I awoke from an afternoon nap recently with a startling awareness about living and dying. I was wide awake and aware that I was alive but something deep within my consciousness told me I am going to die. This was not a premonition about an accident or illness that was going to take my life in the near future but a reminder that my death, however that may come about, is a reality I must learn to reconcile in the way I go about living.
People who know me well will testify to the fact that I am not a morbid, pessimistic individual. I believe myself to be a rather energetic, somewhat “driven” and hopeful person who seeks to encourage others and get a good 24 hours out of most days. I think there are several reasons for this way of approaching life. The reality that I am on borrowed time certainly plays a large role in how I try to live each day. So, my choices about how to deal with my death basically boil down to my world view and how death fits into that larger picture.
My faith, my world view, tells me that death is a reality I must take into account. I will not escape it no matter what I do to try to avoid it. Denying reality is not the solution either. Many people who will not face reality do all kinds of things to distract from the truth. They tend to get involved in excesses of eating, drinking, living carelessly, and other behaviors that are very destructive to themselves and others. In my opinion, this is not really living at all but a slow but sure way of dying before you die. So my question is, “Why not live until you die?”
The centerpiece of my faith is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He has dealt with my sin through his sacrifice on the cross. And, He has dealt with my physical death by His resurrection from the dead. By my faith in Him and what He has done, I have received eternal life, His life in me. And, my physical death cannot, will not, defeat Him! Yes, death waits for me but it will not destroy or be the end of me. Jesus has taken care of that for me. My hope is in Jesus and He is the reason I can live with confidence and a deep sense of purpose and meaning in my life. That’s what it means to me to “live until you die.”
If you are not living in this sense of hope I have just described, I challenge you to think about why not. There seem to be at least a couple of possibilities for the sad state of life. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, perhaps you have lost your way. The cares and frustrations of life may have caused you to lose focus on the implications of the gospel for your life. You have allowed your emotions to control your outlook and behavior. You are acting and living like you don’t really believe what your confession and baptism say you believe. How we live is the evidence of the vitality of our faith in God.
The only other reason I can think of as to why a person is living without hope is that you are not a believer. You have not wandered from the faith you once confessed, you have never had a deep life-changing encounter with Jesus. You may have taken many routes to try to escape the reality of your death but you haven’t done the one thing that can solve your problem. Ask God to forgive you for your sin of unbelief and trying to play God in your life and to give you the eternal life that overcomes physical death. Commit yourself to live the abundant life of obedience to His will for you. This is the secret of really living ‘til you die.
Now, I have one suggestion for you to consider if you want to live life to your best.
Be proactive. What does that mean? Being proactive involves thinking about and anticipating how you want to live, planning and, where possible, making decisions, and taking actions that will help you live well. It means understanding what you are responsible for those things. It is about living responsibly, being an adult, about your health, your marriage, your parenting, your job, your relationship with God.
Why is it important to live proactively? Because God didn’t make you to always be dependent on others to take care of you. Dependency is for childhood and those who cannot for some reason take care of themselves. He made you be active and productive for all your life, to contribute to the betterment of yourself, your family, and others. You are not to live with the mentality of a victim. Sure, bad things may have happened to you. Bad things happen to most of us at some point in life but they do not define who we are.
I got unjustly “fired” from a very good job at age 51 with one kid in college and another scheduled to begin that fall. That was a very difficult time, I had to reinvent myself and change careers at age 51. Looking back at that, I consider what was done to me wrong but the overall effect to be one of the best things that could happen to me. I somewhat anticipated what was going to happen with the job and began thinking about the “what if’s” but when it actually happened, I kicked being proactive into high gear. I asked God to give me grace and strength for the challenge. I also decided to not spend time and energy wallowing in my anger and frustration and telling everyone what a victim I was. I dealt with my anger through therapy and journaling and made a decision about my next career and got on-the-job- training to make that happen. I worked like a man possessed and God blessed it! I am now retired after a very fulfilling second career and I continue to be proactive about my life because that works well for me. No matter where you are in life, become proactive and hang in there and God will bless your faithfulness. I have often said to others struggling with difficult issues, “God meets us at the point of our effort.”
What does it look like to be proactive? What are some of the characteristics or traits of proactive people? Here are some words which describe people I believe to be proactive: independent, inter-dependent, anticipatory, planner, accountable, energetic, optimistic, and celebratory. Let me attempt to digest these ideas into a few descriptive sentences.
Proactive people are usually self-starters and can work alone and enjoy using their individual gifts. However, they are wise enough to realize the giftedness of others and can be interdependent when the situation calls for the combination of individual gifts to get the job done. A great example of this is a marriage of independent people who work together to build a functional marriage and to rear healthy, well-adjusted kids.
Proactive people think ahead and anticipate possible challenges so as to not create unnecessary problems. In other words, they don’t create problems for themselves by being lazy and irresponsible by the way they live day today. They realize actions have consequences and they attempt to gather good information and make plans accordingly. They are wise enough to realize that life has enough crises to deal with without creating additional ones by poor decisions and actions. Proactive people plan ahead.
Proactive people hold themselves accountable for the consequences of their choices. They do not blame God or others for their poor choices. While they may have been wronged by the actions of parents or others, they own their choice of how they will respond to what has happened to them. Instead of becoming angry and bitter, they choose to work with God to learn and grow from the experience and to “make lemonade from the lemon.”
Optimism and energy also describe proactive people. While recognizing the reality of evil, wrong, and dysfunction in so many areas of life, these people don’t give up, they persevere and dedicate their energies to making life a little better for themselves and others. These wonderful people have faith that the ultimate victory over sickness, loss, evil, and death belongs to God and they face the daily battle to do their part, large or small, to further the Kingdom of God. Though times are tough and dark, the proactive person of faith knows how the story ends.
Now, here’s a final word about celebration. Those of us who are proactive learn how to enjoy the simple things of life: a flower, a beautiful spring day, a robin searching for a worm, a snow-covered hillside, and the company of a good friend. We celebrate the life we have been given. We celebrate the lives of our families and friends and their successes and blessings. We are a grateful lot. Every day is a day of thanksgiving. We celebrate the gift of a new day, food, clothing, housing, and health. We celebrate having enough to be able to provide for the needs of others. Most of all, we celebrate the fact that God loves us and has done the most incredible thing of bringing us into his family through the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
With all of this in mind, why not choose to really live as long as God gives you life?