Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You Might Not Finish This, by Francis Chan

You Might Not Finish This

You could die before you finish reading this. I could die while you’re reading it. Today. At any moment.

But it’s easy to think about today as just another day. An average day where you go about life concerned with your to-do list, preoccupied by appointments, focused on family, thinking about your desires and needs.

On the average day, we live caught up in ourselves. On the average day, we don’t consider God very much. On the average day, we forget that our life truly is a vapor.

But there is nothing normal about today. Just think about everything that must function properly just for you to survive. For example, your kidneys. The only people who really think about their kidneys are people whose kidneys don’t work correctly. The majority of us take for granted our kidneys, liver, lungs, and other internal organs that we’re dependent upon to continue living.

What about driving down the road at sixty-five miles per hour, only a few feet away from cars going the opposite direction at the same speed? Someone would only have to jerk his or her arm and you would be dead. I don’t think that’s morbid; I think it’s reality.

It’s crazy that we think today is just a normal day to do whatever we want with. To those of us who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money," James writes, "Why, you do not even know what will happen Tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:13-14).

When you think about it, that’s a little disconcerting. But even after reading those verses, do you really believe you could vanish at any minute? That perhaps today you will die? Or do you instead feel somehow invincible?

Frederick Buechner writes, "Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever."

Are You Ready?

As a pastor, I’m often called upon when life “vanishes like a mist? One of the most powerful examples I’ve seen of this was Stan Gerlach, a successful businessman who was well known in the community. Stan was giving a eulogy at a memorial service when he decided to share the gospel. At the end of his message, Stan told the mourners, "You never know when God is going to take your life. At that moment, there’s nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?" Then Stan sat down, fell over, and died. His wife and sons tried to resuscitate him, but there was nothing they could do--just as Stan had said a few minutes earlier.

I’ll never forget receiving that phone call and heading over to the Gerlach house. Stan’s wife, Suzy, was just arriving home. She hugged me and cried. One of her sons, John, stepped out of the car weeping. He asked me, "Did you hear the story? Did you hear? I’m so proud of him. My dad died doing what he loved doing most. He was telling people about Jesus."

I was asked to share a word with everyone gathered. There were children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. I opened my Bible to Matthew 10:32-33: “Whoever acknowledges me Before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven?"

I asked everyone to imagine what it must have felt like for Stan. One moment, he was at a memorial service saying to a crowd, "This is who Jesus is!" The next, he was before God hearing Jesus say, "This is who Stan Gerlach is!" One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later, Jesus was confessing him!

It happens that quickly. And it could happen to any of us. In the words of Stan Gerlach, "Are you ready?"

Francis Chan

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