When a university student asked Billy Graham what had been the biggest surprise in his life, he answered, “My biggest surprise in life is its brevity.”
Photo by: Elke Burgin/unsplash
James would agree. He wrote to those bragging about their big plans for the future, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14 NIV).
His words reminded me of September 11, 2001 when terrorist attacks killed 2,996 people—people who’d started their day as usual. Many had plans for dinner that night or vacations that summer or grand projects that would never be realized. Job put it this way, “My days come and go swifter than the click of knitting needles, and then the yarn runs out—an unfinished life!” (Job 7:6 The Message).
These thoughts should wake us from our slumber. An adult mayfly has a lifespan of less than a day. In comparison with eternity, our lifespan is shorter than a mayfly’s. Grasping this will help us live in a way that won’t end in regret.
Our family traveled I-40 from California to North Carolina. If you look at I-40 as representing eternity, which it feels like when you’re glued to the seat of a car with two small children in the back, our lifespan covers less than 25 miles of I-40’s 2,559.25 miles. Eternity is longer than I-40.
Photo by: Jesse Collins
Remembering the brevity of life benefits us. It—
- Purifies our purpose.
Instead of bragging about my plans I learn to submit to God’s plan. I say, “Lord willing, I will do this or that.” My purpose switches from pursuing my will to being in sync with His perfect will. He knows the future; I don’t. Aligning myself under His Lordship creates satisfaction here and rewards for eternity.>
- Changes our values.
James rebuked the wealthy who stored up riches by cheating their workers out of salaries they depended on to eat and feed their families. “You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment” (from James 5:1-3 The Message).
Living in light of eternity changes our definition of getting the best deal. If saving some cash cheats a worker out of the fair compensation he needs to feed and shelter his family, it is not a good deal..Photo by: Heather Zabriskie
Jesus said to store up treasures in heaven where we will spend eternity instead of on earth where they will be corroded and have the power to corrupt us (Matthew 6:19-21). The wealth of those James rebuked would be a source of shame when they stood before Jesus. The wealth of those who heed Jesus’ teaching will be a source of eternal pleasure.
- Changes our legacy.
A cartoon showed a picture of a man standing before a storage unit with his son. The raised door revealed a space packed from floor to ceiling with stuff. “This will all be yours one day,” the father beamed as his son grimaced.
Life is brief. What are you leaving behind? And what are you sending ahead? Click To Tweet
Living in sync with the Lord leaves a legacy that blesses instead of burdens its recipients and enriches us throughout eternity. Now that’s a win, win situation.
Question: How does considering the brevity of life change how you live?
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I highly recommend The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. “When Jesus told His followers to ‘lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,’ He intended that they discover an astounding secret: how joyful giving brings God maximum glory and His children maximum pleasure. Discover a joy more precious than gold!”
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