ALL FOR JESUS
Celebrating the life of a loved one in death.... It seemed such a contradiction. It was only a few days into the New Year (2012), and here we all were in church, where I, as a pastor and friend of the family, was invited to present an appropriate message of hope and encouragement to all in attendance. Many members of the extended family were not Seventh-day Adventist Christians. The deceased, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, had lived for over ninety–three years and passed away only a few months before she turned ninety-four.
I began the eulogy by reading this verse from the Scriptures, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” Psalms 90:10 (NIV). Here was my point: “She lived her life to the full, and she gave all of her life (time) to God.” As Christian stewards, we recognize that time is a gift of God, and that we are charged with the sacred responsibility of living it, and using all of it, for His glory (1 Cor.10:3).
Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."
TIME OF BIRTH
In my family, we celebrate our children’s birthdays in November (Janae-Grace) and December (Jaydon), and it is our family custom, on these special occasions, to first acknowledge God as the Giver of Life. We do this during our family worship-time, but we also put money aside as an offering of thanksgiving to be given on the following Sabbath, in recognition of God’s sustenance and the blessings of good health. While this idea of remembering God during birthday times may be obvious for most Christians, it is nevertheless important that we restate this Christian understanding in today’s materialistic world. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this Biblical fact: it is God who gives life (Gen. 1:1).
Job, a worshipper of Yahweh, in his time of trial and loss, recognized the sovereignty of God and His ownership of everything by declaring, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV). Notwithstanding the context of Job being a very rich man, his testimony highlights a fundamental principle of stewardship: God owns everything, including life. Moreover, from the day we are born, there is nothing we receive or possess that belongs to us. Everything we are and have in this world is God’s. Time, whether it is measured in seconds or years, is a gift of the Creator God.
TIME FOR LIVING
By accepting time as God’s gift, we also accept our God-given responsibility, the stewardship of time which implies good time-management. This emphasis on the use of time as a spiritual discipline of the Christian life is powerfully presented by Solomon the “Preacher” in this way, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecc. 9:10, NIV). The point of this Biblical passage is clear. Because this life is finite and brief, we humans and people of God must, therefore, take advantage of every moment we have in life to do all that we can before we die. However, our personal “doing” and living over time must be informed by the rule of Jesus Christ—the awareness that we live for Him—and in the presence of God (Ecc. 11:9).
The question that follows is, “How does this message of maximizing time translate into ways of actually living today?” For me, it means appropriating and spending more time with my family—my wife (Maxine) and my two children. As a PK (pastor’s kid), I am very aware of how pastors can become so committed to, and involved in, their ministry that there’s very little time left to spend with their immediate families. Setting time aside on a daily basis for our family is good stewardship.
The apostle Paul, towards the end of his life and ministry, made this wonderful, conclusive statement: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21, NIV)”
TIME AND DEATH
The apostle Paul, towards the end of his life and ministry, made this wonderful, conclusive statement: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, NIV). When looking at these words in the context of his life and the time he gave freely to the service of God, Paul seems to be saying that there’s no other purpose for living except to live for Jesus Christ; and even in the matter of death he considers that too a “gain” because of Christ. For Paul, life finds its true meaning in Christ—the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And it is this unfaltering faith in God’s leading in his life—all of the time—that gave Paul the courage to face suffering and death without fear. The basis for such confidence is Christ Himself who has conquered death and the grave (Rev. 1:17,18).
To the New Testament church at Smyrna, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown” (Rev. 2:10, NIV). The call to be faithful to God to the very end of time or to the point of death stills hold true for Christian stewards today. Following Jesus as Savior and Lord from birth to death is a lifetime calling. It is a total commitment of heart and life, 24/7. It’s all for Jesus. And when He comes, will He find us faithful stewards?