Having grown up in the Maritimes and spending most of my teens years around boats and ships of one description or another I am fairly familiar with fog, especially when you consider my formative years were spent in Saint John or as we fondly remember it CFBC, Canada’s Fog Bound City. And some fog was thick and permanent, you felt like you were inside a room full of cotton batten, it was dreary and imprisoned you in its damp embrace. But there was also a light hazy fog that often times the sun was shining above it and you knew that it had no future, that before the day was very old the fog would be gone and its memory would be as nebulous as the fog itself.
And it was that type of fog that James, the brother of Christ, used as an analogy for our lives in the letter that he wrote two thousand years. That letter has been preserved as a part of our New Testament and it was read earlier in particular we are looking at James 4:14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
Shakespeare obviously felt the same about the fleeting nature of life because he wrote: Life… It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing. And if that wasn’t enough in another of the Bard’s plays he penned, Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.
Most of us don’t dwell on how short life might be, in fact most of us we view our lives with more permanence and very seldom even think about our future demise. And according to the Social Security Actuarial Period Life Table, it seems the longer you live, the longer you live.
At my present age it is projected that my life expectancy will be an additional 24 years. If I actually make it to 81 years old the actuarial table projects that my life expectancy will be an additional 7.76 years, which means there is a pretty good chance I will die Sept 21 2049 at around 2 in the afternoon. But if I live to be 89 years old, my life expectancy is projected to be 4 additional years. If I live to be 93, I may then live to be 96 years of age where I am granted the possibility of an additional 2.66 years. At almost 100 they give me another 2.27years which will get me up over the hundred mark and at that point I am given an even chance of living until I am 103 and from there they give me another 1.83 years. Even if I live to be 119 years old, I am granted an additional .57 year of life expectancy.
However, eventually the actuarial table runs out of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds of life expectancy. In other words, I am terminal. We are all terminal. Apart from the Second Coming of Christ in one’s lifetime, the death rate is 100%. (Actuarial table illustration courtesy of Monty Newton, Heritage Community Bible Church) I saw a sign in a doctor’s office years ago that said and I quote “Don’t take life too serious, you’ll never get out of it alive.”
But what if you knew that your death was imminent? What if you were told for sure that you had X amount of years, months or days left? Would your behaviour change?
The story is told that once while St. Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, ”What would you do it you were suddenly to learn that you were to die at sunset today?” He replied, ”I would finish hoeing my garden.”
I wish I could say that, even though I personally hate gardening. Realistically speaking though I probably have things to do, apologies to make and things to say.
This video really puts it in perspective. (Jelly Bean Video)
So on this last Sunday of 2017I thought I would reflect on some things that I would do if I knew that I only had 365 jelly beans left.
1) I Would Enjoy Each Day More
I am probably like a lot of you in that there are things I would like to do, but for whatever reasons, time, finances, family responsibilities they have gotten put on the back burner for the time being.
I would like to finish my private pilot’s licence. I would like to visit the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked, I would like to visit my Great Grand Father’s home land of Estonia. And some of those things are on hold for financial reasons. But there are other things that I have been putting off simply because I am a procrastinator.
I had never heard the term “Bucket List” until the movie came out in 2007.
If you haven’t see it, the premise of course is two men who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer set out to fulfil their “Bucket list” that is the list of things that wanted to do before they kicked the bucket.
If you were to make a list of things that you wanted to do before you kicked the bucket what would be on that list. Are there some of those that need to be done now? I am sure you have all heard the poem attributed to 85-year-old Nadine Stairs
If I had my life to live over, I’d try to make more mistakes next time.
I would relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have on this trip.
I would be crazier. I would be less hygienic. I would take more chances, I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets.
I would burn more gasoline. I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who lives prophylactically
and sensibly and sanely, Hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I have had my moments
And if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another.
Instead of living so many years ahead each day.
I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer,
a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I had to do it over again, I would go places and do things.
I’d travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
I would play hooky more. I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident.
I would ride on merry-go-rounds.
I’d pick more daisies!
What would you do if you could do it again?
2) I Would Express My Love More. I would let those in my life know that I love them, in word and in deed. I don’t want to leave with those who mean the most to me wondering how I felt about them. Kind of like the old couple she said, “You never tell me you love me.” To which he replied, “I told you that on our wedding day and if I change my mind I will let you know.”
If you are a Christ follower than your faith itself is defined by “Love”. Jesus told his followers in John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” But that love has to be visible and verbalized. In other words, they discover our love through what we say and what we do. And so I will treat those I love with Love and I will not let my love go unsaid. And it’s not just what you say, if you’ve never read the book The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, you should.
We each receive love in our own unique way, and the way you need to speak love into your spouse’s life may be different than how you would like to receive it in your life.
If ‘n you died tomorrow, would those you care the most about know exactly how you felt about them?
3) I Would Be Careful of My Words I think we underestimate what we say and how we say it. Angela often reminds me, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”
Jesus’ brother James warned us in the book he wrote James 3:5-10 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Wow, I wonder how James really felt?
More damage is done to those around us by our words than by our actions, and while most of us pride ourselves in not resorting to physical violence we commit verbal assaults almost without thinking about it, and that is being charitable because a lot of times those words are well thought out. Robert Burton was a British clergy man who lived in the late 1500’s and he said “A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.”
The story is told of a lady who spread some rumours about the towns Rabi which she later found out were false. She came and apologized to the man and asked what she could do to make it right. So, he told her to take a feather pillow to the town square and cut it open and shake it and them come back to him. Well she did as she was asked and returned and wanted to know if that was all she had to do and he said “No, now go back and collect the feathers” to wish she replied “that is impossible.”
The Roman Poet Horace said “A word once uttered can never be recalled.”
4) I Wouldn’t Hold Grudges. In other words I would be more forgiving. Jesus took a pretty strong stand on forgiveness. And that makes sense, his forgiving you your sins cost him a lot. And so he simply ask that you forgive others. And it won’t cost you nearly as much; as a matter of fact it will probably just cost you your pride.
And Jesus didn’t just say it would be a good idea if we forgave other people, he made it mandatory. Matthew 6:12-15 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. And that is scary. But it is for the good of others and for our own good.
Ever talk to someone who is holding onto a grudge against somebody else. They relive that hurt or slight over and over again, sometimes something that is a misunderstanding. Understand this; forgiving someone is a conscious decision that you have to make. I can’t forgive someone for what they did to you, you have to do it.
Every once in a while, someone will ask me as a Pastor “How do I forgive that person?” And I think the answer is in the old Nike ad that says “Just do it.” Let go of the hurt, stop taking it out of the secret place you keep it, stop looking at it and thinking about it.
I didn’t think I was a grudge holder but a few years ago I happened to run into a woman who had said some pretty nasty things to me and about me and this church 20 years ago and I was finding it hard to stand and talk to her. There are some who are thinking “Well then Denn, you need to go and tell her that you forgive her.”
Probably not, she doesn’t know there is a problem, what I do need to do is simply forgive her and get on with life.
Actress Marlene Dietrich once said “Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.” The Apostle Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13:5 Love keeps no record of being wronged. And that goes for all of us, forgive and get on with life or understand that your lack of forgiveness will colour how you live in this life and the next.
5) I Would Keep Short Accounts This kind of goes with the last one. I would allow myself to be forgiven. If I have done wrong to someone I would make it right, if I have disappointed God with my behaviour I will apologize and ask for forgiveness. That by that way if what repentance is.
I would not want anyone sitting in my funeral fuming over something I had done to them that I had not tried to make right. I may not have been able to make it right in their eyes but I will have tried.
6) I Would Be the Spouse I Promised to Be. Think back to your wedding day. Do you remember what you promised in front of God and everybody? It probably went something like this first the Preacher asked you: Will you have this person to be your wedded spouse, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love them, comfort them, honor and keep them, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others keep yourself only unto them, so long as you both shall live? And you promised that you would do that. Do you remember that? And then you were asked to repeat after the preacher and you would have said something like this, I , take you, to be my wedded husband or wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy law and thereto I pledge you my love. And then if it was like a lot of weddings they would have read a particular passage of scripture, can you remember what it was? Sure you can, it was probably 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!
I would think that if all we did was what we promised we would do, and if we loved like we vowed we would love that the divorce rate would be a whole lot lower than it is. And you are thinking “Well sure if I wasn’t married to a jerk.” That would be the jerk you married, that you promised to love, comfort, honour and keep, so long as you both shall live.
7) I Would Spend More Time With God I saw a cartoon a long time ago that showed an old woman, sitting on a porch, reading the Bible. Two kids were walking by. One said to the other, “That’s my grandma. She’s cramming for her finals.” If I am going to spend eternity with God then I think it would be fitting to get to know Him. How do we do that? Two ways, the time we spend in prayer that is talking to God and the time we spend reading His word, that is Him talking to us.
You know that you cannot maintain a relationship with friends or family without communicating with them, so why do we assume that our relationship with God will just happen? David’s prayer to God in Psalm 16:11 says You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. But that won’t happen unless we work at making it happen. When Jesus taught His followers about prayer he used the phrase “when you pray” not “if you pray”.
Now most of us pray, at least sometimes, we are like that annoying friend who only calls us when they need something. The kids are sick so we pray, the roads are bad so we pray, the economy is sinking so we pray. But really don’t you think God would like to hear from you once in a while when you just want to thank Him for the great day you are having and let Him know about some of your plans and dreams for the future? Maybe it’s just a matter of being proactive, instead of praying to get out of trouble maybe our prayers should be to not get into trouble.
Do you read your bible much? It’s not just a devotional tool that you pick up and read a verse here and there to help you feel better.
Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
In other words if I had to sum up the previous 7 points 8) I Would Live Without Regrets On my death bed I don’t want to have to utter the words “If only” or “I wished I had” I want to die with my wife and kids and friends knowing I loved them and with my God knowing that I did and gave my very best for the Kingdom.
The first words I want to hear as I step through into eternity are Matthew 25:23 “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
And so I close today asking this question James 4:14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.