Between Now and Then
Let’s begin with a little good news: You are alive . . . today . . . reading this. God has granted you the breath of life for another day. His lovingkindness is new and fresh every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). That’s a sweet gift, rightly to be enjoyed.
But here’s the not-so-good news: You are going to die. It is certain (unless Jesus comes back before it happens) that you will come to the end of your days (Hebrews 9:27; 1 Corinthians 15:26). That is coming . . . for us all.
That then leads to a question: How am I living in those days given me between now and that future end of my days?
What prompts this question, these reflections? Today is something of an anniversary. On January 8, 63 years ago, five men died—countless others also died, but there was something startling about these five. Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian were martyred, having set down their missionary plane on a sandbar in the middle of a small river in a relatively unreached area of Ecuador.
These five men, brothers in the faith, had bound their hearts and lives together to spend their days sharing the news of God’s plan to rescue those who were dead in sin through the work of Jesus. And the Lord had directed their steps to an unreached people group—the Aucas—in the jungles of Ecuador. And they died . . . before the Gospel took root among those people.
All five of these men were married; four were fathers. Obviously, they left something behind . . . they left some things (seemingly) undone. But there was more; more that was left behind. There were words.
In a journal that Jim Elliot kept, we find these words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Entry for October 28, 1949; eight years before his death.) With echoes of Jesus and Paul (Mark 8:36 and Philippians 3:8), Jim’s words provide a perspective on his death. He suffered loss, but he was not a fool. He gave his life because he was pursuing something that could not ever be lost.
At the site where these men were martyred, Jim’s diary was recovered. He had recorded what he was thinking shortly before death overtook him and the others.
Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth! I care not if I never raise my voice again for him, if only I may love him, please him. Perhaps in mercy he shall give me a host of children [i.e., converts] that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore his delicacies whose finger ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see him, touch his garments, and smile into his eyes—ah then, not stars nor children shall matter, only himself. (As recounted in his widow’s book on Jim’s life; Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendour [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957], 256.)
Paul, the apostle, wrote: “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). If we are granted another day, we are granted another day because “we are the Lord’s.” If our days come to an end, they come to end because “we are the Lord’s.”
All our days, as many as are our days, we are His. Those days are, in one sense, part of a grand stewardship entrusted to us—to be lived for that which we cannot lose, for what can never be taken from us.
That’s what prompts the question: How are you living in those days given you between now and that future end of your days?