think you're old now just wait until tomorrow. I was going to read the whole thing but I just don't have TIME. Seriously thats like two homeruns in a row.

Headscratch How does that time in heaven thing fit in? Is that some sort of infinite dispensation?

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

DJP said...



Rebekah said...

Thanks for sharing these excellent thoughts. It's so tempting sometimes to get caught up in the day-to-day things that must be done and forget that it must all be done for God's glory (even and especially the day-to-day things). I've thought a lot about how much time I waste with my kids by being distracted by things that are unimportant and what a short time I have to teach them what is so important. Thanks for the reminder that this is the only opportunity we get to walk in faith here and the encouragement not to waste the time we are given!

IB Dubbya said...

Brother, I Love You for that; thank you, thank you, thank you. [he says, with smarting heart.]


Leberwurst said...

Excellent thoughts Dan.

I was talking to a friend in seminary and he was telling of the difficult week he'd had because of finals. I commented that it sounded like an excellent illustration of how we realize just how much we must depend on God when we reach the end of self. He said this, and it hit me like a frozen chub of meat, "we say we trust the sovereignty of God, but the most practical demonstration of this is the time we spend in prayer" I was smitten and humbled, and wished that I was spending much more time praying, and much less time coming up with human solutions to get me through all of my "trials".

Thanks for the eternal perspective.

dogfreid said...

That couplet is indeed haunting

grw4 said...


I would like to use this as a discussion with my men's Bible Study group. Any problems with making copies?

Turgonian said...

This is a great blog! I've checked it out repeatedly in the past. It definitely fits into the 'wild orthodoxy' which I like.

I'm posting now because I wonder about human relationships in the afterlife. You said, 'This is the only chance we'll have to honor our father and mother, to love our wives...'

Do you think we will only love God and/or be focused on God in the afterlife, without regarding & interacting with the other saved believers?

DJP said...

grw4 - if you credit the site and author, no problem.