How would you live your life if you knew you had only one year left to live? What would your priorities be?
In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus used a fig tree to teach His disciples a lesson. The tree had borne no fruit for three years. He asked the gardener to cut it down. The gardener requested that it be allowed to live for one more year.
The fig tree is an allegory for the nation of Israel. The owner of the vineyard is God, and the vinedresser is Jesus. Israel is being given one last opportunity to bear fruit. If it fails, it will be cut down. A fruit tree had been planted. The purpose of the tree was to bear fruit. The tree was protected in the vineyard with other fruit trees. The gardener had been patient with the tree, waiting for it to bear fruit.
We have been planted by God and chosen by His grace. Our purpose is to bear fruit. We are being protected by the presence of other fruit-bearing Christians. God has been patient with us. If I knew I only had one year left to live, I would make a few things my priority.
I WOULD LIVE MY LIFE ACCORDING TO PRIORITIES
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all of his righteousness.” He knew there would be some things that needed to be second and third. He also knew we would be tempted to put secondary things ahead of necessary things.
1. My family would be a priority. David did not spend enough time with his family. Eli spent too much time in the temple and neglected his boys. If I knew death was imminent, I would want some quality time with my wife, my sons, and other family members. If you are too busy for your family, you are too busy! No one on their deathbed will regret not having spent more time at the office, but many will regret neglecting their families.
2. My church would be a priority. I grew up in this church, I was baptized in this church, I was married in this church, I was called by God to work in this church, I was ordained as a pastor by this church, I have preached many of sermons in this church, and I plan for my funeral to be in this church.
The church can be like a family. There may be some crazy cousins, eccentric aunts, and a few black sheep. However, the church is as much a part of my life as the air I breathe. Churches aren’t perfect because people aren’t perfect. However, the church is a body, and Jesus Christ is its head. It has the backing of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. It has my support as well.
3. My devotional life would be a priority. This includes praying, studying the Word of God, and meditating. We often use lack of time as an excuse, but there always seems to be an excessive amount of time to fulfill our wants. We have time to do what we think is important to us.
I WOULD DO PERSONAL SOUL-WINNING
Proverbs 11:30 says that “he who wins souls is wise.” I think one of the great joys of heaven will be seeing other people there whom we have helped to bring to the Lord. Ellen G. White wrote, “It was the joy of Christ to save souls. Let this be your work and your joy.”a
I think it would be embarrassing to stand before God in heaven without having led anyone to Christ. Some of the greatest experiences I have had in my ministry have been one-on-one soul-winning encounters.
I WOULD INVEST IN ETERNAL THINGS
The Bible talks more about money than it does about heaven. The widow was commended for giving all she had. It wasn’t much, but it represented a real sacrifice. Money talks. It says something about us. It says something to other people. It also says something to God. The Bible deals with three things: our relationship with God, our relationship with other people, and our relationship with things (stewardship). That makes stewardship pretty important.
“Selfishness is occupying much time that the Lord would have devoted to religious activities. I have been shown that the money that is lavishly spent by many believers for unnecessary things should be given to the work of winning souls that are ready to perish.”b
What will you give that will keep giving when you are gone?
As a church pastor for nearly 28 years, I have preached many sermons for my church members, some of whom died the following week. Life is uncertain. Who knows how long we have to live? In everything we do, we should live as though we will die tomorrow.
a Ellen G. White, Christian Service, 110.
b Review and Herald, Sept. 16, 1909, paragraph 3.
Jonas Arrais General Conference Associate Ministerial Secretary