What can we do to make life count today? Too often we look back at all the yesterdays and either regret them or say, They were the best days of my life. Life will never be the same again. I’ve been talking about this in Part 1 and Part 2, and here are some final thoughts on this topic.
We need to live our life with a view to the end. Mikhail Gorbachev was interviewed on TV the day before he stepped down as president of the Soviet Union. The interviewer asked President Gorbachev if there were some story, some Russian fable, that summed up his feelings. Gorbachev said that there was, and then told the story of a young prince who came to power in Russia.
He wanted to rule the country well and so he asked the wise men of his country to share their wisdom with him so he could rule his people wisely. Ten years later they sent to him 10 wagons loaded with books. He asked, When can I read all of these? I must govern the people. He asked if they could distil their wisdom for him. Ten more years passed and they sent him ten volumes.
This was still too much for him to read, and he asked that their wisdom be reduced even more. Five more years passed and they brought him one volume. But, by this time, he was an old man and on his deathbed. He asked the wise men if they could sum up their message in one sentence. They replied, People are born. People suffer. People die.
Now, that story is not the sum of all wisdom. But life’s ultimate statistic is the same for all of us—one out of one dies. And if we are wise we will live it with the end in view.
Robert T. Morris said, “I hate funerals and would not attend my own if it could be avoided, but it is well for every man to stop once in a while to think of what sort of a collection of mourners he is training for his final event.” To do that will help you make this the best year of your life.
Let Happiness Sneak Up on You
We should give ourselves to others. Jesus, toward the end of his ministry, met with his disciples in the upper room. He wrapped a towel around his waist, took a basin of water, and moved among the disciples washing their feet. In so doing, he was assuming the role of a common servant. When he had finished, he sat down and asked the disciples if they understood what he had done. He, the Lord of glory, had become a servant. Then he said, “I have set you an example, that you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you” (John 13:15).
This is the only place in scripture where Jesus ever said he had given us an example. Then he concluded by saying, “You know these things, and God will bless you, if you do them” (John 13:17). Jesus knew that happiness is a butterfly—the more you chase it, the more it flies away from you and hides. But, if you stoop and serve, it will alight on you. The happiest people I know are the ones who work at being kind, thoughtful, helpful, and generous. And when they do, happiness sneaks into their lives.
Albert Schweitzer spoke to a graduating class in an English boy’s school back in 1935. He said, “I do not know what your destiny will be. Some of you will perhaps occupy remarkable positions. Perhaps some of you will become famous by your pens, or as artists. But I know one thing: the only ones who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Helen Keller said, “I find life an exciting business—and most exciting when it is lived for others.” And actor Danny Glover said, “We make a living by what we do. We make a life by what we give.”
Put Your Life in the Hand of God
We should put our life in the hand of God. We cannot know what the future holds. We cannot see five years or five weeks or five minutes into the future. Therefore, we make a mistake if we presume on tomorrow. The scriptures remind us that our life is like a vapour and no man knows what one day may bring forth. So, we ought to live it in conscious dependence upon God and surrender to his will (James 4:13-15).
In his 1939 Christmas message to the nation, King George VI of England expressed the faith we all need when he quoted the words of poet Minnie Louise Haskins:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light, that I might tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied,
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
In what may be the greatest invitation of the Bible, the Lord invites us to do just that, to put our hand in his. He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Life was never intended to be borne in a single yoke. The Lord invites us to yield our lives to him and let him share and bear life’s load with us.