The Bible compares life to a mist that appears and soon fades. It is also like the grass and flowers that soon wither and fall away. The message is clear: life on earth is transient, fleeting. Each man and woman lives for a little while and then dies. The earthly stage remains but different actors are constantly passing through it. That is why the psalmist prayed to God to let him realize how fleeting his life was—a mere breath—so that he would know how to number his days and spend it wisely (Ps 90:12). We need to make this petition before God, too, so that we can lead a worthwhile life.
"I am busy" is the theme of modern-day life. We rush through our days busy with our studies, families, careers, businesses, and even with church activities. Day-in and day-out we juggle various demands, and over time these govern our lives. We follow the routine without a second thought. But this is not what life is all about. As Christians, we need periodic introspection to see how we are faring in our spiritual cultivation. We need to regularly quiet our hearts and perform "reality checks"—to ask why we are doing certain things, what our motives are, and where our priorities lie.
Continuing to Grow
Many of us have been believers for a long time. We have not grown cold in our faith and we remain an integral part of the church. We attend church services regularly and we take up church work assigned to us. But in terms of our faith, have we really progressed? Are we closer to God now than before? Do His words still "burn within us" when we listen to sermons or read the scriptures? Do we still feel a stir in our hearts when we sing those familiar hymns telling us to "stand up for Jesus," to not leave this world "empty-handed," to "take everything to Him in prayer"? How much importance do we place on service attendance? Has it become a monotonous weekly event where we settle comfortably into our seats and rest our eyes? We may forget it is a time to worship and show reverence to our Creator, to thank Him for His bountiful grace. We should not abuse this privilege, despite the passage of time.
Regardless of how busy you may be, find time to pray and study the Bible. We are of the kingdom of God. If we do not have daily communion with our Father in heaven to understand His will for us, we cannot possibly lead a life worthy of our calling and be assured of our salvation. We may participate actively in the Lord's ministry, but if we remain spiritual babes, we may discover with dismay at the end of our journey that our efforts have been in vain. For this reason, Jesus warns that not all who acknowledge Him as Lord and who serve Him in their lives will enter His kingdom. Only those who bear good fruits and do His will will be rewarded (Mt 7:21). Without diligent daily prayer and Bible study, how can we ever know what His will is? Take stock and ask yourself whether your spiritual nature has matured with time. The longer we procrastinate, the more difficult it will be to change. As time passes, we become so set in our ways that we are incapable of changing for the better.
Caring for Others' Needs
As we pass through life, we have to learn to look beyond ourselves, to lift our eyes and see the needs of those around us. It is easy to be so engrossed in our own cares and worries that we forget to care for one another. I know of people who practice charity, who show concern over the welfare of those less fortunate than they. As believers, we should surpass them, not for our own glory but for the Lord's. After all, we call ourselves the children of God. We have to live up to this status. The question is, do we?
A beautiful testimony of caring is found in our church in Accra, Ghana, with a membership of around 100. Because of the poor economy, only a small percentage of our members are employed. Those who have work earn meager wages. Despite the fact, these brethren use their wages to subsidize the church's needs and to cover the basic necessities of the unemployed members. It would seem that those who live in affluent societies have a lot to learn from them.
Let us stretch out a helping hand toward our brethren in need, especially those who live in war-torn or under-developed countries. One such country is Liberia. Our church in Liberia was established in 1986 and the last recorded membership figure was 200. Civil war has thrown the entire country into social and economic chaos. Many have fled the country for Ghana, including our brethren from five different areas in Liberia. Their lives are full of suffering. When we see news reports of the refugees' plight, we ought to realize that our brethren, members of our spiritual family, are among them. How can we not help them? At the very least, we who enjoy material abundance should offer financial assistance.
Time is not on our side. Apart from the imminent second coming of Christ, we are in reality very vulnerable. We are not even certain whether we possess tomorrow. Yet very often, while we acknowledge that we have to care and cite the Bible's commands to do so, we deal with our own problems first. We then murmur regretfully that caring for others belongs to a time in the future when we find a less stressful job or when our children are older. But our reasoning fails to account for an important factor: death. Recently, I learned of the death of a three-month-old baby, and terminal illnesses striking a four-year-old boy and a youth in his early twenties. I have even attended the wake of a twenty-year-old sister.
All this is enough to bring home the point that death can knock on our doors at any time, perhaps when we least expect it. That is why it is "better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart" (Eccl 7:2). The irony is many of us already understand this teaching. Deep inside we know we can die at any time. We can be knocked down by a car, we can suffer a stroke, we can become sick even with the food we consume. But like the ostrich that hides its head in the sand, we push such morbid thoughts away, and rush through a life that bears few good deeds. It is time that we face up to the certainty of death, and live each day as if there were no tomorrow, stretching our hands to help those less fortunate than we.
As we pass through life, we have to turn our youthful aspirations into positive actions. When we were in our teens, many of us had the zeal for service. We looked at the condition of the church and told ourselves that when the time came, we would do even better. We also resolved that when we were older and less dependent on our parents, we would be more active in the local evangelistic and pastoral ministries, join preachers in their overseas missionary trips and if the Lord willed, offer ourselves for full-time ministry. Time has passed. We have become older, but have also acquired responsibilities, cares and worries. Now we still have the zeal, but again we tell ourselves that we should wait till we have sorted out our problems first. Little do we realize that these problems are likely to plague us for the rest of our lives. If we continue to hold onto our aspirations but never turn them into actions, we may leave this world a sad person and face God empty-handed.
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand." If a preacher were to relate to you the joy of experiencing God's guidance on missionary trips, you may forget. If he were to support his testimony with photos of miraculous healing, you may remember. But you will only truly understand the joy when you participate in the ministry yourself. Time and tide wait for no man. We have to act now and not later. Then we will have truly lived a worthwhile and meaningful life.
We are familiar with the Lord's saying that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Is this not the case today? How long shall we wait before we respond to the call? If you are one of those who are still considering, quietly think about what the Lord has done for you. Visualize the bruises on His body, the scars on His face, His pain and agony on the cross: a sinless man freely offering His life in exchange for the lives of sinners. While we still can, we ought to start living our lives for Him, and not for ourselves.
As we pass through life, let us "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:18), and "be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work"(2 Tim 2:21).