Live with Passion!

Wisdom in the old hymn: Work for the night is coming.

This summer's project is to take my old VHS tapes of the family growing up and convert them to DVD. I bought a box at Wal-mart that does it with the press of two buttons. I set the machine beside me, project the image on the living room TV and, as I go about my work, images of my children growing up have been playing before me all summer long. I am right now watching Dawson, who is nineteen, a sophomore in college, struggling with a call to ministry and dating a serious girlfriend play T-ball. I have watched images of Dustin, who will start driving this year, in preschool. My daughter will turn 8 next week. I forgot what a beautiful baby she was.

It has given me a profound awareness of the brevity of life and how quickly time passes. It is really true what the Bible says:

  • "Show me, O Lord, my life's end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting is my life.
    You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
    Each man's life is but a breath.
    Psalm 39:4-5 [NIV]
  • Teach us to number our days aright,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
    Psalm 90:12 [NIV]
  • For my days vanish like smoke;
    my bones burn like glowing embers. Psalm 102:3 [NIV]
  • Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. Psalm 144:4 [NIV]
  • As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4 [NIV]
  • What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 [NIV]

I know according to the truth of these verses that there will soon come a day I will be watching images of children growing up and it will seem a long time ago, but they will not be my children, they will be my children's children. And I will muse to myself, "How quickly life passes. Life is but a mist; here and then gone."

I drink coffee most every morning--hot coffee with a bit of steam rising from the surface. But it quickly passes. It doesn't fill the room. It is there and then gone--dissipating into the dry New Mexico air. The Bible teaches life is like that. It passes so quickly. Live with passion. Live with urgency. Live on purpose. Savor each moment. Live each day to its full. Night is coming when no one can work. There is wisdom in the old hymn: Work, for the night is coming.

A brief caveat into the obvious: this can be overdone. We could fall into a kind of hurried, busy frenzy that denied our need for rest. Truth is often a midpoint between two extremes. There is a place for rest. Six days shall you work and rest one. But, I am a Sunday School guy and tend to see life from the viewpoint of the Sunday School. And I would say for every Sunday School class that is too driven, too goal-oriented, too passionate, too on fire, in danger of burning out, there are a hundred who are sleepy, lethargic, and bored. Do you disagree?

In most Sunday Schools, we need a serious dose of passion. We need a serious dose of urgency. We need to work for the night is coming.

My parents are both past 80. They live in Colorado Springs with all of their children except me. They have spent their life serving the Lord--25 years on the mission field, 10 years as a pastor and Minister of Education, serving in a variety of ways in retirement. Raising 4 kids who all love the Lord and serve him. They can say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Tim. 4:7 [NIV] They have served God to the end. They have finished well. It will soon be me. I want to run the race that they have set before me.

There is a notion that is often said in church that I have begun to question. It goes like this: "If we don't serve God, God will raise someone else up to do the work, but we will miss out on the blessing." I am not sure we will ever settle whether or not that is true in a completely satisfactory way. Taken to its extreme, we find ourselves parroting those who rebuked William Carey when he cast a vision for world missions: "Sit down, young man, if God wants to save the heathen in India he will do it without your help or mine." Not true. We serve a God who is, "not willing that any should perish." The debate leads quickly into the heart of the free-will vs. predestination dilemma and I don't wish to take this conversation there.

But, I do want to say this. I doubt most missionaries believe the sentiment above.  I don't think most missionaries believe that if they choose to stay home that someone else would go and the work would be done and it doesn't really matter. As I watch the videos of my children growing up, I think about the fact that my parents have no memories of my first child's early years. They never saw him until he was past two. When Dustin was born they came over and helped with things and held him as an infant. When my sister (their daughter) was married, my Dad didn't walk her down the isle and give her away. They watched on video tape 10,000 miles away. I think if they thought someone else would do the work and it didn't really matter, they wouldn't have paid that price.

Still, I want to be respectful of those who disagree with my position on this matter. But if there is any truth to the idea that the work that God has assigned me to do just might not get done at all if I don't do it, then it heightens my sense of urgency to work for the night is coming. 

Dr. Charles Stanley

We recently had the privilege of hosting Josh Hunt for our mid winter Sunday Morning Bible Study leadership conference. The emphasis on investing and building relationships is the key to reaching our society today. Fellowship is premium in a world where we face an epidemic of loneliness. People are looking for more than a "friendly" church. They want a place where they can grow and develop lasting relationships that will assist them in building a biblical foundation for life. If you have not had the opportunity to have Josh Hunt in your church or attend one of his conferences, make plans to involve your leadership. His concepts will make a difference in your thinking about how simple it really is to reach out to people.


Charles F. Stanley
Senior Pastor First Baptist Church Atlanta

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