[This is the final part in a 3 part series on what the Bible says about wasting our lives. Part 1 is HERE, Part 2 is HERE. This is the most important part, and if you’re only going to read one, I’d ask that you read this one.]
Like many parents, I’ve found lockdown hard. Now don’t get me wrong: I have thoroughly enjoyed the extra time spent with my family over the past year and a half. Some of the walks we went on in the first lockdown stand out as some of our most treasured memories together to date. But if I’m being honest there have been times where they’ve driven me daft.
There have been times in the past 18 months where I’ve tried in vain to escape to the garden just to get time alone. There have been times when I just couldn’t bring myself to play with the kids any more, and have instead sat on my phone. There have been days when I’ve been happy to let them sit in front of a screen, because they’d already exhausted my mental energy for the day.
A few weeks ago my daughter went back to school, leaving my wife and I at home with our son. Since my wife has been working full time, I’ve been charged with looking after him. It’s been great, but again, there have been times when I’ve just been too exhausted, and have been happy to let him sit in front of the tele while I get stuff done (or sit in front of a screen of my own…).
Next week he starts school-nursery. He has a wee uniform and everything, it’s amazing. But, like his sister, it means that as of next week, for 5 days a week he will be away from home 6 hours a day. I’ve realised that I might not get this much time with him ever again.
Now, no parent has dealt with the past season perfectly, and we absolutely have to cut ourselves some slack. However, I’m 99% certain that when next week comes and I cuddle him goodbye at the school gate, the thing I’ll tell myself over and over again will be: “I wish I’d spent more time with him.”
For many of us our regrets aren’t about what we spend our time doing, but who we spend our time with. It’s with that thought in mind that we now turn to the final part in our series.
A Life Lived With God
There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus is invited to the home of a woman called Martha.
In the passage we are told that one of the ladies, Mary, spends her time at the feet of her Lord, listening to his teaching, enjoying his presence and being thankful for the fact that he was there. Martha, on the other hand, “was distracted with much serving”.
While Mary is enjoying time with her Lord, Martha, is fussing around, making sure that all of the guests are looked after. Having known more than a few Marthas in my time, I can imagine what some of what her fussing was about. “John doesn’t have a cup! There’s no bread left on Jesus’s side of the table! I forgot to sweep the back room! Who forgot to clean the good bowls? There isn’t enough bread for everyone!” (Ok, assuming she knew who was sitting at her table she would have known not to worry about that one).
Most first time readers to this passage sympathise with Martha. Why is it fair that she does all of the work while her sister sits on the floor listening to the guest speaker? Why is it fair that when Martha seems stressed, her sister Mary seems utterly unphased about all that needs done? (I’ve a feeling I’m also describing a fair few marriages while typing this – am I right? Husbands take note!)
When Martha voices her concern to Jesus, as is often the case, our Lord’s answer comes as a surprise.
“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:41-42 (ESV)
Jesus gently reminds Martha that all of the fussing about doing stuff is secondary to actually being with and enjoying him.
For all I’ve said in the previous post about work, which is important, work and doing is by no means the way in which a life isn’t wasted. Work isn’t the be all and end all. How many stories have we heard of people on their deathbeds regretting how much of their life they spent focused on their careers and work, instead of living and enjoying the good things and people God had blessed them with?
Even Jesus knew this – for all of his hard work, Jesus often started his day before the sun came up in communion and prayer with his Father. If the Son of God spent so much time in prayer (not because he had to, but because he wanted to) how much more do we need it?
For the Christian, work is important, but it is always secondary. For a start, we aren’t accepted by God on the basis of what we do. We are accepted by God through believing in Jesus. It is faith in his Son which pleases God first and foremost – not doing stuff. In fact, the Bible at one point describes good deeds without faith or love for God as “filthy rags”. Doing stuff doesn’t get you closer to God. Knowing his Son does.
God made us to work – absolutely. But he doesn’t just want us to do stuff. He wants our hearts. It’s from a heart overflowing with thankfulness and love for God that the best and most effective work comes. Yet sadly, far too many Christians today, especially in evangelical circles, seem to spend more of their time serving in church, working, fussing and doing stuff for Jesus rather than enjoying time at his feet.
Whether it’s the Small Group leader who spends more time preparing (and maybe fretting over) their group than they do sitting with their Bible open for their own enjoyment, or the church attender who thinks welcoming people on the door at church is a substitute for enjoying time with their heavenly Father in prayer, or even the Pastor who only opens his Bible to study, preach and teach, and never for his own enjoyment, far too many people find it easier to do stuff for Jesus than actually enjoy Jesus himself.
In a sermon I believe should be required listening for every single pastor and ministry leader, Pastor David Platt openly acknowledges that at the time when he was most “busy” and “successful” in ministry, his life was completely without prayer. His book had just become a number one best-seller, his preaching ministry had exploded and his church was experiencing rapid growth – but Platt admits that in that season he was compeltely dry, and it took a shock of a wake up call for him to realise that he was doing all of this without enjoying the close, intimacy of his Father.
Platt acknowledges that he’d become content with the culture’s version of what “success” was, and had ignored what the Bible actually said about it, and that contentment was leading him towards disaster.
My point is this: if you’re currently more concerned about stuff than you are loving and enjoying God, drop some of the stuff and take time to sit at the Saviour’s feet. You can waste your time doing stuff; you can’t waste your time knowing Christ.
If you aren’t convinced, let me take you to Matthew 7. As always, Jesus has some striking and challenging words for us here:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast our demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)
Notice something? Jesus doesn’t reject them because they didn’t work hard enough. He doesn’t reject them because they didn’t see enough signs and wonders. He rejects them because he didn’t know them. Christian life today isn’t defined by how much we do. Christian life today isn’t defined by how powerful the signs and wonders we see are. It isn’t even defined by how much we know – it’s based on who we know. At the end of the day, a successful Christian life is defined by whether or not we know Christ. 
As I type this the finals of the women’s gymnastics are on the TV beside me. Here some of the world’s most amazing, gifted and disciplined athletes are using all of their life’s training and experience to hopefully bring home a medal. Whether Gold, Silver, or Bronze, whatever they win will be well deserved. The men and women who spend their lives training and competing for these games deserve all of the praise and rewards they get. Are their lives wasted? Many would say certainly not. I’d be inclined to agree. You’ve spent your life training for something and now are enjoying the fruits of your labour? Well done – enjoy the common grace of God!
The Bible, however, would ask a different question: can you take your medals with you when you die? The answer, obviously, is no.
The Bible is honest about death, as should Christians be; everyone dies. There is no avoiding it. Science can keep your body alive longer and longer, but there is no escaping that there will come a day when everyone alive on the Earth just now will be gone, replaced by another generation who too, will eventually die. Morbid, eh? If you think I’m being fatalistic and not Biblical, just read some of the Psalms. Or Proverbs. Or Ecclesiates. Or the Gospels. Or Paul’s letters. I’ll wait.
The most important question about how we live our lives doesn’t necessarily concern this life (though that is important) – it concerns the life to come. Olympic medals, your pension fund, your company being on the Fortune 500 List, dozens of grandkids, 10 plantinum certified albums, a photo of you blue in the face on top of Everest – all of these are good things, but none of them will matter to you 150 years from now. What will matter is the simple question Jesus asked above: Do you know him?
If you know Jesus, you can be assured that not one part of your life is wasted. Whether it’s the missionary who’s given up a life of comfort and ease for the sake of the gospel, the person who denies all of their strongest personal desires for the sake of Jesus, or the one who laments that he hasn’t made a “difference” in the world; if you can say with confidence “I know Christ” you can know today with confidence that your life is in no way wasted; it’s treasured.
Let me finish by pointing you to a well known character from the Bible: the Thief on the Cross. As he hung there helpless, what do you think was going through his head? Maybe he began to regret stealing whatever he’d stolen. Maybe he began to lament how he’d wasted his life in crime. Maybe he’d lived a good life, but one act of desperation had led him towards the jaws of death. Maybe hanging there in agony he began to think to himself “this is my only life, and I’ve blown it.”
But then he looks to his left, and here is a man who he recognises. Jesus of Nazareth – the miracle worker, who has healed, delivered and forgiven multitudes of people not unlike himself. A man who has spent his whole life loving sinners just like the Thief. A wholly innocent man who somehow finds himself suffering the same criminal’s fate that he is. Maybe I deserve to be up here, the Thief thinks, but surely not this man.
The Thief has nothing to offer. There’s nothing he can do for Jesus – not now. There is nothing he can say to him to try and win him over. With death rushing to meet his seemingly wasted life, he cries out to Jesus in desperation. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And how does the King of the Universe respond?
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Let me say to you with confidence: later that day, when death had passed over him, as that Thief stood at the gates of paradise with his Lord beside him, he would have known that his life hadn’t been wasted. Today, 2000 years later, I bet he’s still glad for that encounter. And 520 Billion years from now, still enjoying the presence of the God who made and loved him (though maybe slightly frustrated at the millions of people like me who’ll no doubt be queuing up to ask him questions), his “wasted” life will hardly be a memory.
If all that Thief had done in his life simply served to introduce him to Jesus in his final moments, he needn’t have worried about wasting a second.
Agree? Disagree? Maybe you’ve found these posts helpful? Either way, please feel free to leave a comment and to share this on social media. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also use the side bar over there (>>) to suscribe and be kept up to date with the latest posts!
- I’m aware that text also notes that it is the one who does the Father’s who will enter the Kingdom. What is the Father’s will? That we know his Son. (1 John 5) ⏎