The Future: How to Prepare

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The perspective of age

I’ve been a senior three times in my life: a high school senior, a senior in college, and now in the senior stage of life.

A congregation provided visitors with a card that requested the usual contact information, and also a place to indicate the visitors’ age categories: child, Jr. High, Sr. High, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50+.

Many of us are in that 50+ slot—and have been for quite some time. How should we feel about it?

First, aren’t we grateful that God has allowed us to live this long? So many obituaries I see in the paper are for those who were far younger than I.

Second, don’t we feel an increasing sense of the preciousness of the time remaining? It’s true that the 50+ category may last longer than any of the other age brackets, but we don’t know that it will.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

“. . . 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).

Soon it is gone, wrote the Psalmist. Just a vapor, says James.

We speak of longevity, but never shortevity. Perhaps we should.

And third, doesn’t it make good sense to make diligent preparation NOW for what lies beyond? “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

The two stages

The future can be divided into two parts:

Future: Part I is whatever time remains for us in this world.

Future: Part II is eternity.

When we die, Part II begins. Part I is temporary. Part II is forever.

Part II is dependent on Part I. How we spend the first part determines how we spend the second (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10). We have a choice.

Satan seeks to distract us with the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). God calls us to raise our sights and make wise choices (Colossians 3:1-2).

“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

What does it mean to do God’s will?

It means trusting and obeying the Son He sent to be our Savior (John 8:24; 11:25-26; Hebrews 5:8-9).

It means turning from doing our own will to doing His (Acts 17:30-31).

It means being united with Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27).

It means remaining faithful to the end (Hebrews 3:6. 14; 10:35-39; 12:1-3).

“. . . so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).

“. . . the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Deadlines

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Life is one deadline after another. I have always admired newspaper people because they work constantly under the restrictions of the unforgiving clock. Sometimes late hours are the only way to make it all come together on time.

Deadlines can be tremendously motivating. Do you, like me, work better under pressure? Would we get as much done if it weren’t for these time constraints?

Some things in life, however, do not have a specific deadline. They may be even more important than the urgent tasks that demand to be done NOW. And yet because there is no set time, the days and weeks and months and years go by—and little gets done.

Careful preparation

Think of all that must go into planning a beautiful wedding. Talk about a major deadline! Everything must come together by the announced hour: gowns and tuxes and people to wear them, candles and flowers, preacher and photographer, cake and punch, and countless other nuptial details.

But what happens after the honeymoon? Do those things that matter most in marriage receive the attention they deserve?

And our children? Aside from homework assignments, ball games, etc., what about those areas where there’s no set deadline? Does their spiritual training take a back seat to lesser concerns? They’ll be grown before we know it. What are we doing about it today?

And what of our relationship with God? It’s been said that the urgent tends to preempt the eternal. The demands of daily living have a way of crowding our calendars to the point that lesser concerns receive more attention than we give God (Matthew 6:25-33; Luke 8:14).

The final deadline

Whether read or unread, the Bible tells us of that final undated deadline when God will bring it all to a conclusion (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

When it comes is uncertain, but that it is coming is more certain than the precise time of tomorrow’s sunrise.

Let’s be ready.

 

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Nothing to Do?

Limited options

Two university students were talking. One lamented there wasn’t anything to do in our small town.

The other said he had once been a student in a large city where there was so much to do that his grades suffered. He felt it was to his advantage to be in a community like ours, so he could concentrate on his studies.

What one considered a liability, the other viewed as an asset.

A new perspective

The student who realized he’d be tempted to waste his time had come to know himself—and grew wiser from experience.

“. . . be careful how you walk . . . making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

What a difference a new perspective can make!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Past Has Passed

“Those were the days . . . .”

The Bible says it’s unwise to wonder why the past is better than the present (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Finally freed from slavery, Israel kept themselves in a constant state of discontent by recalling the food they had enjoyed in Egypt, while focusing on their current hardships.

They neither appreciated their freedom, nor anticipated the good land God had promised them.

A healthier perspective

The apostle Paul neither wallowed in regret nor longed for the status he once enjoyed.

“. . . 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” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Going back is not an option. Moving forward is!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Deadline Living

How long?

Sometimes patients hear, “I’m sorry, but you have only a few months to live, at most. I suggest you get your affairs in order.”

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One day Isaiah brought King Hezekiah this message: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live’” (2 Kings 20:1).

Hezekiah was only about 39.

He prayed. He wept.

God granted him 15 more years.

How well?

Ironically,  most of the good we know about Hezekiah belonged to his first 39 years, while all the bad we know about him occurred in those final 15! (2 Kings 20:12-19; 2 Chronicles 32:24-33).

As someone said, “It’s not how long we live that matters, but how well.”

If you knew your time was running out, what changes would you make?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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It was time

Perfect timing

“But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law . . .” (Galatians 4:4).

It was time. For centuries God had been laying the groundwork for His own Son to enter our world in human flesh.

God had worked through Abraham and Israel, as well as the prophets who predicted His coming.

Finally, after all preparations were in place, it was time.

Nothing quite like it

“. . . born of a woman . . . .” Although Jesus’ conception was miraculous (no human father), his nine-month gestation and his delivery were as normal as any other.

He emerged from the womb, took His first breath, and opened His eyes.

Son of God. Son of Man.

It was time.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Hourglass

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This life

Although we no longer use the hourglass to measure time, it illustrates our brief life on this earth.

The lower chamber represents the days we’ve lived, the top chamber our future, and the narrow neck the present.

To make the analogy true to life, the upper chamber remains covered—we cannot tell how much time we have left.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Eternal life

If we are wise, we prepare for that eventuality by regulating our lives by Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:24-27).

We can then “depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better . . .” (Philippians 1:23).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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