Points to Ponder: Are You Wasting Your Life?
Points to Ponder
Are You Wasting Your Life?
As I sat with my coffee one morning reviewing John Piper's book, Don't Waste Your Life, some of his recollections from earlier years prompted a recollection of my own. He described an old man who came to Christ after many decades of refusing to heed the Gospel's call. With tears he cried before the preacher, "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!"
I remember that look. It is seen in the eyes, which are the windows to the soul. The hardworking, by then retired, grandfather had given his life to Christ in his hospital bed. I had the privilege of baptizing him. Only about two months later, after a lengthy battle with a persistent form of cancer, the doctors said there was nothing else they could do. The day after receiving that news, once again in a hospital bed, he would be going home to another state to die.
As I drove to the hospital, I remembered the tears of joy flowing from his eyes and blending with the baptismal water, which dripped down his face. He had finally experienced a freedom and joy he had never before known. But that happy countenance was not there when I entered his hospital room to serve him communion; we both knew that would be our last time together on earth. That joyful face from his baptism was captured in a photograph, which was prominently displayed a few weeks later at his funeral.
But that day in the hospital room his eyes cried different tears, though these involved little water. He said, "I guess you heard the verdict?" Yes, I had. In our conversation I saw his soul crying deep from within. His eyes said it. Without words, knowing the end was coming within a month or a few days, I saw it: "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!"
You work so hard when you're young and strong. For some, especially from this gentle man's generation, work is all they knew. They barely had a childhood; everyone in the family worked so that everyone could eat. Nowadays we Americans still work long hours, but for many it's not just to put food on the table. It's more about acquiring a newer table, better dishes to put the food on, or going out to eat. It's a pursuit of wants rather than basic needs. This devoted family man, husband and father, had to work early on then because it was all he knew, that's all he did. And now his time was up. When he finally gave his life to Christ and relinquished his fears into the Lord's hands, he had tasted the freedom. It was something - the essence of life - which he perhaps realized could never be earned. You just can't work hard enough or well enough to obtain the one real treasure that only comes as a gift (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-10).
Piper's book got me to reflecting on this because, like him, I realized as a child that there is more to life than what it appears to be. I grew up in South Baltimore surrounded by middle class neighbors who worked hard. My parents modeled that work ethic of earning your way, paying your bills, doing a good job, and being a good citizen and neighbor. And after all of that (as I observed it all around me in childhood), you get old and then you die. And some, unfortunately, died before they got old.
So I wondered, if God made me and I'm here for some purpose He has in mind, am I doing what He's calling me to do? As an eight-year-old boy, I really began pondering my purpose. Is life all about going to school, getting degrees, going to work and paying bills? I wonder if we have backed up the pursuit of futility from the early working life of the post-college 20-something period into early childhood and the teen years? Sports. And more sports. Events and activities here, there, and everywhere. Kids with day planners. How often are we all just at home, playing in our own yard? Is this frenetic pace a good thing?
I may offend here, but it's just a point to ponder. The combination of witnessing several professional sports' leagues strikes and the obsessed, crazed behavior of parents on the little league fields brought me down to earth - to basic thoughts. What is the point of being worked up over pointless things? What is the greater purpose undergirding and guiding our pursuits? What do you really want?
Solomon is one of the few in history who could (and did) honestly say that he had everything he ever wanted and lacked nothing. Yet, in the Book of Ecclesiastes he says it's all vanity (empty). "For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 2:22). Without a focus on God, the fleeting nature of life and the futility of all of our pursuits, leads to an accumulation of stuff and the realization it's all vanity, meaningless: "I've wasted it!" Have you been pursuing the good at the expense of the best? Have you been pursuing futility and, without thinking, put your child on the same treadmill behind you? What do you really want? Have you tasted the freedom that only comes as a gift - the only perfect gift you can ever receive (James 1:17)? Or will you look back one day over your spent lifetime and think, e I've wasted it."
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
There's still time to make a new decision.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.