I recall fondly and emotionally yet today the life and passing of a colleague and friend of mine by the name of Wesley Smedes, brother of pastor and well-known author Louis Smedes. Pastor Wes was stricken with cancerous brain tumors at an all-too-young age. I vividly recall the day that I called on him and his wife in Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI. He saw me as I walked into the room and he began to cry. I remember vividly when his wife, after a few moments of warmest greetings, said to me, “He is happy to see you Bob, but he is crying because he has so much more for the Lord he wants to do.” Wes went to Heaven soon after that, and the lesson I learned in the hospital that day will never be forgotten by this preacher.
We are all on the clock, aren’t we? While we are here, we cannot escape that silent, unyielding whisper of tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Seconds ticking into minutes, minutes ticking into hours, hours ticking into days, and days ticking into vanishing years! Time inexorably moving forward!
We are all running out of time. That is more than a mere maxim, it is an unavoidable fact. However, while time always seems to be working against us, the point that must be made anew again and again is that if we are wise stewards of it, we can with God’s help make it work for us. Wes, if he could have spoken, would have said, “I wish that I had more time.” He, as one of the most ambitious people I knew, accomplished much for the Lord, but for him it was not enough. Knowing Wes, he would never have accomplished enough to his satisfaction. He could have lived to be a hundred years old, and yet he would not have been unsatisfied.
King Hezekiah asked for more time, and as God measures it, He gave Hezekiah 15 more minutes. Wes received no more time. We each in our own way shall say one day, if we have not said it already, “Where did it all go!” But what matters is what are we doing with the time we have now before it is gone? A most timely question indeed!
THE DAY OF DUE DILIGENCE
We recall the words of our Savior in John 9:4 (KJV),
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh,
when no man can work.”
We can immediately sense what our dear Lord is saying here to His disciples. He is talking about the time that God had allotted to Him and to us all in our lives to fulfill God’s will, and He represents that by the time-frame called DAY. Yes that’s right, looking upon His entire life as but a DAY. In the measurement of time, a day is a small segment indeed. Measured by eternity, it is barely anything at all.
Then when His life’s (day) work is over, He represents that by the time-frame called NIGHT. When night comes, we must enter into rest. Nothing complicated here.
One can also sense here that Jesus in His day also felt the pressure of the night pursuing Him, as captured by His words:
“The night cometh….”
Night, like some inescapable pursuer, was relentlessly following Him. “The Night Cometh
” sounds like a title for a horror movie – The Night Stalker. Jesus realized that His sacred duty was to make good and faithful use of the one day, the one life given to Him. The night was hot on His heels, and He could feel it breathing down His neck. It was His passion and death for our sins that He also saw getting ever nearer. We must feel the same, for neither can we delay or postpone the sunset. It’s coming!
But more importantly here is that His day, as anyone can clearly sense, was filled with “Divine Ought” caught in the very first words of the verse:
“I must work the works of him who sent me.”
I MUST work my Father’s works! The Divine Imperative! The Divine Ought! The Divine Must! His day job was most compelling and very precise, “To work the works of Him that sent me.” That in simple but most profound terms was His mandated job description from the Heavenly Father. No room for superfluity here. Jesus viewed His entire life as:
“A DAY OF DUE DILIGENCE TO THE HEAVENLY FATHER’S DEMANDS
Jesus here is not first of all preparing us for death, but rallying us for life as God calls us to live it.
We cannot miss the passion in Jesus’ “Must Work” mentality and spirit. So many people don’t like and are totally dispassionate about the word “Work.” Especially their work! Even too many Christians, to hear them talk, are drudging away from eight to five just to prove that they’re alive. Another year of drudgery ahead! So many people scorn working for a living, for they do not have that sense of Christ’s Divine imperative in the place of work where God has put them.
It is not first of all what we are doing, but rather the One Whom we must be doing it for – Our Heavenly Father. We read in I Corinthians 10:31,
“Whether, then, you eat or drink orwhatever you do, do it all to the
the glory of God.”
That is the essence of Christ’s work-passion. I can say with certainty:
“MOST DISSATISFIED PEOPLE DO NOT NEED A CHANGE OF JOBS, BUT RATHER
THEY NEED A CHANGE OF ATTITUDE.
What was it that Jesus said? Remember His words in John 9:4,
“I must work the works of Him who sent Me….”
So often, even after over twenty centuries of the Word of God being preached, there are still those in the church who believe that Jesus was on a totally different trajectory than us, and that unlike us, He was sent by His Heavenly Father to do something really big. You know, while Jesus viewed Himself as Divinely sent, many believers view themselves as vocationally stuck. The Divine “Sent Sense” never takes root in their hearts.
Think again! First:
“ JESUS WAS SENT BY HIS FATHER TO DO GOOD IN A VERY BAD WORLD”
We read about that in Acts 10:38 (NASV)
“…and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed
by the devil; for God was with Him
Jesus in John 9 was about to heal a blind man who had no eyeballs, and give him eyes where there had been no eyes, and 20-20 sight where there had been 0-0 sight. Jesus went about doing good on the same earth in which Satan was going about doing bad. Jesus came to clean up Satan’s messes. In fact, we read exactly that in I John 3:8,
“…The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the
works of the devil
Then we read about Christians in Ephesians 2:10,
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which
God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them
As it was with Jesus, so it is with us! Even Steven! Jesus and His followers are on a “Good Works Walk
” through the world. We are walking in our Master’s footsteps in the “Good Works Ministry
.” If we are walking with Jesus, we will be majoring all of our life in doing good works for others.
The ultimate goal in our Christian living is not “FEELING GOOD.” If that was the case, Jesus would have never gone to the cross and suffer Hell for our sins. There are those in our circles today who think that the purpose of Christianity is to go to church to get a rush, get exhilarating feelings, and get a tingling feeling of the presence of God, and then go home. God be praised when we experience the presence of God in worship, but it is never and end, but only a means to an end. What is being promoted today as the end all and be all of worship is “FEEL GOODISM.”
We must get deep into us the following:
“THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS IN OUR LIVES TO ENABLE US TO BE THE
LOVING AND GIVING PRESENCE OF GOD TO PEOPLE
THAT WE MEET.
Human nature is always wanting and even demanding others to do good works for them. Sad to say, few people are willing to put themselves through trouble and inconvenience for other people’s good as a way of life. As a matter of fact, the contrast between the world’s mentality and the mind of Christ is this:
“IN THE CORPORATE WORLD, SUCCESS IS MEASURED BY HOW MANY
PEOPLE ARE SERVING YOU.
“IN THE CHRISTIAN WORLD, SUCCESS IS MEASURED BY HOW MANY
PEOPLE YOU ARE SERVING.
Misguided and mistaught Christians today think that Christianity is first of all about God doing good works for them. It isn’t! We aren’t saved for the purpose of God and others blessing us! We are saved for the purpose of blessing God and others. In short:
“MODERN CHRISTIANITY TEACHES THAT GOD EXISTS TO BLESS MAN. BIBLICAL
CHRISTIANITY TEACHES THAT MAN EXISTS TO BLESS GOD
AND HIS FELLOW MAN.
Two totally different religions. The first corrupts Christianity, the second embodies it!
Caution! We are not saved by these good works! (Ephesians 2:8-9) Rather, we are saved for them. We are not only saved from sin, but we are saved for service. Saved for big time good works, in fact, bigger in impact than Christ’s good works earth time! He said so Himself in John 14:12,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do shall
he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;
because I go to the Father
“JESUS CAME TO AN IMPERFECT WORLD SO THAT SINNERS MIGHT FIND
THE WAY TO A PERFECT ONE
We read about this in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Or again, the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:17,
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world should be saved through Him.”
Two of the great “For God” texts in the Bible! They both answer the question, “What was Jesus sent here for?”
There are those, vast in numbers and many living on my street, who believe that when they die, that is the end of them. They are of the conviction that they were nothing before they were born, and that when they die they shall simply return to their first nothingness. From nothing to nothing! In short, in the final analysis for them, it all amounts ultimately to nothingness. They see life as merely circular and not linear. What goes around comes around, one generation comes and another goes. Just repetition with no progression to an ultimate climax and fulfillment!
What they are not being told today, and if they are it is not taking root in them, is that what awaits them apart from God in their lives is far worse than nothing. This is exactly why it is said of Judas Iscariot in the Bible that it would have been better for him if he had never been born. (Mark 14:21) What eternally awaits the godless is a fire that is never quenched (Mark 9:44,46,48), worms that never die (Mark 9:44,46,48), outer darkness (Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 25:30), and weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42).
Here this is what people seldom hear preached anymore, but there it shall be the flames of hell burning without end their guilty faces. Jesus came not to judge sinners eternally in this Hell just described, but to gather them to Himself blood cleansed from all of their sins and made fit for Heaven’s holy fellowship with God in eternal ecstasy.
So with that in mind as to why the Father sent His Son into the world, likewise we read Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 20:21,
“…as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Christians are sent here not only to do good in bad situations, and there is no shortage of those now and until the end of time! We are also sent here to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ so that they might live in Heaven with Him forever and experience a foretaste of Heaven on the way. We can and must go to people and tell them in all truth that God sent us to them to tell them that He loves them, and sent His Son into the world not to judge them but to save them and bring them into His eternally perfect Heaven of love and joy if they turn from their sins to Jesus.
This is a huge and humbling task, and it can be hard, troublesome, discouraging, heart-wrenching, exciting, exhilarating, fulfilling and infinitely rewarding work. All of the above! It is our work assignment from Jesus – the work of Him who sent us!
I thrill each time I read about thousands coming to Christ in such countries as North Vietnam. Dr. Tom White of The Voice of the Martyrs reports, “Among the Hmong tribe alone are 500,000 new Christians. Most live in northern Vietnam where only about a dozen church buildings are allowed to exist. Hmong Christians are imprisoned beaten, killed, fined and harassed and their villages burned down. But having been delivered from evil spirits and animal sacrifices they continue to joyfully celebrate Jesus.”*
Given that the Christians there experience severe persecution and martyrdom for their faith, it is gloriously evident that nonetheless they are making diligent use of their day in bringing the lost to Jesus Christ. Dr Tom White also states, “Some of those who persecute Christians in Vietnam are turning to Christ. We receive reports of Vietnamese policeman interrupting meetings, following Christians to a river baptism, or interrogating men and women in a police station. When the people they arrest show the mercy, grace and love of the Savior, these authorities are puzzled, then stunned. These captors become captives of the kingdom of forgiveness. (How often we forget that those who insult and harass Christians are our mission field.)**
No sacrifice is too great to reach the loss when we remember what they face eternally without Christ. Unbelievers, once their day is over, cannot get it back either. Voltaire, the hardened atheist, while on his deathbed said to his doctor, “I will give you half of what I am worth, if you will give me six months of life.” Voltaire wanted a second or two of his life back. He was denied. History tells us that his death cries were so awful that the nurse who was attending him said, “For all the wealth in Europe, I would not see another infidel die.”
We must work the works of Him who sent us. Remembering always:
“SOULS ETERNALLY LOST FROM CHRIST CAN NEVER BE SAVED, BUT SOULS
ETERNALLY SAVED BY CHRIST CAN NEVER BE LOST.”
If we as believers do not work the works of Him who sent us:
“THOUSANDS NOW DYING WITHOUT CHRIST WILL NEVER LIVE.”
If we as believers do work the works of Him who sent us:
“THOUSANDS NOW LIVING WITH CHRIST WILL NEVER DIE.”
(Go On Please To “While It Is Yet Day” Part 2)