Are you living like today is your last day?
On June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs stood before the graduating class at Stanford University and challenged them to live each day as if it was their last. His words resonated with the guests. Since then, over 28 million people have seen the YouTube video of his speech. Speeches don’t usually garner that much attention. His did because of his societal impact and the value of his message. Life is short; make the most of it.
There is a danger in living today as if it were your last. It assumes you have good character and that you will choose to do what is right even though since you will be gone, you will not have to face the consequences of your actions. How many students would do their homework if they knew those assignments would never receive a grade? How many employees would show up for a job with no anticipation of a paycheck?
We already know how some people respond when it looks like the world is falling apart. They lose all restraint. A relatively benign form of this would be the person who maxes out their credit cards by buying all the indulgences they had never allowed themselves to experience. “Why not? I’ll never have to pay.” A more serious example is the looters or terrorists who believe life is over. They steal, they hurt people, and in some cases, they kill. They mimic Satan who, when he realizes his time is short, chooses to use his remaining time to inflict as much harm as he possibly can (Rev. 12:12).
A message about the brevity of life is not original. In Psalm 90, Moses, who lived 120 years, ruminated about how short life is. He suggested we number our days to keep track of how many we have used and potentially how many we have left (Ps. 90:12). Other biblical writers described life as a passing fog (James 4:14), a fading flower (Ps. 37:2), and a disappearing shadow (Job 14:2). In virtually all of these cases, their point is not to depress the reader but to encourage him to use well the time God has given.
The message of the Bible is not fatalistic or pessimistic (1 Cor. 15:32). Your last day may not be the day of your death. It may be the day of Jesus’ coming to escort you home! For the Christian, the last day is a day of hope, purpose, and meaning, not a day of fear (1 Cor. 15:54-55).
The Bible reminds us that life is short, but also that life is eternal. By eternal, I don’t mean we have countless opportunities to get it right (reincarnation). I mean when this life is over, we will enter another one that will never have a last day. What we do in this present life will eternally affect the life yet to come. Here and now, you are making investments in there and then.
So what if we changed the message? What if, instead of living like today was my last day, what if I lived as if today is my last opportunity to invest in the day after my last day? Every action has consequences (Gal. 6:7). Bad actions have bad consequences. Good actions have good consequences. These consequences will last not just a lifetime, but an eternity.
What good actions could you do today to have a positive impact on your eternal future? Let me suggest a few.
- Make sure you take time for your priorities every day. What are your priorities? In answer to a priorities question, Jesus communicated His: love God and love people (Matt. 22:36-40). You only have so many opportunities to communicate your love through your actions or your words. Do it today. Today might not be your last day, but it might be for the people you love.
If you knew today was the last day for either you or the people you love, you’d probably radically alter your schedule so that you could spend the whole day together. You can’t stay home from your responsibilities every day, and it’s okay to do some activities away from the people closest to you. But every day, you can make sure to spend some time with those people and the God who created them.
- Be faithful to accomplish your mission for that day. Though you spend the largest portion of your time there, your job is probably not your greatest Replying to emails, participating in meetings, and sitting in traffic may not seem to have much eternal impact. But they could be having a tremendous impact if that is the mission God gave you for that day. You hear a missions speaker, and you are tempted to think your life could be so much more impactful half-way around the world. Don’t miss the opportunity for faithfulness right in front of you by contemplating the far away opportunity (Matt. 25:21). An act of obedience pleases God more than an act of sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).
God’s not going to evaluate you based on whether or not you accomplished someone else’s mission, but on your faithfulness to fulfill your mission. You may have your idea of what your mission for today is – your agenda. What if you asked God what His mission for your day was and worked on accomplishing that instead?
- Don’t worry about the future. Not yours nor the future of the people you leave behind. Think about it. You will soon be seeing Jesus. Your troubles will be over. If you have prepared yourself for this day, then you have something to anticipate, not dread. That’s part of what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
If today is your last day on earth, what do you need to fear? I understand. You’re fearful for your family. Why? The same God who fulfilled His promise and took care of you all your days is their God too. It was never really you who took care of them anyway. You were just a conduit of God’s blessing to them. The more trust you exhibit throughout your life, the more faith you will grow within them. Worry never accomplished anything anyway.
- Make plans for the future. It may seem odd that this would be one of my words of counsel to you. Why make plans for the future if today is the last day? One, you don’t know whether or not today actually is your last day. God alone knows that (Job 14:5). Two, your last day on earth is not your last day.
The problem with most people’s planning is it doesn’t go far enough, and it doesn’t include the God factor. They don’t make any plans for what is going to happen after their last day (Luke 18:20-21), and they don’t submit their plans to the sovereign plan of God (James 4:14-15). Planning is good so long as you recognize God has a plan for you (Eph. 2:10), you are willing to submit to that plan (Prov. 3:5-6; Matt. 26:39), and your plans reach beyond the grave.
- Be active, not passive. Some people take the message of last days to a negative extreme. They leave behind all their responsibilities and simply wait for the end to come. Paul told one such group that if they didn’t get up and get to work, no one was going to provide food for them while they waited for the end (2 Thes. 3:10-12).
It is not our job to announce the end of time and watch the clock as it progresses toward the conclusion. Our job is to take advantage of every opportunity and make the most of every moment (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). Don’t allow the approaching end to steal the joy and possibilities of the moments you still have. There is still time to invest. Be bold. If you have a right relationship with God, you have nothing to fear except complacency.
- Live life by faith. You can’t see tomorrow. You never could. God can. He is in the habit of making seemingly ridiculous requirements of people without giving them the necessary information to get them to their destination. He often asks us to give away our future in the form of money (Mark 12:42-44), security (Mark 1:16-20), and plans (Matt. 1:19-25). Sometimes, He even requires us to give away our children (Gen. 22:1-2). But those who were willing to live a life like this would all testify to the same message. God is worthy of your trust.
People who willingly live like today is the last day of their life on earth don’t cling so tightly to what earth has to offer – not even their life (Matt. 10:39). They make the most contributions to life here even as they plan for life somewhere else. One of them said it this way: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Jesus.
- Be thankful. You can complain about how little time you have left, or you can thank God for the time you have.
Ten men came to Jesus begging Him to heal them of their leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). These men knew what it was like to live life as if it was their last day. Leprosy was a death sentence. Because of their faith, Jesus healed them. One of them came back to Jesus. He could have complained. “Jesus, why? All the wasted years haunt me. I will never get those back. I am so angry about the suffering my family and I have endured!” Instead, he simply fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Thank you.”
The formerly leprous man left his disease behind that day, but I doubt he left his sense of mortality behind. How do you think he responded as every day after, he was pleasantly surprised to wake up to the smiling face of his wife? Do you think he complained about noisy neighbors or the price of fish? People who live life with the recognition of its brevity tend to be thankful for every breath they breathe and every joy they experience.
- Invest for the future. Just because your time is over doesn’t mean time is over for everyone. There’s a generation coming after you. Even if your departure from earth is due to Jesus’ return, there will still be people on earth who need what you have to offer. Paul trained Timothy. Then he told Timothy to train others who would train others in the hope that each generation would pour into the successive ones (2 Tim. 2:22).
I may be gone tomorrow. That doesn’t give me the privilege of thinking only of myself, working just for immediate gratification, or not caring about how my actions affect those who come after me. The reality that I will leave at some point in the future – today, tomorrow or twenty years from now – motivates me to serve those who come after me. To “love thy neighbor” means I do what I can to help my neighbor even if I never meet him.
- Don’t procrastinate. You’ve heard the stories. The car crash, the unexplained collapse at sports practice, the sudden intense pain in the chest. None of these people thought the day of their departure would be that Some of them though were prepared for the day of their death because of the day on which Jesus birthed them into His family (John 3:3).
Two distraught sisters questioned Jesus’ delay and His love because Jesus allowed their brother to die. As Jesus drew near the tomb where Lazarus’ body lay, Jesus said, “Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:26). When Mary and Martha heard those words, the events of the previous days didn’t seem to sync with what Jesus was saying. They soon would. Just a few minutes later, Jesus said these words: “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).
Death is not the end. At least it doesn’t have to be. Because you do not know the day of your departure, getting things right between you and the One you will stand before is something you must accomplish now rather than later (2 Cor. 6:2). You can live every day as if it was your last and still not be ready for it when it comes.
According to his speech, Steve Jobs spent 33 years asking himself the question, “What if today was my last day?” Jesus spent the same amount of time living for His last day and helping people prepare for theirs. In the process, He taught His disciples to “take up their cross” (Matt. 16:24), to “die to sin” (Rom. 6:2), and to consider themselves “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). It is by dying to ourselves and living our lives for God and others that we begin to truly live.
For those who have taken the “once for all” sacrificial death of Jesus as payment for their sin (1 Peter 3:18), they do not have to fear the second death. It has no power over them (Rev. 20:6). They look forward to an eternity in which they will no longer have to ask, “What if today is my last day?” Instead, they will have the anticipation of living a billion tomorrows each of which is void of fear and overflowing with a new adventure.
I’m one of them. Are you?
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