Make it Count for Eternity

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

It’s amazing - and a bit scary - just how quickly time passes. Yesterday afternoon I took my kids to the skate park near our home; they both love the mini adventure the ramps provide with their bikes/big wheels and behinds (they love to climb the ramps and then slide down). With all the heavy rains a big pool of water had collected on my east side of the concrete slab, which my daughter quickly found. I laughed my head off and took some cool videos of my kids plowing into the muddy water with huge grins on their faces.

I couldn’t help but think back to my own childhood, driving through the big puddles in the alley behind our house on my big wheel, tires so worn that at times the plastic had gaping holes. I was about my son’s age at the time - over 40 years ago. Forty years!!! Was I really ever that young - and where did all the time go?

Yesterday was also Memorial Day, a time when we honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives to protect the freedoms we have as Americans. For so many of those men and women, death was swift, violent, and unexpected. In contrast, many of us (myself included) like to assume that our lives are routine, safe, and predictable, and yet we know the end could come just as violently at any moment. If you or I went to be with the Lord today, would we be ready?

It’s a good question to ask ourselves regularly; are we living our lives for Christ and his Kingdom, or are we living for ourselves? The apostle Paul asked himself that question, and in Philippians 1:21 we get his response:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Paul knew that if he died, he would go and be with Jesus, and nothing could be better than that! However, if he lived, he would continue to faithful serve Jesus and share the gospel, bringing the same hope he carried to many men and women in the process. So if he lived, it was just fine, and if he died, better still!

This makes me think of someone like Joni Eareckson Tada - quadriplegic for over 50 years, living with chronic pain and dealing with round #2 of cancer. I don’t think anyone would have faulted Joni if years ago she’s said, “You know what, my life is just too hard. I can’t do this anymore.” Yet that’s precisely what she didn’t do - despite her struggles, Joni still serves faithfully at her Joni & Friends organization, takes wheelchairs to the needy with her Wheels around the World ministry, speaks regularly at conferences and daily on the radio, and organizes summer camps for people with disabilities. WHEW! All that from a woman who can’t use her arms or legs!!!

Joni had this to say about our daily walk with Jesus:

Speaking to those who have faced the challenge of cancer, theologian and pastor John Piper wrote, “Satan’s designs and God’s designs…are not the same. Satan designs to destroy our love for Christ. God designs to deepen our love for Christ. Cancer does not win if we die. It wins if we fail to cherish Christ.”* The point here isn’t about cancer; it’s about learning to live in such a way that every hardship helps us to focus on eternity. Our days, no matter how long or short, are opportunities to know Christ better and to invest in the life to come.

No matter what our circumstances, each and every day provides new opportunities to know Jesus better. The enemy wants to use our trials and sufferings to make us think our lives have been wasted - but we know better! Don’t make the same mistake I did - when my struggles with chronic pain began over 8 years ago I fell apart, looking inward and finding only despair instead of looking to Christ, where I could find hope. (I’m so glad we have a God of grace and mercy!)

I can’t think of a better way to end this today than to simply quote the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8 -

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.