Or at least it needs to change. Mine has. Mine, weak as it was, included this pipe dream involving the summit of Mt. Everest. When I was younger I read every story and article I could and hung on every word detailing the experiences of professional climbers and dangerous expeditions. I was personally convinced that I would get to Everest one day.
Then, around high school, I came across some statistics that gave me sobering perspective on the cost and time required to even make a summit attempt. I say attempt because even if you are lucky enough to have the time and resources to get there, you have a 1 in 10 chance of not living (aka dying) to tell the tale. Not summiting the mountain, but living through the experience. I realized then that my dream coming true was unrealistic at best.
Then, this past spring I had the chance to go on a discipleship trip to India and Nepal. When we were in Nepal the dreams I held years ago came flooding back. I could not come this close and not at least make an effort.
We scheduled a plane flight to do a Everest fly-by. I was as excited as I was disappointed. I felt a genuine sense of urgency to do something. When would I be back? Would I ever get this chance again? Is this really all I’ll ever do? I was 29,000 feet high, headed to the Himalayas, and I realized Everest was more within reach than it ever had been. In fact, it was in sight. She was beautiful and menacing. Clouds hung over her summit and threatened anyone who would dare traverse her ice, rock, and snow-covered faces. Then it hit me as I was sitting in that tiny plane, or, that was the moment the Holy Spirit was waiting for to remind me of what Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-21,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
I will be back. In this lifetime? Probably not. In the next? With joy. In fact, not only will I be back to enjoy it, but I will be back with no capacity for pain or sorrow. There will be no lack of oxygen or sub-zero temperatures that could bring me off the mountain. I will experience her beauty in all of her intended God-given-and-inspired created glory. My bucket list evaporated.
All the time and money that was going to be given to my fun, adventurous “bucket list life” has been touched by this perspective. So what do I do with the rest of my days? Peter has an answer and he writes it to his friends in 1 Peter 4:7-11. He writes to them with the same sense of urgency I had felt, “the end of all things is near”, he says. And just when you would think he is going to encourage the early church to live it up in their last days and go see the hanging gardens of Babylon, or catch the epic chariot races in Rome, he completely redefines their priorities and encourages the church to start living differently and radically – to change their bucket lists.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Our bucket lists need to change. JP summed it up in a sermon this way: Pray, Love, Give.
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer”
"I know what you’re thinking, “How could someone inspired by the Holy Spirit have been so off on his doomsday prediction?” The answer is in the question…the Holy Spirit. Peter, and several other early disciples of Christ, all lived and taught, convinced that they would see the return of the Lord in their day. I think there is something to be learned from their God-given perspective. Peter felt so compelled as to include it in his letter, “live like you are dying” (Tim McGraw paraphrase). His encouragement here is different than you may expect. He essentially says “your days are running out, so pay attention, and pray”. He is placing a high and immediate priority on prayer, something that we tend to only do when it’s “game-time”.
Peter tells us to have sound judgment – to remain sober in spirit so that we can pray. We see that Peter places the highest priority on prayer. He encourages us to take measures to ensure that we can pray. How much time do you spend worrying? Probably a lot. How much time do you spend thinking about yourself, about your desires, about your future? More than you need to. Here’s the truth: thinking and worrying accomplishes nothing.
Here’s the amazing thing: we have the opportunity in prayer to speak to, hear from and ask things of the Almighty God, who can and has changed the course of the universe. Instead of spending wasting your time thinking, pray. Pray as one who believes you are running out of time (because you are). Pray as though everything is a game-day/game-time decision (because it is). Our anxieties grow as we feed them with our irrational and unmeasured thoughts. A mark of an immature, insane person is constant, unmeasured thoughts. The mark of a sane, mature person is lots of prayer. One runs circles in their head. One runs to the ear of the One who knows all things and holds all things in His hands.
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Now that we are praying the right way, Peter tells us to love. Today, the definition of love could not be more misunderstood. Love has been confused with tolerance, which is confused with acceptance, which is just plain confused. Love does not mean accepting people the way they are and letting them stay that way because speaking up would be awkward. Love is the opposite of silence. The Scriptures teach that love speaks up. Love is leaning into the “awkward” so that people can experience healing and freedom. Love sees people as they are and commits to not let them stay that way. I am willing to say that the single most important thing for us to understand in this day and age is a right definition of love.
Love is patient. It does not keep a record of wrongs. When Peter says that love covers a multitude of sins, he is saying that love forgives. Not that love overcomes consequences, but that love overlooks the minor offenses, forgives, extends grace, and practices patience. Look to the example of our Father. Do you think that He sees our minor offenses? Certainly, or at least, at one point He did. Does He overlook them? Yes, because of Christ. Has He forgiven us? Absolutely. Does He extend grace? Every day. Does He practice patience? Without a doubt. Of all the virtues He could have claimed, God says that He is love. He said the greatest command is to love God and love others. He says the greatest of all the characteristics of the faith is love. We must understand what true love means. Don’t let your love be watered down by the deluge of culture’s redefinitions.
Love in a way that stretches your limits. Love self-sacrificially, putting the true well-being of others above your own comfort.
God, Love, broke through the silence of our world and spoke light into darkness. Then, in His great love for us, He broke again the silence of our sin by becoming like us. When He could have remained on high, He humbled himself and spoke to us words of life and love, in our language. This. Is. Love. “Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
If you’re thinking: “I don’t have gifts,” “I would glorify God if I had them,” and/or “I don’t know what my gifts are”. Here is what God is telling you: “each one of you has received a special gift”. Use it for others. Insecurity follows a person who sets out to use their gifts for their own good and their own glory.
Here is God’s design: He gives you gifts, by His power, and He allows for your blessing when you steward them for the good of others. Joy is made full when we remember God’s order and design: Abide in Him, He will produce the fruit, you (and others) will be better for it. It is He who enables us to do the work. When we remember that we are to speak as “those who are speaking the utterances of God” we end up saying things that are more life-giving to others and uplifting to ourselves. See how God speaks to and about his own children graciously, lovingly, truthfully. When we serve, we do so as those who do so “by the strength which God supplies” not on our own, but by His supernatural strength. His power and strength, His glory, our good.
Remember His good design, “in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs all the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” God is not looking for the gifted, equipped, intelligent, he doesn’t need them. He is looking for the faithful and available. It is He who makes you gifted. If you don’t know what your “gifts” are, ask those who know you well, search the Scriptures, and commit to finding out!
Here’s the reality. Our time here is short, and our days are numbered. He who is Love, He who broke the silence twice will break it once again. The time is coming quickly. He will create new heavens and a new earth. In such a way that the former things will not be remembered. I’m not claiming that I know what New Earth will be like entirely, I do know it’s better than my best guess, but I think I will potentially climb Everest in a Hula skirt, after I run a marathon next to a cheetah, and watch a thousand suns rise and set over Antarctic glaciers at the south pole. So I’m going to commit my days to pray more, love more, and glorify Him with all that I have. I suddenly have a lot more time on my hands.
Are you ready? Use the breaths you have left to communicate with the God of all things; love rightly, deeply and unconditionally; discover your gifts; deploy them for the Lord’s business, by His strength, in His great and perfect design.
Time. . is…. running…… out.