“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
If you only had a week to live, what would you do? When asked rhetorically, it’s an interesting question. Assuming that you are mobile and otherwise pretty healthy, the answers to this question would have a fairly wide range. Some people would travel – taking off to destinations they’d always dreamed of seeing or maybe to significant places from their past. Some might decide to eat and drink all of their favorite foods and drinks without worrying about calories and side effects. Some might try dangerous and crazy things like mountain climbing or skydiving. Some people would have conversations they’d never consider if they were sticking around: telling people what they really thought of them, exposing secrets without fear of repercussions. All in all, having the knowledge of your own death could be a tremendously liberating experience.
And why not go for it? You’re only a few hours from death. Why not go out with a bang? For the terminally ill, this makes perfect sense. Who’s going to criticize someone who is dying for eating junk food? After all, who am I to deny the requests of a dying man? And who cares anyway? If you’re destined to die, you might just as well die happy. But in spite of this concept, I must ask you another question I find equally interesting: How long before my death can I start to live as though the end is near?
There’s a phrase you may have heard. YOLO: you only live once. For many, that not only sums up how they would live if they were facing death today, but also tomorrow, next week or 80 years from now. Do it all, see it all, experience everything – good and bad alike. Live life in such a way that on your death bed you won’t regret not having done it all when you had the chance. The world’s view is clear: Death is permanent. Life is fleeting. Don’t waste a single moment.
Many people in today’s society are driven by this mantra because in their minds there is no such thing as God, Heaven or any type of an afterlife. So while they push themselves to do more, see more, taste more, and feel more, the only thing they are doing is avoiding a simple, bone-chilling thought: I need to do all that I can to amuse and entertain myself now because this is all there is. Life has no greater meaning beyond what we make for ourselves here and now so enjoy it at all costs. When you put it that way, you realize that what had seemed so liberating at first has now shown itself to be nothing more than a trap.
In Luke 12:16-21 Jesus told a parable about a wealthy man who was blessed with an abundant crop. The man struggled to decide what he should do. Realizing that he didn’t have enough space to store the crops, he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger barns where he could store this great surplus so that he could spend many years living in comfort and luxury. “Eat, drink, and be merry.” Of course, the great irony of this parable is that the man would never live to bask in his riches as his life would be coming to an end that very night. But hey, at least he went out on top!
In truth, YOLO should actually be changed to YODO – You only DIE once. Our sin guarantees that we all will face death. However, it is God’s Son who provides us with the opportunity to receive victory over death and to live twice: once here on earth followed by life eternal with God in Heaven. With this assurance, life on earth suddenly gains meaning as we live to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives and work to share that same message of freedom and salvation with those who remain caught in the world’s hopeless trap.
So don’t worry about what life may bring, what you have or don’t have or anything else you might encounter. God created you. He knows you and loves you so much that despite our sinfulness, He sacrificed His Son so that sin and death would be defeated and we would know the fullness of life.