A Life Well Spent
In A Life Well Spent … Russ Crosson tells a fictions story that I want to close with this morning. … I think you’ll find it brings perspective on how we should be living now … as priests of God. … Fully committed to Him.
He writes … “It began as an uneventful Sunday morning. Jim had been calmly sitting in the third row on the right-hand side of the Sunnydale Evangelical Church, a row he and Barbara had warmed on and off for some twenty years. The Pastor was preaching on rewards and eternity. His rich, vibrant voice filling the sanctuary as he recited 1 Corinthians 3:13-15: ‘Each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss.’
The words caused him to imagine vast riches: a mansion larger than the one he and Barbara occupied now, suits as well fitting as those his tailor made for him (but these would be pure silk), a Mercedes to replace the BMW…
The sharp pain seemed to hit shortly after the little smile creased his lips. Pain—a word he knew little about but became intimately acquainted with in one split second scream. He could not move. He was alert, awake, yet unable to speak. The words ambulance, doctor, heart attack flew past his ears, yet still that electrical pain held him in its grip.
What followed could only be described as Reckoning Day. The ride in the ambulance, the panic that filled his very soul, the awareness that judgment was no longer a fantasy about a day in the future but something that might take place within the next moment. The hospital staff was efficient and quick; the pain, relentless. Tubes of every shape and size invaded his body, whirring, hissing, menacing.
An hour passed. Jim heard his name and tried to open his eyes but could not find the strength. Then he recognized his son’s voice. Jimmy’s questions to the nurse were pointed, cold, and emotionless: ‘How much longer does he have?’ ‘I’m sorry, but we have done everything we can possibly do for him.’ ‘Do I have to stay around the hospital or could you just call me when he’s gone?’ ‘Just leave your number at the desk, sir, and we will call you when there is a change.’
Brisk, abrupt, businesslike, and uncaring, Jimmy’s footsteps led to the door. Then his voice came again, as he needed to explain: ‘I hardly know my dad. He was never home for us… always making a buck, always making a name. I… I… I’m sorry.’
What do you mean I was never there for you! You lived in the biggest house in the neighborhood, didn’t you? You drove the fanciest car of any kid in your high school, and didn’t you spend a couple of months touring Europe in the twelfth grade at my expense? The silent argument screamed inside Jim’s head. Then the anger turned to quiet but painful sobs that were lost to the whirring of the machines.
‘James Conwell.’ His name was being called, but he had no idea who was calling it. As he stood up, doors directly across from him opened, and he walked through. What met him was astounding. A room the size of… well, how could he even measure it? And it wasn’t just the size. It was the awesome light. There was a throne. There was a robe, long and luxurious, filling up the entire room. There were strange creatures. Majesty and beauty. There was fear, and there was power. There was God. This was it... the Day... This was no fantasy... This was reality.
Moments, hours, or perhaps years passed in silence. Jim could not tell. He could not think; he could not speak. The words came from the throne. The voice was love. ‘Jim, it is time to test your life works.’ And then his life appeared: their first home, their first car (he had forgotten that little green Plymouth), another home, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a fishing boat, more cars, several exclusive clubs where they held memberships. The pile grew and grew and grew.
Jim wondered how the room contained it all. He was awestruck by the impressive display of goods before him. I am wealthy beyond imagination, he could hear his inner voice telling him, cheering him on. Rich at last, rich for all eternity, he literally sang under his breath. Then the voice came again… ‘And now, Jim, the test of fire!’ Where the fire came from, Jim had no idea. Though he was standing near the enormous pile, he was neither warmed nor singed by the blaze. But the fire came, and in one moment all was gone. All was gone!
Jim recalled the words read just that morning by the Pastor, ‘If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss.’ Sixty-one years of life, all for one small pile of ashes. Jim could feel it before he actually heard it: deep sobs coming from his soul, weakening his knees, breaking his strength, flattening him out as he realized he had lived and worked all of his life for nothing, absolutely nothing of lasting value.
‘Mr. Conwell.’ His name again, this time from a different voice. Where am I? The sound of whirring machines, the smell of perfume, the feel of the gurney under him, the nurse, the Pastor, tears on his cheeks. … He awakened … for one more chance…” [PAUSE]