I have in front of me a recent panel from one of my favorite comic strips, Real Life Adventures. A woman is looking at a book, and the following conversation ensues:
MAN: It’s my autobiography. What do you think?
WOMAN: All the chapters are the same.
MAN: Tell me about it.
I have in the back of my mind a picture of a lady I recently met. She is in her 80s, yet she just had her (first?) skydiving experience! She also rode our local amusement park’s most frightening coaster, Voodoo. This octogenarian-in-body-only hopes to hitch a ride in a NASCAR racer, among other things. I hope she writes HER autobiography, auto included!
I have on my computer screen this quotation: “There is only one thing worse than to live without working, and that is to work without living” (Author unknown). The author may be unknown, but I’m sure the sentiment is all-too-well known.
I have in my Bible the following Psalm:
The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:10–12).
The author of the above Psalm, under the inspiration of God, was neither anonymous nor humorous—it was Moses, who spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s family, 40 years in obscurity, and 40 years leading the children of Israel. He had more than his share of real life adventures.
Moses reminds us that our days are numbered. On average, we can expect to live maybe seven or eight decades, give or take. As much as we would like to put on a happy face, every life, no matter how idyllic it seems, is punctuated with sadness. To top it off, the average person gives no thought to the fact that there is a God, and this God is holy and righteous. “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11, NKJV). Therefore, we are, as Moses said, to realize that our days are numbered, so we need to make wise use of them.
The Apostle Paul reminds us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is” (Ephesians 5:15–17). We are not to sit around counting flowers on the wall, cringing and hopeless; we are to live our lives to the full, but only according to God’s will. After all, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NASB). Of all people, believers should experience at least some of that abundant life now.
It is the “thief,” i.e., the devil, who deceives the world into thinking the abundant life consists of endless stimulating thrills, expensive shopping trips, and empty spiritual traditions for safety. However, Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). As Job confessed after losing everything he held dear, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). He learned that there was more to life than possessions.
Before you think I am peddling a stoic, ascetic lifestyle of renouncing all worldly goods and living in the desert eating at McScorpions, I enjoy my air-conditioned life as much as the next person. The point is not that life should be lived in denial of all the good things we have—they are all from God (James 1:17). We can take all that God gives us and enjoy it to the full, as long as it is done according to His will.
For example, sexual pleasure is a gift from God. However, to be thoroughly enjoyed, it must be used according to the directions—that is, between husband and wife. Wealth is not to be selfishly taken, but “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28). To sum up, the Apostle Paul says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
We should never feel guilty for having fun or creating wealth or going for the gold or reaching for the brass ring, as long as it’s done for God’s glory, with thanksgiving. We SHOULD feel guilty for not living an abundant life, as James says: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13). What does your autobiography look like?
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