By Kenneth E. Thomas
It occurs to me that we mortals have things somewhat in reverse usually. For example: We spend the greater part of our lives, and some all of their earthly sojourn, preparing to live rather than to die. Yet Solomon said, “. . the living know they shall die” (Eccl. 9:5).
Now you just stop and think about it for a while! When a child is born into a family what are the things people first begin to consider about that child’s future? Will the child be healthy? Wonder what kind of life he or she will have? Will they be successful and make lots of money? Wonder if we can afford to send him to college? Suppose he is destined to be president of the USA?
In contrast to that consider a conversation like the following between a couple who have become parents of a newborn, “Dear, I wonder if we can so live before our offspring so as to instill in them the principles of the religion of Christ so that he will choose to become a Christian when old enough? I wonder if this my son will ever be interested in becoming a preacher of the glorious gospel of Christ? Perhaps an elder or a deacon in a local congregation of Christ! I wonder if this our daughter will become the wife of a faithful Christian, maybe even marry a preacher or an elder or a deacon? Well anyway, I just pray she will be a faithful and fruitful member of the body of Christ” (Jn. 15:16).
The former conversation is quite common place. I’m sorry to say that the latter is the exception to the rule. In fact many times parents (especially mothers) try to deter their offspring from aspiring to be gospel preachers, elders, deacons or the wives of such. Do you know some of the reasons they give? If considering the male of the sexes, “Don’t you know that if you become a preacher of the gospel that you will be placing yourself at the mercy of the whims of your brethren? That any time you ‘step on the wrong member’s toes,’ you may set off a campaign against you causing you to have to leave, thereby uprooting your family and moving to another place where you can be supported in your work for the Lord?”
In speaking to her daughter about such matters she is likely to say something like the following: “Dear if you marry a preacher or an elder or a deacon don’t you know you will have no time that you can call your own? You will find yourself sitting in a cold or hot classroom or maybe at home alone as your husband sees to some problem in the life of some member of the body, and that you and your family’s needs and wants will always come last after everyone else’s? There is no putting down roots and you will never have financial security! Don’t you know that it would be much better to marry a successful businessman or anyone but a preacher, an elder or a deacon in the Lord’s church? “
What does all of this reveal? Simply that we are worldly minded to a large degree. It shows that things having to do with the here and now are often of more importance to us than things related to the hereafter. It isn’t any wonder that our children grow up with the same attitudes (Jas. 4:4; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; Rom. 12:1-2).
Which upsets you most, your child failing to get his lesson for Bible class and knowing God’s will or that child failing in his secular school work? I’m afraid honesty shows that we are more upset with the latter than we are with the former.
Which means more to you: Your child being popular among his peers in school or seeing your child take a stand for Christ and refusing to go along with the crowd in popular, yet sinful, practices?
A beautiful true story was related a few years ago about a young lady who was a Christian who stood by her religious convictions. Marilyn Thomas had steadfastly refused to attend school dances. Time came to crown the football homecoming queen and knowing she would not attend the dance, still Marilyn was chosen queen. This true story relates how the whole student body and the parents as well gave Marilyn a standing ovation when she was announced as winner!
If one’s life in general is consistent with the principles involved as to why Marilyn would not dance, respect rather than ridicule is usually the result even from those who may think one’s religious position ridiculous. If Marilyn was given to wearing immodest clothing, had a filthy mouth, was known to live a loose life otherwise, none would have considered her for a homecoming queen and her not attending dances would not have impressed anyone. Her refusal, however, was totally consistent with her general lifestyle and she was honored here and will be in the hereafter provided she continues to serve the Lord faithfully (Rev. 22:14).
To Enjoy Life: Prepare For Death
The great apostle Paul tells us how to enjoy the life that now is and also have promise of that which is to come saying, in 1 Timothy 4:8, “Bodily exercise profits little (good in this life, ket), but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
The inspired apostle Peter likewise indicates how that serving Christ is what brings a “good life.” “For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against them who do evil” (1 Pet. 3:10-12).
To be willing to die for Christ as was the apostle Paul and I’m sure a large number of others is commendable (Acts 21:13). To be willing to live for Him is even greater! Paul, of course, was willing and committed to do either or both (Phil. 1:20-30). He said in verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He stated in the third chapter of this same book that he had suffered the loss of all things and counted them but dung” (Phil. 3:7-14).
This is what is under consideration in Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. . . . ” The same is true of Paul’s statements in Romans 6:1,8-13, “. . . Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?. . . . And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
Some Who Don’t Prepare
We have some accounts on record for our learning of some folks who didn’t take the time or sufficient interest in their own souls to prepare to die (the good farmer of Luke 12:13-21 for example). All we know of this man is that he seems to have placed all of the emphasis on preparing for this life and its needs, to the neglect of the next life. He was called a “fool” and informed of his death that night and the fact that all of those material possessions would in essence now belong to someone else. How sad! Although as men would view this man he was successful, we know that he was a total failure (Eccl. 12:13-14).
The rich man of Luke 16:19-31 is another sad example. He had “fared sumptuously every day.” He died and found himself in Hades in torment while his poor beggar friend Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom. Roles were now reversed as it were. It was not the amount of goods possessed which accounted for the spiritual condition of these two men. One had planned for his spiritual needs and the other had not!
Governor Felix (Acts 24:24-25) even trembled as “righteousness, temperance and judgment to come” were discussed but wanted to wait for a more convenient season to respond to heaven’s message. So far as we know he never found that “convenient season.” Agrippa was “almost persuaded” to be a Christian but almost will not avail, almost is but to fail (Heb. 5:8-9; Matt. 7:21-28).
There is also record of those who did accept God’s grace on His terms and “saved themselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:22-38,40,41,47). But by comparison to those who rejected God’s grace they were few in number. I see no reason to think it will be any different in our lifetime, but we are to work hard at giving all the opportunity to know Christ’s will, then it is up to them what they do; we are “pure from their blood” (Acts 20:26). We plant the seed, others will water it, and God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 15, pp. 451-452
August 7, 1986