Only One Life,
’Twill Soon Be Past
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One of the biggest surprises we may encounter when we get to heaven is seeing what really mattered to Jesus and what was not so important.
C. T. Studd, a man who devoted his life to missionary work, wrote a poem with this memorable line, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Many people today are busy spending their time in fruitless endeavors, investing their time, money, and energy in work, activities, and pastimes that won’t last, and that aren’t going to be of any value in the next world. One of these days, those people are going to realize they’ve worked their whole lives for something that’s going to pass away in a moment of time. In the blink of an eye, poof—it’ll all be gone.
This is why Jesus says, “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that lasts for eternal life.”1 And “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”2 Jesus is telling us to spend our time and energy on things that are going to carry over into the next world. He tells us to invest in our heavenly future, to work for things with eternal value—things that are based on love.—Christi S. Lynch3
The object of life, according to Jesus [in the Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13–21], is breathtakingly simple: Be rich toward God. When the game [of life] is over, all that will matter will be God’s assessment of our lives. Venture capitalists and Hollywood stars and school janitors and Somalian tribesmen will stand in line before him on level ground.
Being rich toward God means growing a soul that is increasingly healthy and good.
Being rich toward God means loving and enjoying the people around you.
Being rich toward God means learning about your gifts and passions and doing good work to help improve the world.
Being rich toward God means becoming generous with your stuff.
Being rich toward God means making that which is temporary become the servant of that which is eternal.
Each of these dimensions of richness matters. But Jesus expressed it in two great commandments, each built around a single word: Love.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, he said. Love your neighbor as yourself. … No one can do this and be poor in God’s eyes. No one can fail to do this and be rich in God’s eyes.—John Ortberg4
We all know the age-old saying that when you die “you can’t take it with you.” That’s absolutely true when it comes to your material belongings. The corporeal life is left behind, and along with it everything corporeal. “That which is flesh is flesh; that which is spirit is spirit.”5 The material things of this life, which have such value today, have no value in the life to come.
It’s like the joke a friend told me some time back: A wealthy man who was dying was visited by an angel, and he asked the angel if he could take some of his riches to heaven with him. The angel responded that it wasn’t normal practice, but that he’d go and ask. Upon his return he said permission was given for the man to take one suitcase full of his riches. When the man died, he arrived at the gates of heaven with his suitcase, and the angel met him there. Curious as to what riches the man had brought with him, the angel asked if he could look inside the suitcase. The man opened the case, which was full of gold bars. The angel looked at the man and said, “You brought pavement?”
What we do in this earthly life—the fruit of our relationship with the Lord, our discipleship, our following God’s Word, our service to Him and others, our loving actions—is all investing in eternity, and it makes a difference in the afterlife. And one’s lack of such investments factors in as well. The life we lead, the decisions we make, the good that we do, the love we give, all of it factors into our eternal future.
While as Christians we are each saved and have eternal life, we will give account for our life, for whether or how we followed God and His Word, and will receive reward according to what we have done or not done in our earthly life.
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”6—Peter Amsterdam
I had an acquaintance who spent years working very hard and scraping to build and decorate a little cottage where she could be comfortable when she retired, but just a few months after it was finished, she became very ill and was told she did not have long to live. I was visiting her one day, and as I sat at her bedside she said, “Time is closing in on me. I spent the little I had on things that won’t have a bit of value where I’m going.” She had gained a sense of values, but too late.
I sometimes wish we could see all the events of life framed in the ultimate results they lead to. What a change that would bring to our lives! We wouldn’t look for excuses for the time we waste on things of little value and consequence, and we wouldn’t give ourselves to trivialities when eternal things are calling.—Virginia Brandt Berg
Jimmy Carter is a former president of the United States. He is also a committed Christian. Every year Carter’s home church of Plains Baptist Church would have a week of mission in which congregation members would go out into the community inviting unchurched people to attend the church’s revival meetings.
Once Carter was asked to speak at another church in Georgia. In his preparation he decided he would share about his involvement in his home church’s mission week. He began to note down that in 14 years he had managed to visit over 140 homes in the local community.
Carter felt quite proud of his achievement, until he compared his witness for Christ with his witness for political office. Carter realized that in his 1966 campaign for governor of Georgia he had gone out and met at least 300,000 people in an attempt to convince them to vote for him. “The comparison struck me—300,000 visits for myself in three months, and 140 visits for God in 14 years!”—From Jimmy Carter’s autobiography
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”7 How many others, do you suppose, had also seen that pearl but hadn’t realized its worth, or had already spent their resources on things of far lesser value, or simply weren’t willing to pay the price?
What is your pearl of great price? What things are you prepared to sacrifice in order to make it yours? Those are decisions only you can make, with God’s help.—Keith Phillips
Published on Anchor October 2018. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 John 6:27 NIV.
2 Matthew 6:19–20 NLT.
3 http://www.mywonderstudio.com/level-2/2013/1/4/the-things-that-really-count.html. Contributed by Christi S. Lynch, adapted from the writings of Maria Fontaine.
4 John Ortberg, When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back in the Box (Zondervan, 2015).
5 John 3:6.
6 Revelation 22:12 NIV.
7 Matthew 13:45–46 NKJV.