Shortly after we both were saved (in 1989, at 36 years old), Judy and I began attending a non-denotational church here in Raleigh. The pastor offered a powerful sermon one Sunday morning on the subject of our stewardship before the Lord. It was not so much about financial obligations in support of the ministries of the church as it was about the use of our time and talents.
Sadly, I have a very poor memory, so I count the recollection of that sermon as a reflection of its importance. The illustration I remember most was from the Pastor’s own life. Back in the early 90’s Day-Timers (small paper notebook scheduling calendars) were in vogue and he was never without his. As I recall the Sermon was early in the year and he was explaining how, as he set goals and objectives for the coming year, one of the first things he did (over Christmas) was to write in the bottom corner of each page in his Day-Timer the number of days it has been since he was saved, a slash mark, and then the number of days he had left to live (based on actuarial tables).
After making the illustration, the rest of his sermon revolved around the importance of those numbers, as day-by-day, the first number got bigger and the second, smaller.
This past Sunday as I was thinking/praying about the upcoming Offertory Prayer. My thoughts landed on stewardship and that Day-Timer illustration from so many years ago.
Even though God knows us from eternity past (Eph. 1:4-5), in a sense, God starts a countdown timer at the point we are conceived (Psalms 139:14). It displays the number of days we have in this “human” phase of our eternal existence (1 Cor. 15:54-55).
We are born and begin to live out our lives, often naive to the responsibilities we have before God. At some point (hopefully) we are exposed to the saving gospel message of Jesus and cross over from eternal death to eternal life (Mat. 25:46), or from eternity in Hell to eternity in Heaven. At that point the Holy Spirit enters us and we become followers of Christ, left on this earth to do His work, under His will…
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…… the invisible (to us) countdown timer continues to mark the days, as we live out our lives through the good times and the bad times, though job changes, houses, kids, sports, church, etc.
Like the game of musical chairs, the music will stop at some point, unknown to us when the last tick-tock is heard by God. As believers, that will be a glorious time with new, sinless, healthy bodies in a wonderful, eternal place called Heaven.
However, embedded in that eternal joy, peace, and love is a lesson for those of us whose clock has not yet run out…..
Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Many interpret this verse solely as a description of the brokenness of man on earth vs the joy awaiting us in Heaven. A few, based on Isaiah 65:17, treat this verse in Revelation as evidence that God will proactively wipe away just the memories of our sin nature, leaving good memories behind. However, I would offer the thought that, based on varying rewards and recognitions offered at the Bema Seat, we will have some knowledge of both the good and bad of our time spent on this earth (Rev. 22:12, 1 Cor. 3:11-15, 2 Cor. 5:9-10, 1 John 2:28, Rev. 3:11-12). Beginning with the statement “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” it suggests [to me] that God might actually need to comfort us as we enter Heaven….
I think when we get to Heaven and clearly see our sin nature and all the lost opportunities He gave us to serve Him rather than serving ourselves, we will be in tears. It will hit us, just as we are entering Heaven for eternity, no longer able to serve God from a position of faith (1 Cor. 13:12).
The times we squandered watching TV, stressing over the minutest details of earthly life, in conflict with our neighbor, missing opportunities to share God’s love, etc., will confront us. As we face the outcome of our actions and inactions, we will be overwhelmed with sadness.
Relative to eternity, our time as earthly foreigners (Phil. 3:20) is infinitesimally short in this sin-cursed world, but holds so many opportunities for kingdom ministry that we will never have on the other side of the grave,….. tick-tock.