It's a melancholy feeling; exciting, yet a reminder of the shortness of our days. Has another year really come and gone already?
I was reminded of the shortness of life yesterday. I was visiting with some friends, the Saint family-- the grandson of missionary, Nate Saint, Jesse Saint was telling me about his sister, Stephanie. She was 20 years and 20 days old--twelve days older than I am today--when she died suddenly of a Cerebral hemorrhage. No warning. Jesse said that she had just come home from a trip the day before, feeling perfectly healthy and full of life. The next day she was dead.
It puts things into perspective. Any day could be our last.
Sometimes it's hard for us as young people to grasp it. We feel like we still have our whole lifetimes ahead of us. We still have yet to get married, have kids, watch them grow up...we have years ahead of us...right?
"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." ~James 4:14
So what am I going to do with the remainder of my days? Or hours? How does one make sure that they can stand before the Father at the end and hear, "Well done..."?
Sometimes I measure the effectiveness of my life in the things I "do". If I can do "great things for God"--build schools and hospitals (some of you may or may not get this reference, ha!), sacrifice myself as a missionary, die a martyr; if I can motivate others to great things, if I can speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have faith that can move mountains...
I look back on the year at my "accomplishments". So I sold a few books at conferences. So I taught a writing class. So I acted in a play. So I coordinated an event....but do I know Jesus better than I did the year before?
What I do in an of myself is worthless. No matter how much zeal I put into it. No matter how "pure" my motives. It is worth nothing apart from Christ.
What Jesus did is priceless.
Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 3):
"...although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."
Paul had everything going for him. I'll bet his yearly Christmas letter was immaculate; lengthy with all of his amazing accomplishments! (Sorry, Momma--I had to throw that one out there :P) In the world's eyes he had it all; fame, fortune, passion, zeal for God. He was one of those guys that mothers probably pointed out to their kids, encouraging them to grow up and be like him.
But he later realized that it was all worthless.
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
Here, Paul lists his great accomplishments--his reasons that he might boast in the world's eyes. Then he discounts it all. He throws it all away, burns it. It's worthless compared to that which he now desires.
Righteousness in Jesus.
Dying with Him, so that he might live. Really live.
But then, it comes to my favorite part:
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
First of all, it does not appear that Paul buys into to the popular idea of being completely unshakable, 100% positive, so-confident-that-nothing-can-get-in-the-way of one's salvation (the so-called "freedom in Christ" that allows Christians to continue their lives as they were prior to their salvation--but because they "said the prayer" they're going to heaven no matter what). Instead, he admits his weakness. And even his seeming doubt of his own faith. "I don't consider myself as 'arrived'!" he cries. He's human too--he knows that he's worthless in and of himself. Without Jesus, everything that he has done is worthless. But he has a part to play too. He knows that faith is more than just saying a prayer. His prize and life's goal is to pursue Jesus. Relentlessly follow, to die, to carry a cross. Every day.
So what does he do?
He looks toward heaven. He lifts his hands, and opens them to the sky.
He lets go of his own ambitions. His accomplishments. His reputation. His self-derived righteousness.
And he runs. He runs with open, empty hands, yearning to fill them with Jesus.
May our ambition every year be to live every day to that end; we are ready at any moment to stand before His throne. To be emptied of our own motives, desires, accomplishments, and to be filled with Jesus. To run, to pursue Him. His love. His rest. His voice.
And finally on that day, to hear His whisper, "Well done, good and faithful servant..."
My dear readers, time is short.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Matthew 16:24
We don't know how much time we have left.
May we fill our years, days, hours--moments with thoughts of Him.
May the foundation of all works be love for Him.
My our every desire pour from our hearts for Him.
May He be our everything; the bedrock on which every ambition and accomplishment stands.
May our ambition be to know His love. Our passion to obey Him. Our prize to hear His voice on that day.
When I kneel down that day
Looking upon His holy face
I will remember with trembling
Every single moment, every memory
Who was I and where was I going
What kind of fruit were my actions growing
Staring at the pages
He’ll be staring at the pages of my life
Was my passion just to know Him
Did I really let it out and show Him
Staring at the pages
He’ll be staring at the pages of my life
~Pages, by Leeland
It's all about Jesus.
Not what you have done for Him.
But what He did, and how you thanked Him.