What is your life ?
I challenge you! Can you think of a more important question than that?
The New Testament writer James gives a brief answer to this question: ‘You are a mist that appears a little while and then vanishes’ (James 4:14). But that answer touches on only two aspects of life on this earth — time and death.
Time can pass so quickly or so slowly although it comes to us all equally, as one second at a time. But life is more than time, wonderful and important as that gift is. And life is more than death, inevitable and mysterious as death is.
Admittedly James is stressing the uncertainty of life — ‘you do not even know what will happen tomorrow’ — and uncertainty is certainly a third aspect of life, the unsettling fact that the only thing we can be sure about in life is death as its end.
Why can we recall some of our past, yet remain ignorant about our future? Why should the good sometimes die young and the wicked often reach a ripe old age?
Why should some babies be stillborn? Why should life as we know it on this planet have to end in our ‘vanishing’ from it? To the thinking realist so many uncertainties exist and so many questions arise!
The steady passage of time, the final certainty of death and the daily certainty of possible uncertainties are all aspects of our present life. A fourth aspect is growth.
We grow, thankfully, in body and strength, in memory and mobility, usually at least till we are 40 or 50. We grow, hopefully, in wisdom, knowledge, experience and skills. Do we also grow in learning the lessons that our failures and successes should teach us? Do we ever fully learn our own limitations and strengths?
A fifth aspect of life is change. Our bodies change; our moods and circumstances change. No two days are ever exactly the same. Even the real you and me are changing and developing in beliefs, attitudes and actions. There are changes within us, and many changes outside us and all around us.
An important sixth aspect of life concerns our emotions. What a range of emotions we exercise! Even in one day we can change from feelings of joy to feelings of sadness or guilt, or from feelings of desperation through frustration to elation.
Also, of course, our emotions react to the deeds and words of others we meet, and to outward circumstances that affect our inward state of heart or mind.
The injustices of life form another aspect of human life. Not only those injustices that result in deprivation or death itself, but the very unfairnesses that affect people from birth.
I wonder why I was born into a middle class home in a nominal Christian country and in a century that saw such advances in health, wealth and knowledge, instead of being born as a slave girl centuries ago, in some poor, pagan backwater of civilisation.
Yes, I know that with great privileges come great responsibilities, as the Lord Jesus taught, and I also believe that in the last analysis we are all accountable to Jesus our judge.
There are still other aspects of life that affect or afflict us all, for example, the economic (our financial position, attitude to and use of money), the social (our friends and pecking position in society), the health (in body and/or mind), and the ageing (do we wisely accept and adapt to necessary changes once we are 60?).
Can you think of any more aspects that form our complex, multi-faceted lives?
But let’s concentrate finally on the aspect of relationships. Arguably, this is the most important aspect of all in life. Our relationship to ourself is important, our relationship to others is important, and our relationship to God is all-important!
First, how do you view yourself? Are you at peace with yourself? Do you enjoy your own company? Have you come to terms with your gender, appearance, personality and unalterable circumstances?
Or are you disturbed or angered by a root of bitterness within you or an unforgiving spirit against someone else? Or can you hardly forgive yourself for something done or not done in your past?
Ideally, we should neither overrate nor underrate ourselves. And if we don’t love ourselves enough, how can we obey Christ’s second greatest command to love our neighbour as ourself?
Second, is our relationship with others loving and positive? Are we as free from prejudices as we should be? Jesus told us to treat others as we would like them to treat us — with respect, consideration, tolerance and patience.
We forgive and make allowances for ourselves, and we must do the same for others. As far as we can, without going against our God-given consciences, we should live at peace with others.
Jesus himself put it much more strongly: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31). He declared: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). Yes, people matter more than our possessions.
Third, have we a right relationship with the God who made us? Are we on speaking, worshipping and serving terms with him? Or are we still lost in our unforgiven sins?
Thank God, he has provided us with a way of forgiveness. That way is Jesus, his only Son, whom he sent to die on the cross. There Jesus was made sin for us and died for us as our substitute.
We are to repent of our sins, believe in Jesus as Saviour, receive him into our lives as Lord, confess him in front of others and progress in the Christian life.
We can progress by our sincere, trusting prayers to God, by studying his inspired Bible and obeying his commands, by telling others of Jesus and his love for them, and by joining a loving, Bible-believing church.
A Christian’s relationship can be described as being ‘in Christ’, an intimate relationship indeed. Paul also put it the other way, telling Christians of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27).
What word sums up your top priority in life? Happiness, health, wealth, family, fame, football? Rather, God help us to say with Paul, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21).