What if 2017 were your last year on earth?
For many celebrities, 2016 was from David Bowie, Mohammaed Ali, Gary Shandling, Prince, Alan Thicke, Arnold Palmer, Nancy Reagan, Glenn Frey, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds. And the list goes on.
So what if this were your last year on earth? This could be that year. That is a heavy thought for some. But someone’s name will end up in the obituary column tomorrow and the next day. We always think it won’t be us and that it certainly won’t be someone close to us. But the fact is that it could be. So we want to prepare.
In her December 1979 column titled “If I Had My Life to Live Over,”
Erma Bombeck wrote, “Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything. My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind. If I had my life to live over again …” She went on to list a number of things she would do differently and then concluded, “Mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”
In the New Testament we find the words of a man who knew the end of his life was near.
He was none other than the great apostle Paul. Writing from the Mamertine Prison in Rome, he said, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6–8 NLT).
Paul was in prison because he had faithfully proclaimed the Good News to people.
He was chained up in a miserable, primitive place, and he was all alone. Yet his words resonate with joy and hope, not with depression and despair.
Heaven is what was before Paul, and he looked forward to it. Paul already had the unique experience of dying, going to heaven and returning to earth (see 2 Corinthians 12:1–4). That is why he wrote earlier, in the book of Philippians, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me” (1:21–23 NLT). Paul understood that heaven was a promotion. It was a coronation.
Paul knew he was leaving, and he had no regrets.
Notice he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” He had done everything God had called him to do. He had no regrets. He had lived life to its fullest.
If this were your last year on earth, would you be able to say the same thing?
Have you been winning in the fight and struggle against personal sin? Have you kept up the pace in the race of life, or have you slowed down? Have you guarded and kept your faith in the way you live and tell others?
Are there things that remain in life to do?
Of course there are for all of us. There are things we would like to do and places we would like to go. But I’m talking about important things.
There are three things we can offer to God in this life. We can offer our treasure. We can offer our talent. And we can offer our time.
First there is our treasure.
I am speaking, of course, of our possessions, our resources, our finances. Wherever we put our treasure, our hearts will follow. If you want your heart to be in the things of God, then put your treasure in the things of God. Invest in the work of the kingdom.
Next, there is our talent.
God has given to every one of us certain abilities, skills and even gifts, and we are to use those for his glory.
Finally, there is our time.
Let’s say that tomorrow morning you were to get a call from the president of your bank, telling you that an anonymous donor who loves you very much had decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your bank account every morning. But there is a condition: You must spend all the money each day. You can’t carry it over from one day to the next. What isn’t spent will be taken away. So you get out your calculator out and realize those daily deposits total about $315,000 a year.
In the same way, someone who loves you very much deposits 86,400 seconds into your bank of time every day. They cannot be carried over from one day to the next. There is no such thing as a 27-hour day. You are given 24 hours each day to use as you choose. The Bible says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:16 NLT).
Maybe in this last year you have strayed. You know you haven’t fought the good fight and haven’t run the race of life. You haven’t done well. Then make a recommitment as we enter into this new year so you can be confident that if this is your last year on earth, you will be ready to meet the Lord.
Here is my word of encouragement to you in this coming year. Keep your heart in heaven, because we never know when this could be our last year, our last month, or even our last day. When it is all said and done, the only thing that will matter is whether you accomplished the purpose God had for you. Are you doing that?
Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NKJV). That simply means, “Help us live wisely. Help us live practically. Help us live spiritually.” We have three things to offer to God: our treasure, our talent, and our time. Let’s live each day as though it were our last. Let’s be about our Father’s business, seeking to glorify him in all we say and do.