“Only one life, twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I can still see it in my mind’s eye. My maternal grandparents had a small plaque on the wall in their kitchen with that quote. It made an impression on family members. As a young college student, I remember my mother referring to that plaque in church meetings as she and Dad raised support in preparation to leave for the mission field. There’s something about having to pack up and/or sell all your belongings and leave those near and dear to you. It puts the Christian life into perspective. It was very clear to me then: It’s not about us, our comfort, our happiness, our convenience. It’s about glorifying Christ. I am thankful for those who model obedience to the call of God to do just that. What a challenge to continually evaluate our priorities! My life verse is Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
Only one life… As a young person, it seems I wondered endlessly what God would have me do with my life. I grew up in a ministry family, although my dad always had to work to make that possible. My parents lived in such a way that eternal values were always in view. Yes, there was a lawn to mow, a garden to keep, and a family to feed through a sawmill/logging/construction business, but our life revolved heavily around our church. Eventually, God called my parents into full-time missionary service, and our home was packed up and rented out. Their example influenced me. I wanted to serve God with my life, and He has directed my steps to make that possible. As I’ve gotten older, God continually refocuses my priorities with the reminder, “Only what’s done for Christ will last.” He does this in many ways–through His Word, through articles and devotionals, through songs, through the examples of others, and every so often, through tragedies. I think of the recent funeral of a church member. Interestingly, as I’ve gotten older, life seems increasingly fleeting. I wonder, “How will I be remembered?” and “What will I have accomplished of eternal value?”
Only one life… We encourage our children to consider how God might use them. At the same time, I’ve recognized that my sensibilities as a parent might make me a bit skeptical of their choices. We are reading the story of Gladys Aylward, a single lady who was convinced God wanted her to be a missionary in China. She wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and made it her life’s focus to do whatever was necessary to get there. I must confess, I’ve thought that this woman made some unwise decisions that put her in harm’s way to get there. I wondered if her parents ever thought her to be foolish. If she were my daughter, I might have discouraged her. Last fall, when our kids watched the story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliott, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming and Ed McCully (the five missionaries who lost their lives trying to reach the Auca Indians of Ecuador), I couldn’t help but think the decision of those men was unwise. I ached for their families, yet felt nothing short of amazement and admiration for the way those families were able to use that tragedy to further the cause of Christ. (See this link http://www.cowart.info/AucasTheWorstPeopleOnEarth.htm) Who are these fools for Christ? They are those who were so compelled by a burden for lost souls, so convinced of God’s call that they were willing to risk everything. As a result, in their life and death, they accomplished immeasurably more for the cause of Christ than one can imagine. As Jim Elliot had written, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Only one life… God has not called us all to go to a distant land. I’ve learned that even as we accomplish the mundane to make a living for ourselves, there are opportunities to glorify Christ and share the Gospel. More than ever, we must shine for Christ. Turn on the news and you will see confusion, chaos, and conflict. There is a world that needs Christ, though it seems more hostile than hungry for a Savior. Speaking about our faith and beliefs must be done lovingly, yet courageously as we insist on an absolute standard. Who will be so foolish to risk everything by clinging to the “antiquated” truths of God’s Word, especially in the light of man’s increased “knowledge”? The repercussions of righteous decisions may come at a high cost, affecting the entire family. We have been fortunate, but the times, they are a-changing. Each time I pick up the Voice of the Martyrs publication, I am reminded that believers around the world are making life-altering choices for Christ while simply trying to eek out a living.
Only one life… We are seeking to train our children in the Word of God. As they become older and consider career paths, as parents, we are praying for God’s guidance. In the current cultural climate, it seems that in every occupation, sooner or later, a Christian will be faced with some risky decisions. To hold a job, run a business, or even serve in ministry, what beliefs will they be faced to compromise? How do we direct them? What we desire for our children is that they be able to live for God in whatever vocation they choose. But after advising them, am I truly willing to let them make seemingly “foolish” decisions to follow their calling?
Only one life… As I’ve been contemplating all of this, the headline caught my eye: “You can’t die like Paul if you live like Solomon.” The author, Dr. Mike Allison, compares two lives. The first is a king, Solomon, who led an impressive, commendable, and busy life. Yet at the end of his life, he considered how he had spent it and declared, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit…” Ecclesiastes 2:11. This was a man who admitted, “Whatsoever mine eyes desired, I kept not from them.” Solomon was successful! His life was one of comfort, made difficult only by all that he accumulated for himself. The other man was the Apostle Paul, a tent-making, itinerant missionary. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he lists all that he endured for Christ: beatings, stoning, imprisonment, shipwreck, living in danger of being robbed in his travels, “in perils” by his own countrymen, the heathen, the city, the wilderness, the sea, false teachers, “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, ” at the mercy of the elements…. All this he endured while pouring himself out into people and the churches he loved, bearing the burden of their concerns, encouraging them, and teaching them. At the end of it all, he could, even during imprisonment, reflect positively on how he had spent that part of his life following conversion. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me on that day: and not to me only, but unto all of them that love His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Only one life… After stubbornly insisting God wanted her in China no matter what anyone said, Gladys Aylward kissed her parents goodbye and began a dangerous trip through war-torn areas to arrive at a destination she knew little about. That was just the beginning of her “foolishness.” (Read “The Small Woman” by Alan Burgess or “Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime.”) Five women were left as widows, and children were left without fathers when five men entered Auca territory and lost their lives trying to reach people with the love of Christ. I know my parents trusted God to take care of us when they left two daughters in college to head to the mission field. I know my husband’s parents trusted God with their son as he followed His leading into pastoral ministry. I know that to some it is foolishness. Yet, our desire in all of it is to hear the Lord say to us one day, “Well done thy good and faithful servant…”
Only one life… In the end, I must say, what I desire for myself and for my children, in whatever God leads us to do, that we will be able to reflect on our life like Paul. To be a fool for Christ is the greatest way to spend this one life we are given.