Living a Life That Matters
I think we all would like to live our lives well. We want to make every day count. But this isn’t something we should only think about when we’re older; it’s something we should think about when we’re younger, because the evening of a life is determined by the morning of it. The end is determined by the beginning.
When we’re young, we’re more flexible. We’re more open to change. In fact, we like change. But as we get older, we become a little more resistant to change.
It isn’t a bad thing to be set in our ways — if they are good ways. It isn’t a bad thing to have habits — if they are good habits. It isn’t a bad thing to like routine — if it is a good routine.
My point is that we determine the course our lives will take. The stand we make today will determine the kind of stand we will make tomorrow. That is why Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said, “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, ‘Life is not pleasant anymore.’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 NLT)
I have discovered that with the passing of time, we seem to become more exaggerated versions of ourselves. I’ve known grumpy people who have become grumpier. People who were kind of mean have become a bit meaner. And people who were nice have actually become nicer. We seem to become an intensified version of ourselves as we grow older. So let’s make that version the best it possibly can be.
We have to think about where we are headed in life. If we go through life with no goals, no purpose and no guiding principles, we will, in time, waste our lives. If we aim at nothing, we are bound to hit it.
Some people want to prolong their lives by applying scientific research or using the latest lotion or potion. Medical science can help us live longer lives, with lifesaving operations and drugs to treat certain life-threatening diseases. It can add years to our lives, but it cannot add life to our years. That is something only God can do.
Our goal shouldn’t be merely to prolong our lives; our goal should be to live the fullest, most productive lives possible.
Jim Eliot was a young man who felt called to the mission field. He wanted to take the gospel to an unreached group of people in Ecuador, known at the time as the Auca tribe. He was killed in his attempt to reach them. Jim Eliot kept a journal in which he wrote the words, “I seek not a long life but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.”
The Bible tells the story of a young man who lived his life well. And even though it wasn’t a long life, it was a full one. It was a productive one. It was one that made an impact. Life isn’t measured so much by its duration as its donation. This young man, Stephen, donated his life. He gave it serving the Lord.
God was clearly at work in the church of the first century. Miracles were happening. People were coming to Christ. But then Stephen was brought up on false charges before the Sanhedrin, the religious authority and final court. Their word was law. Whatever they said went.
If Stephen had been careful, he could have gone home for dinner that night. It wasn’t that Stephen had a death wish, but he saw an opportunity and seized it. As a result, he gave his last sermon that day.
Stephen stood up for Christ on earth. As he was being stoned and his young life was draining from him, Jesus stood up for him in heaven before the Father and the angels. We are told that “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Acts 7:55). Jesus was saying, in effect, “This is my boy. This is my son.” What a glorious moment that must have been.
When a young person dies, people often say it was before his or her time. But who are we to say that people die before their time? The Bible says that “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NIV), and there is “a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). God decides when that time will be.
We might feel as though we’re guaranteed 70 or 80 years, or whatever it is we’re hoping for. But there is no guarantee like that in the Bible. What the Bible does tell us is that we can live full lives in Christ, however long our lives will be.
For the Christian walking in the will of God, death will come at the appointed time — not a minute before and not a minute after.
In Stephen’s case, God accomplished a number of things. I believe that Stephen’s death had a direct impact on Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul. The people who stoned Stephen laid their coats at the feet of young Saul. And although Stephen didn’t have many converts, I think he had at least one — and he was one whopper of a convert. The apostle Paul arguably is the most powerful figure in church history, next to Christ himself.
Yes, Stephen’s life was short, but it was full. He lived it well. And that is all we can do.
One day we will stand before God and give an account of what we have done with our lives for him. Make each day count. Live it for the glory of God. Live your life well.