Monday, December 26, 2005

Making The Most Of Our Time

Be careful how you walk, using wisdom, making the most of your time, because each day has its distractions. – Ephesians 5:15-16 (BRV)

Each year at this time, many of us review what happened during the year. We recount the events in newsletters and diaries or just in discussions around the table. The centerpiece of the discussion is usually around those who are no longer with us – specifically those who were with us last year, but have since died.

Last year at this time, Eric’s Uncle Rodney after having discovered he had cancer and had begun the process of fighting a tumor in his brain by having it removed and nearly died in surgery. He bounced back and we did everything we could to make his Thanksgiving and Christmas a special time in 2004. Even though there was speculation about it, 2004 turned out to be his last Christmas – he died in October of this year on the cusp of the holiday season. How many Christmases do you have left?

Scientifically speaking – from the moment of your birth, your body begins to decay. In the early cycle of your years, growth occurs as the cells of your body die off and new ones take their place. It does not seem like death because cells are being made faster and in higher quantity than they are dying. But when the maturation process is completed at somewhere around thirty years, growth stops and a slow decline of powers begins its campaign to finally release the soul from bondage to the body. Diet and exercise can help the process take longer, but eventually death comes for all.

I read a story this week about a missionary name Jim Elliot. I actually learned about him when I was in college. His wife, Elisabeth, spoke at a missionary conference I attended in 1967 in Urbana, Illinois. Jim had a call on his life to be a missionary. The urgency he felt gripped his spirit and his zeal was apparent to everyone who knew him in those days. The Holy Spirit directed him toward South America and when the opportunity arose to join a mission team in Ecuador, he set sail in 1952 and stayed in Quito for six months mastering Spanish. He learned of the Auca Indian tribe – a group isolated in the jungles that had never been given the opportunity to hear the gospel. Jim’s response was, ‘why should he tell people who have heard the message two or more times, when he could be telling people who have never even heard it once?’ Trouble was that this tribe of Indians was unfriendly and dangerous. Every known white person that had come in contact with them was either missing or dead. Jim and his friends remained unchanged from their determination by this information.

In 1953 Jim set up camp in an abandoned oil rig station near where the Aucas lived and began a campaign to show them his friendship – for two years Jim and the other missionaries dropped food and provisions by air into the Auca camp including their pictures so that when they went in, the Aucas would know who they were. After several encounters with tribal members, Jim felt they were ready. They prayed together and ask for the Lord’s protection. After singing the hymn, “We Rest On Thee,” they radioed their wives they were going in and the five men went out to meet the Aucas in January of 1956. They were speared to death. Jim was 29 years old.

If you knew how long you had left, would you change anything in your life from what you are doing now? Would you live your life any differently? In Rodney’s case, the disease swept his ability to do much of anything different away from him. He could only focus on survival in his time left and he did not have much, if any, time to look at making changes to his lifestyle.

The Bible says that our days are numbered. There is a day appointed for each of us – a time to live and a time to die. We do not know when our last breath will be taken. Death can come slowly or quickly – but we are never certain which breath will be our last. We at least know that after this Christmas we’ll have one less Christmas to celebrate than we did before it passed. Christmas is a time of celebration – a time of worship. We should see it as an opportunity to show how much we love our Savior – and we only have so many Christmases left. Each Sunday services are held to worship with God’s people. It comes around each week, but we only have so many Sundays left in our lifetime. Each one is an opportunity that may not present itself again. How much do you need to know to change your course? Your days are numbered and the time is short.

At Christmastime seems like we are plagued with the telling and retelling of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol – how Ebeneezar Scrooge got reformed of his selfishness in one night after a visitation of ghosts. The ghosts opened his eyes to the error of his ways by showing him the past, present and future and how his behavior affected what was, is and will be. Ebeneezar repented and changed his ways. Instead of a crotchety old miser, he became a much loved, benevolent old gentleman and spread happiness wherever he was. Ebeneezar seized the moment of opportunity and became a better man.

One of Jim Elliot’s sayings was, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” After Jim’s death, Elisabeth Elliot, his wife, later went into the jungle and met up with the Auca tribe herself. The very individuals responsible for the death of her husband and the others heard the gospel message. They were converted and received Christ. She later published a book telling about these events named after a phrase in the hymn, “We Rest On Thee,” – The Gates Of Splendor.

A song that I have often signed is called “For Such A Time As This.” It begins with these words:

Now! All I have is now, to be faithful; to be holy; and to shine lighting up the darkness. Right now, I really have no choice, but to voice the truth to the nations.

The truth is – the only day we can be certain of is today – and it’s not over. As the scripture says: "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS." Now is all any of us really has. You don’t have much time. Is your task finished? Have you completed your orders? Are you ready to crossover? What do you need to accomplish before the time comes? What are you doing to finish the course so that you might walk into the presence of the Lord and hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant!

Rev. Bob Ellis

www.MercyToAll.net

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