I like surveys. I like them because they can revel so much about us as a people. It’s important for me when I find an interesting survey to understand who was behind it and who was asked the questions. That’s the only way you really can tell what the survey results teach us. For instance, if you ask a group of teenagers what it’s like to be 65 years old you will get significantly different answers than if you ask actual 65 year olds.
So I found an interesting survey that I’d like to share with you. I found it to be very significant to our Christian life. It was conducted many years ago by a Midwestern university statistics class and asked just one simple question. But it’s who they asked that made it worthwhile. They gathered 113 people at or over the age of 95 to ask this question. My first thought was why 113 and not 115 or just 100? Why the odd number? Then I thought well they probably couldn’t find more than 113 that old to conduct the survey.
So they have 113, 95 or older seniors together and they ask them just one question. “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” Wow, that’s a BIG question. If you could go back and relive 95+ years all over again what changes would you make? That’s a good question to ask seniors at or over 95 years old. What wisdom they have gathered and how often do we fail to tap into that wisdom.
Now I thought I wonder how long these poor teenagers sat with each of the seniors, how many pictures of grandchildren, great grandchildren and even great great grandchildren they had to look at. Imagine how many long stories they must have had to endure to get an answer to their question. But they endured. They received many different answers but the interviewers were able to lump them together into three basic ideas.
Now get this. 113 seniors at or over the age of 95 were asked, “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” Here were there three responses: They said they would reflect more, risk more, and do more things that would live on after they are gone.
Incredible response: Reflect more, risk more, and do more things that would live on after they are gone. Let’s consider each of these responses.
To reflect more. What they mean by that is this, if they could do it over they would stop and think. They would consider with intensity some of the things they took for granted the first time through life. Too often we fail to pay attention. We fail to focus on the things that are important. We fail to zero in and passionately reflect on those things that have ultimate significance.
For instance, being a Christian I believe in Jesus and I believe in what Jesus did for all of us on the cross. That is that more than two thousand years ago Jesus died on the cross. I should have been punished. But he took that punishment for me. Now perhaps you think that a nice guy like me shouldn’t be punished but maybe that’s because you don’t know me very well. If you knew all that there is to know about me you would know that I deserve to be punished. I don’t have any excuses to make because the truth is that I’m a sinner, I have sinned. And because of that sin I deserve all the punishment that Christ took for me on that cross. But wait a minute, don’t sit there and get to high and mighty. You maybe good looking like me, a nice person, but you’ve also sinned cause the Bible tells me that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. So you, like me also deserve all the punishment of God.
But there is good news because as you are thinking, you deserve God’s punishment, Jesus has been punished in your place. He died on the cross, he was punished in your place and because he was punished in your place you don’t get punished. And that’s Good News!
But there is more. Not only did he take all our sin upon himself, He also imputes to us His righteousness. The Bibles says “He has imputed unto us His righteousness”. Jesus has imputed unto us His righteousness. What in the world does that mean? It means simply this, that not only does He take all the garbage from you and me upon himself, not only is he punished for all that you and I deserve to be punished for by God, there is more. All the good things he ever did is credited to you, and is credited to me. If you have asked God to forgive you of your sins and live a life that is pleasing to Him, He not only takes the punishment for your sins but all the good stuff Jesus ever did is credited to you.
So that means when they open the Rowland book someday, and they will, all the rotten filthy things that I have ever done will be blotted out, buried in the deepest sea. The Scripture says it will be remembered no more, for Jesus not only forgives but forgets, and written in its place is all the good stuff Jesus ever did. I can hardly wait, when our Father begins to read this long glorious record of all the stuff that Jesus ever did that was good and beautiful and wonderful and it’s all written under my name. And as the Father reads it He’ll glance down over his glasses at me and say something like, “Did you do all this?”. And I’ll respond, hey man it’s your book.
Isn’t that great, the Bible puts it another way, “When you stand before Him on judgment day you’ll be clothed in His righteousness”. When He looks at you and He looks at me we will appear as pure and as holly and as wonderful as His own Son Jesus Christ. That’s how you and I are going look to God on judgment day. Now that’s awesome.
But I ask you this, when last did you really sit down with God in your private time with Him and reflect on this? When last did you take the time to remember what Jesus has done for you? When last did you reflect on the great rewards that await you for a faithful life in Christ Jesus? When last did you allow the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you heart and soul with a fresh realization of what Jesus has done for you.
See stuff like this we’ve heard over and over again from the pulpit. We hear it again and again in Sunday School and we forget. We’ve heard it and heard it and we forget the impact. I’m here to say what these 113 seniors would say, STOP! Stop, listen, pay attention, reflect on it, probe it, see that there is much more there to be realized than some simple Sunday School lesson expression that you’ve learned by heart. Just think what such a reflection would do for your life. Think what a difference it would make as you talk with those that don’t know Jesus. If we could live life over again we would reflect more.
But there is more to reflect on than what Jesus has done for you two thousand years ago. What about what he’s doing in your life NOW. Let me help you see it this way. How long have you lived? Your response was probably your age, right? Wrong, not your age, that’s how long your heart has been pumping. I’m talking about how long have you really lived.
I was 17 years old and coming church for about 6 months or so. The Holy Spirit was pulling at my heart. I remember that night like it was yesterday. I went to my knees at the Christian Cinema altar following a movie. I pleaded with God to forgive me of my sins and change my heart and life. I felt a weight being lifted from my heart. I felt a cleansing warmth come over me like never before. For that time I was at the altar, time stopped, I couldn’t be more focused on my sin and God’s forgiveness, I was so centered on God cleaning out my heart and soul.
That moment was lifted out of time for me, nothing else existed, nothing else mattered, it was just God and I taking care of business. That time became part of me forever, part of my existence, never to be forgotten. If I live a billion years I shall never forget those moments in my life.
But there are more of those moments such as the first time I prayed with someone else who was asking for God’s forgiveness. Or the moment I knew God had healed a former pastor’s young son of a serious illness. Then there are those times when I clearly feel inspired by God to write. Or those moments in prayer, or worship, or revival meetings when the touch of the Holy Spirit is upon me and that I’m so focused on God that there is nothing else to my reality in those moments. Moments lifted out of time that I will carry with me all throughout eternity.
In those times I was truly and fully alive. Now in light of those examples, how long have you lived? Most people would respond by saying perhaps an hour maybe several. See most of our lives are consumed by the meaningless passage of time between all to few moments when we are totally alive. Isn’t that the way it is with most of us? Life slips by and we don’t even notice it passing. We need to reflect more. Scripture says we do not “redeem the time”, yet we act as though we have it forever. Most people I know are not alive. Did you ever have the feeling that the person you are talking to is absent? Allot of people I know are absent when then are present. Most people are absolutely dead.
People on elevators are dead. Everyone walks in, turns around, and looks up at the lights flicking between each floor. You wanna have fun, go in the elevator last, but face the people and smile the entire time. Now you have to be in shape for this part, I could never have accomplished it. Get off the elevator, run up the stairs two floors and be waiting at the elevator door, and when it open smile and say “You’ve been talking about me haven’t you?”
To many people in this world are dead and never live life. But Jesus can wake you up. If Jesus can do anything for you in the here and now He can wake you up. See I don’t want to just talk about what Jesus did some 2000 years ago on the cross, I don’t want to only talk about what Jesus will do for you when you stand before Him on judgment day, I’ve already quickly told you that. But I want to tell you what Jesus, the resurrected Jesus who is here and now can do this very moment for you. He can invade your life and create within you an awakened awareness of life, He can open your eyes to things. I Beseech you therefore brothers and sisters by the mercies of God with your eyes wide open to the mercies of God.
They said if they could live life over again they would reflect more. But what they don’t know is that without Jesus they would probably live it over the same way again. You see it’s Christ’s presence within you and within me that equips us to enter life with passion. Jesus came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. He came to equip you to empower you so that you can live moments with a sense of joy and ecstasy and aliveness that will cause other people to stand amazed because most people in this world can be divided into two categories, the boring and the bored. These seniors realized that for most of their lives, 95 + years, they were not alive. I’ll tell you what this Christian life is all about. It’s not just about all the glorious rewards when you die it’s about being filled with the one who can open your eyes, who enlivens you to appreciate the moment and live it to it’s fullest. These seniors said, if they could live life over again they would reflect more.
The second thing they said they would do if they could live life over again is to risk more. Isn’t it true that one of the most exciting things you can do is take a risk? These seniors said they would have risked more.
Note they didn’t talk about success, they didn’t talk about failure, somehow when your 95 and older the things that once seemed like big success are now meaningless, they just weren’t big deals after all. Perhaps some of the things they thought were failures didn’t turn out so bad now that they look back. As they looked back over 95 plus years it wasn’t success or failure but taking risks that was important. What stops us from takings risks in our Christian lives? What stops you from reaching out to that stranger? What stops you from being a missionary to your community? What stops you from doing what it is that God wants you to do for Him? It’s fear. It’s the fear of rejection. We to often see ourselves as worthless, as losers. But when you know who you really are you can’t understand yourself as a looser.
Consider this: You’re a winner! Did you realize that? You were once a sperm. But not just a sperm but one of 5 million sperm. And you all lined up at the starting line. And at the end of this long, long tunnel there was one egg. And there was a race, and you won. The odds were 5 million to one and you won, you’re a winner. Each and every one of us is a winner because God willed for you to be here, you’re not an accident, you are here by divine design, have you got that? Your very existence is by divine appointment. Please never consider yourself a looser, worthless.
I remember when I was in college I had a professor who asked me to open the class in prayer. Now you know how that goes. I said something like, “thank you Lord for this day, thank you for dying on the cross for such a worthless person as I..” and the professor yelled “STOP right there Mr. Rowland”. Right in the middle of my prayer he yelled “STOP right there”. Everybody looks up. He says “You are not a worthless person. You are using the wrong word. You are unworthy not worthless. You may continue your prayer.” His actions kinda took the edge off praying for me that day if you know what I mean.
But you see people that’s it, you may be unworthy but not worthless. You see Jesus loves you so much that He would have gone all the way to Calvary just for you. Once you realize who and what you are in the eyes of God you can take risks. What if they do reject you, they are rejecting an aire of God. They are rejecting someone who is here by divine appointment. The call of the Christian lifestyle is one of risk. When you commit to Jesus Christ you are committing to a lifestyle that will require risk.
I like Abraham, he was a risk taker, perhaps one of the biggest risk takers in the Bible. Think about it he was 94 years old. This guy wakes up one morning 94 years old and he reaches over and gives Sara a shake. She responds, “Yeah Abe”. “Sarah I just had a dream, I just had a vision. We are going create a new people, a new humanity, a new future, we are going leave this behind and launch off into the unknown, we are going to risk everything for God.” Sarah, this poor old lady asks, “Well how Abe is this new humanity going to begin?” Abraham responds, “Glad you asked Sarah.” Sarah breaks into hysterical laughter when Abraham tells her she is going to have a son. But they had a son. And they named him what?, they named him Isaac, which meant “laughter”.
The next thing you read in the 11th chapter of Hebrews is Abraham and Sarah leaving where they were and it says “not knowing where they were going”. Can’t you see this old man, 94, going down the road, probably with a walker. “Where you going Abraham?” “I don’t know”. “What are going to do Abraham?” “I don’t know”. “Then why are leaving?” “Because God has given me a vision that I can do something for Him”. People how many of you are going to live your life in quiet desperation instead of reaching out taking the risk to do all that God wants you to do because your afraid. Afraid to take the risk to do and be all that Gods wants of you.
These 113, 95+ year old seniors said if they could live life over again they would risk more. How many of you have been tempted by God in the best sense, to take a risk for Him? How many of you have been tempted by God to leave just a little bit of your security and step out, reach out, to go beyond your everyday and stretch yourself for God? What is it that God has asked you to do for Him? Christianity is a call to not play it safe. Let me assure you that if you don’t hear God asking you to take risks for Him then you’re not listening. I don’t care how old you are you’ve become to comfortable in your Christian life, you’re not fully alive if you’re not taking risks for God.
Abraham and Sarah is just one story. I could start in Genesis and go right through the book of Revelation and share the Biblical stories of Godly men and women that God called not to just sit and be content in their holiness, but to step out, to take risks for Him. Life with Christ is a call to live the dreams and visions that he sets on your heart. Don’t look back when your 95 and say I wish I would have taken more risks. Don’t wonder what might have happened if you would have risked with Jesus. The Spirit of God will go with you as He did with Abraham and Sarah. He will challenge you to do exciting things with your life. He will make you indispensable to the Kingdom of God.
If we could live life over again we would reflect more. If we could live life over again we would risk more. And lastly, if we could live life over again we would do more things that would live on after we are gone. Isn’t that great stuff? Isn’t that what everyone wants, to leave something significant behind for those who follow?
Listen to this, when you were born you cried and everyone else was happy. When you die will everyone else cry and you’ll be the only one happy? Think about it, when you die will everyone else cry and you’ll be the only one happy. See I think that depends on whether you live for titles or a testimony. When you die are they going stand above your grave and list your titles and accomplishments, or are they going share testimonies of the difference you made in their lives for Jesus. Isn’t that deep? Are they going to share testimonies of the difference you made in their lives for Jesus?
Pharaoh had the title but Moses had the testimony. King Nebuchadnezzar had the title but Daniel had the testimony. Queen Jezebel had the title but Elijah had the testimony. King Herod had the title but John the Baptist had the testimony. And I’m here to remind you that, Pilate had the title but my Jesus had the testimony.
Are you living in such a way that you’re doing things for people, doing things for people that are so important that after you’re dead that you will be remembered not because of your titles and accomplishments but for what Jesus had done through your life. Will they testify that while they were in prison you visited them, while they were naked you clothed them, while they were hungry you fed them, while they were thirsty you gave them something to drink. Will they testify of the times you prayed with them. Will they testify of the times you shared Jesus with them. In the end will they talk about your titles and accomplishments or will they share a testimony of how you shared Christ?
These 113 seniors said if they could live life over again they would, risk more, reflect more and do more things that would live on after they are gone. Now that’s wise advice. Advice we should consider if we are 17, 35, 53 or 95 because it’s never too early or too late. Never too early or too late to live a full life with Christ.
Sharing His Spirit! – tRP