Reflections on Life and Living or Not!
In the end, it’s not the years in your Life that count. It’s the Life in your years. Abraham Lincoln
God gave us the gift of Life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of Living well. Voltaire
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius
While the working out of Life is a process, Life, in its essence, is really simple: isn’t it reasonable to think and say that the essence of Life is Time? Interestingly, every Life (of the billions who have Lived) is unique while the most basic of their Life “ingredients” (24 hours a day) is exactly the same. For while everyone doesn’t have same number of days, they have the same number of hours in the days they do have. And likewise, isn’t it apparent that the quality of Life is very much a function of what we do with this Time, these 24-hour “units”?
Maybe focusing on this simple truth can aid in making the process of Living clearer and, in the end, Better. They may help make sense of quotes and wisdom such as:
We make a Living by what we get, but we make a Life by what we give. Winston Churchill
We err in teaching by not using the visual benefit of capitalizing certain, very important, words, when used with essence, heart, core . . . meanings. Life, Time and Better are three such Big and important words. If we did this, the words we individually chose to capitalize (in some sense those we consider “sacred” in our Lives) would say much about us!
These above plain and simple realities and questions lead to successive obvious, good and very important questions:
- What control do we (and do we not) have over the quality of our Lives?
- How can we, by “working” the controls we have (and mitigating that which is outside our control) measurably improve the quality of our Lives?
- Is it possible to “invest” Time and thought to making our personal and limited Time Better?
- Do we believe (and Live as though we believe) that there is much we can do to improve our Lives or do we believe/Live as though we are victims of: our circumstances, age, intelligence (or lack thereof), health, our finances, our innate abilities, what others offer and allow us to do, the external and macro conditions (where we Live, who is in power, the laws they pass . . .)? In short, do we Live as though most of Life’s potential is a function of external/macro factors or internal/micro opportunities?
Do we take advantage of the best and most revealing “pictures” and answers available to us to help see and achieve Better?
- The “Wisdom” of the ages?
- The best (seeking to understand and emulate) and worst (avoiding) in others around us?
- What are the universal and necessary building blocks to Better?
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Seuss
And maybe the first and Better way to begin answering these questions is to look at the end of Life and work back from there since God, within its first few pages the Bible, warns: “you will surely die.” Doesn’t this, then, leave us with the most basic and important questions being: Is there anything after death or are our few years here all there is? And, what clues can we hope to find (and where?) to reveal the answers to these most important questions? Since there are virtually unlimited “paths” in Life, working from now to the end is potentially very diverse, complex and hard while viewing the universal end of everyone – every Life (“you will surely die”) can be much easier, enlightening, and helpful.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be Lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard
Everyone knows (even if they suppress or deny the thought) Life is a one-way and relatively short trip –
|← a picture of a miracle of modern medicine, the best the word offers followed by →|
If there is a flicker of hope besides and beyond these images wouldn’t we only reasonably follow this glimmer as it becomes brighter and brighter? For Life will either “naturally” close in and down or supernaturally open out and up – we face the inevitable or the miraculous.
This ray of light promises: “The Sovereign LORD says. ‘Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse.’” Jesus said: “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” There are 153 “whoevers” in the Bible, most providing strong traces of hope and light.
Likewise, if there is a significant meaning and reality to:
- “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (and its placement immediately after telling us how “whoever” is saved) . . .
If we are to believe God prepared specific, precise, defined . . . good works for each of His true followers to do is it too much to believe He then assumes the responsibility to speak to us, tell us what they are and then give us the resources to believe this? This is what He warns and promises:
- “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Four times God makes this identical promise to speak to us! And He must if He has prepared good works in advance for us to do – how else can we know?
- “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” God is speaking in many ways – our “job,” a vital portion of our “good works,” then being to . . .
- “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
- “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all Times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
These are not “pie in the sky” promises, but “where the rubber meets the road” vows of God that either “work” or, when tried, show themselves as foolish. But instead of backing off and tempering His promises, Jesus doubles down as He further promises:
“Whoever [there is that “whoever” promise again to anyone and everyone who] Lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
- And, in light of what God says in the Bible about our daily “mundane” responsibilities of Life, shouldn’t we expect His prepared “good works” to include devoting Time to having Better marriages, raising children, jobs (wherever God has placed us), cleaning our houses . . . what we are becoming as much as doing? For He also tells us:
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Have we failed to understand the “for” of our salvation (“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”) because we think of “good works” as “Mother Theresa” type acts rather than everything and “whatever” we do. Who, for example, has a greater opportunity of a very good and important work than a mother does in raising her children? God’s good works are the whatevers we do in the wherevers He places us.
Or, are we supposedly more “spiritual” that Jesus – do we think “faith” in Him is faith for eternity while ignoring the many here and now promises (and our vital need of these graces)? Have we heeded His offer/warning?
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
Do we believe hearing His Voice Today is vital because (again, as we are clearly, in the Bible, offered by grace and warned if we ignore)?:
Apart from me [Jesus] you can do nothing.
I can do everything [the good works God planned in advance for us to do] through him who gives me strength.
And if we think we are “saved,” isn’t it reasonable that we periodically devote Time and thought to, as the Bible counsels: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” and “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.”? And wouldn’t this examination reasonably include an expectation that we are:
- Hearing God’s Voice?
- Seeking to hear His Voice above all else (in light of the many promises God makes)? For, as the Bible tells us: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
- Finding He is giving us all we need and require for our daily needs to do the goods works He planned in advance for us to do?
- Discovering God’s truth is progressively understood rather than simply an either/or (either we “got it” or we don’t) – in other words, He reveals more and more as we walk in His grace and truth rather than showing us everything up-front; isn’t this what “the righteous LIVE by faith,” (another 4-times Bible statement) tells us? As we mature, shouldn’t we see more and more truth while, at the same Time, longing and seeking for more of His truth as we are surrounded by a world that makes less and less sense, as we personally face issues and challenge for which we need help, hope and meaning? Who, having found some truth and grace based on the Words of Christ, would not reasonably and desperately want more of this in place of the emptiness, dangers and futility of the non-Christ existence.
If we find the above true (coming into the light as we find these promises to be true), shouldn’t/wouldn’t this cause us to begin to want to refocus our goals and Time to be in line with these promises, to test them to see if and how they are true and work?
Or, have we fallen for the foolish notion that we are “saved” and, thus, we already have all of God’s promises to our credit? Paul, John the Baptist (and other Bible writers), don't have this view:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. Phil 3:10 - 15
He must become greater; I must become less. Jn 3:30
The really, really, really Good News of God (as we find repeatedly in the Bible) is that it is never too late unless we ride the train of Time to our final “stop,” on our own, without Christ. For, to repeat, we are told four times in the Bible: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
This tells us there is a Time God speaks to us . . . When we finally hear His Voice we are to do what Jesus told us as His first recorded public words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” And Today as we hear God’s Voice (and each day thereafter) we are offered a glimmer of help, hope and truth. We should walk towards this light, seek it above everything, LIVE by it, and we will come into (meaning more and more – progressively) this light so that it will be seen plainly (if by no one other than ourselves) that what we have and are doing is through God.”
The question then becomes: Does my LIFE demonstrate this? If this is the “way” of salvation, does my Life line-up with this, God's expectation, for those who are His? Or, have I had more of it sometime is the past, but have now “retired” from (rather than moving more and closer to) it?
Indeed, if it is never too late to begin, is there a reasonable point, if we have heard His Voice, have sought to Live by His grace and truth, have found and done some of what He planned in advance, have experienced growth in His grace and truth, finding HE faithfully gives all we need for Life and to fulfill the good works He planned in advance for us to do (our destiny and design), if we have Lived by and in this reality, grace, truth, protection, comfort . . . that we would then turn way from this help, hope and meaning? Is there a reasonable season or age in Life in which we are to give up and not seek Better?
We all individually hear God’s Voice (however small it will sometimes be) and respond, either by ignoring (saying no to it) or with a feeble yes. Joshua was an excellent example (yet, in himself weak, helpless and hopeless) as he saw the only clear and simple options (for there is no other, third or fourth alternative) when he challenged his fellow countrymen: “. . . if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” . . . He was effectively saying: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For while God (in the Bible) is gracious to show and tell us in many many ways of His offered help in countless forms, He likewise is good to warn us of the sure consequences of not listening to His call and Voice:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
And we should make no mistake, “the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” is not wickedness as we choose to define it (what others do that we don’t do), it is “suppressing the truth,” not seeking Him, His Voice, the good works He planned in advance for us to do . . . “doing our own thing.”
Shouldn’t we see, then, God’s warnings as great blessings? Many false prophets (preachers of today) are misleading countless people, but God, in the Bible, provides frequent forewarnings because the consequences for not getting our one and only Life right are so massive. As just one example, for those who think they can be “saved” without making God their “salvation,” God warns us of this commonly-held belief and error:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.
“He has become my salvation” is the Bible model for being “saved.” The Hebrews verse above is telling us we are not dead then “born again” (saved”) so we can move in and out of God at will – we must be producing a “useful crop” (doing the good works God prepared in advance for us to do).
Yes, Time passes faster and faster, as we age, for everyone until Time ends and eternity begins. Shouldn’t this simple, universal, truth cause us to cry out: “Woe is me, if I don’t hear God’s Voice and hear it regularly, TODAY! What hope do I have if I do not know the good works He planned in advance for me to do? If He is my 2nd or lower priority in Life, how can I say I love Him? If I am not, by His grace, improving my disciplines (becoming a Better and Better disciple of Christ – with the true evidence thereof being more disciplined ‘in’ Him) of seeking Him first (valuing and Better using the Time, the Life, He is giving me) am I willing to stake my eternal Life on what I think (or someone, anyone, has told me) is right as I, all the while, do not pick up and read the only Word of God given us?
Isn’t there a book (The Book) in which many have said they hear God’s Voice? Wouldn’t we be wise, in light of the stakes involved, to go there regularly, read it, ask the Unknown to speak to Us, and then when we begin to find grace in seeing truth walk towards this truth, and Live by the truth? For Life cannot merely be walking away from something into nothing, it is walking (at Times running) towards grace and truth to repent, turn towards God, with our backs increasingly, in the process, turning against the world!
Is there any Better investment of Time/Life than to this promised new Life? The furthest thing from Christianity is believing and Living by and in a “leap of blind faith” – Jesus promises to give us sight to see, ears to hear, faith to believe His truth, that He will speak to us, show us the way and give us specific and personal grace to do more than we ever, on our own could even imagine, much less do. He promises that He has pre-planned exactly what we are to do and will give us everything necessary to do this and that we can, and must, enter His “Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work.” Yet, with His provision comes our responsibility to more and Better “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Properly understood, Christianity is no leap of faith. We will not be answerable to God, at death, because we did not have faith to take a leap into the unknown, rather that we did not take advantage of his offer that we:
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
As the Bible tells us: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Thus, God gives us signs and Light (and His Voice) all along the way – we do not have to take a leap of faith or walk in the world’s darkness!
Yet, what Jesus tells us we must do is beyond difficult, it is impossible! That is why, to believe in Him, we must know the Grace He promises us so that we can do that which is otherwise impossible. Peter understood this for there was a Time when many were deserting Jesus to return to that which was possible, within their apparent control. But this is a life without Life. Peter faced and met this challenge:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
And yet another of Jesus’ great rhetorical questions?
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
With the obvious answer being: we can’t. The Bible tells us very little about eternity, our Life when Time ends and forever begins. But Jesus, and the other Bible writers (speaking for God – “Today if you hear His Voice . . .”), do tell us very very much about what He offers us here and now with our faith in what He offers for the eternity based on and increasing as we believe (seek, find and do - by grace) what He offers for Today. Sadly, under the “bird in the hand” principle, few reach out to take God’s Grace because His Grace is not a boost or add-on to what we have and can do on our own, but in place of it. Whoever or whatever we believe in and depend on for our security and comfort now will be who/what we should reasonably expect for our ultimate destiny. But, again, it is never too late to turn to Christ as long as we have Life (Time).
Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been?” John Greenleaf Whittier
Am I using my Time, making my decisions, Living as if God is or is not a reality and a great hope and help here and now? Am I more leery and skeptical of God than the world (for they are certainly, on critical issues, diametrically different).
A natural Life without Christ becomes progressively harder.
What, in contrast, about this Life with Christ, is it easier or harder? The correct answer is “Yes.” Much like the question: If we exercise should we expect what we will do in the future to be easier or harder – “Yes.” Exercise becomes objectively harder as we are able to do more, but the harder is easier as we build muscles, through the discipline of Time (pieces of our Life) devoted to exercise.
As we age, Life gets harder. Our choice is to seek and find (in hearing and following the Voice of God) His Grace to make the harder, easier.
Grace – what God GIVES us, that we can’t ourselves do or achieve, without any need or expectation of repayment.
Faith – our accepting (taking) His Grace in lieu of what we are currently relying on for provision, protection and comfort.
The Bible tells us we are to grow in Grace and Truth from our spiritual rebirth until our natural death. In facing the trials of Life (big and small) we are not to do everything in our power to avoid Life’s trials (as is the “natural” tendency). Instead (can you believe God, or anyone. would say?):
Consider it pure joy, [the only time “pure joy” is used in the Bible] my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
We are responsible for asking God for this pure joy – God promises to speak to and give us this joy!
“Life” is a Big Bible word and theme: “Life” appears 546 times in the Bible, “Lives” 182 and “Living” 315 = 1043. Jesus asks, then tells and promises us:
Another of His rhetorical questions: “Is not Life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
A great and sobering warning so that now, while we have Time, we can turn (repent) to Christ: “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to Life, and only a few find it.”
Telling us the reality that faith is not the world + Christ, but Christ in place of the world: “Whoever loses his Life for my sake will find it.”
And He promises to Grace (give us) EVERYTHING we need as we give (“lose”) our worldly Life for what He offers us: “Do not work for food that spoils [we don’t have Time if we expect to do the good works God planned in advance for us to do – to listen for and then do what He tells us each Today], but for food that endures to eternal Life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
For Jesus says faith is believing He is sufficient for, as He says and promises: “I am the bread of Life.”
With the final great promise: “I have come that they may have Life [Time here and now and in eternity!], and have it to the full.”
Yes, Confucius and Dr. Seuss were right:
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
Can’t Life be simply and rightly viewed as the gift of Time with the quality of Life being measured by our use and investment of this Time gift? Life certainly has different and important “seasons,” but none of these are to be without a good reason and goals for the use of the precise and “sacred 24” each day gifts and offers us.
There are only two ways to Live your Life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
May you Live every day of your Life. Jonathan Swift