January 4, 2009
One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life
#2: Live Passionately
We’re kicking off the New Year with this series: “One month to live-30 days to a no-regrets life.” What would you do if you had 30 days to live?
A newspaper ran a contest where entrants age 4 to 15 were asked to imitate “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey”. A 15 year old wrote: “I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don’t have any clean laundry because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?”
If you knew you had 30 days to live, you’d probably want to do something besides laundry. Of course, the laundry still has to be done, but you’d have some higher aspirations. You’d want to live passionately.
Alan Sachs, “Death is more universal than life; everyone dies, but not everyone lives.” Today, we’re going to think about living-really living-passionately.
Several months ago, I heard about Kerry Shook’s book, One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life. Intrigued, I bought a copy of the book and started reading, and I visited the website. We have the book available at our resource center at our cost if you’d like to read along during the series. The questions posed in the book were provocative and life-changing. I began thinking about how I would live if I knew I had only 30 days to live. I also began asking others that question, as you heard last week from Brad (who did a great job kicking off this series).
I want to start by asking you this question: What would you do if you had only 30 days to live? Let’s take a few minutes right now and jot down the first things that come to your mind. What would you do if you had only 30 days to live? Write them down on the back of your outline.
What would you do? What did you write down?
Great ideas! It’s a clarifying question, isn’t it? Here’s the deal though: if all we do is ask the questions and think the thoughts, the whole thing will be an exercise in futility, a big waste of time. The point is to live the life! Live as though you had one month to live! The ideas you wrote down need to be translated to action. So I’m going to ask you to do four things this month.
First, honestly wrestle with the questions. Each week, we’ll give you lots to think about and some questions to ponder. If you will take some time to honestly wrestle with the questions, and write down your responses in your journal, you’ll get much more out of this series. By engaging the questions, you’ll come up with your own unique answers for how you should be living your one and only life.
Second, talk about it with someone. It could be your spouse, or a friend, or your Life Group. Whoever it is, your own thinking will be stimulated by kicking these ideas around with someone. So wrestle with the questions, and then ask them of someone else and have a discussion!
Third, do it. Decide on at least one action step each week, and do it! Our goal isn’t to imagine how we would live if we only had one month to live; our goal is to live as though we only had one month to live. So do it!
Fourth, share your story on our blog. We would love to hear how you applied these ideas, what you did that changed your life. Big or small, it doesn’t matter; please share your story with us and others. Your story will inspire others!
How many of you have seen “The Bucket List”? Two men, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, are given months to live. Here’s what happens after they learn their time is short.
Clip from The Bucket List.
I love that Jack Nicholson said, “We have an opportunity here.” Dying made him realize that he had an opportunity to live-to live passionately. When I asked people what they would do if they had one month to live, most of them said they would live passionately. They may not have used those words, but that was the idea.
• I’d live every day to the max.
• I’d do some things I’ve always wanted to do but never did.
• I’d take some risks I’ve been afraid to take.
• I’d make sure I lived every day until I died.
They’d live passionately. Why wait? Why not do that now?
I’m going to suggest three ideas for living passionately, living to the max every day.
1. Make the most of every day.
To live passionately means you make the most of every day. If I had one month to live, I would want to make the most of every moment, wouldn’t you? Each minute would become precious, and I wouldn’t want to waste even one. I would want to live to the full every day I had, wring the most out of every minute, suck the marrow out of the bones of life!
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Teach us to number our days aright. The NCV says “teach us how short our lives really are.” Life is short. You may have more than 30 days to live-I hope you all do-but life is still short, and when you realize that, you want to make each day count. Life is short and it flies by, and the older you get, the faster it flies! Am I right?
ILL: Here is one comedian’s take on that: “Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we’re kids. If you are less than ten years old you are so excited about aging that you think in fractions. How old are you? “I’m four and a half.” You are never 36½. You are four and a half going on five. That’s the key.
You get into your teens and now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number, even a few ahead. How old are you? I’m going to be 16; you could be 13, but hey, you are going to be 16.
Then the greatest day of your life. You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. You become 21.
But then you turn 30. Ooh, what happened there. Makes you sound like bad milk. He turned, we had to throw him out. There is no fun now, you just soured.
You become 21. You turn 30 and then you are pushing 40. Whoa, put on the brakes. It’s all slipping away.
Before you know it you reach 50 and your dreams are gone.
Then you make it to 60. You didn’t think you would, but you made it.
So you become 21, turn 30, push 40, reach 50 and make it to 60. By now you have built up so much speed that you hit 70. After that it’s a day-to-day thing. You hit Wednesday.
Then you get into your 80’s and every day is a complete cycle. You hit lunch. You turn 4:30. You reach bedtime.
Into the 90’s you start going backwards. “I am just 92.” And then if you make it to 100, you become a little kid again. “I’m 100½.”
I hope every one of us lives to be 100½, but even if you do, life moves so fast and the years just fly by.
Teach us to number our days aright. None of us knows how many days we have. You don’t know if you’ll live to be 90 or 19. My grandfather died when he was 96; my pastor Roy Hicks Jr. died when he was 50; my friend Steve Perry died when he was 38; my son died when he was 22. But one thing they and we all have in common is that we all have a finite number of days in this life, and we don’t know the number. In fact, the only day I know I have for sure is today. I have no guarantee about tomorrow.
Kerry Shook points out in his book that many people are not living, but waiting to live. He calls this “Someday syndrome”. Brad mentioned it last week.
• “Someday I’ll mend that relationship.”
• “Someday I’ll pursue my dream.”
• “Someday I’ll get in shape.”
• “Someday I’ll get serious about knowing God.”
• “Someday I’ll be happy.”
Someday. Instead of living, we’re waiting to live, waiting for someday. But the only day you’ve got is today.
Psalm 118:24 puts it like this: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” When are you going to rejoice? Not someday, but today. This is the day. The psalmist doesn’t say, “Tomorrow is the day”. He says, “This is the day. So many people think, “I’ll be happy someday when the conditions in my life change.”
• When people are in school, and they think, “I’ll be happy someday when I get out of school.”
• People are single, and they think, “I’ll be happy someday when I get married.”
• People get married, and they think, “I’ll be happy someday when we get kids in the house.”
• People get kids in the house, and they think, “I’ll be happy someday when we get the kids out of the house.”
But today is the only day you have. This is the day the Lord has made! Let’s rejoice today! Let’s live today to the full and make the most of this day.
Ephesians 5:15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Colossians 4:5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Remember Psalm 90:12 said, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Notice in each of these two verses that wisdom is associated with “making the most of every opportunity.” This is the wise way to live: to number your days and make the most of every day. The literal translation of the Greek in both verses is “redeeming the time.” I’ve always liked that phrase. Redeem the time; make the most of every opportunity. By the way, notice in Colossians 4:5 that we’re to make the most of every opportunity in our relationships with “outsiders”-he’s referring to those outside the faith.
One of the things I’d do if I had 30 days to live is I would contact some people I love and ask them to start following Jesus. I would not want to leave this planet without giving them the chance to know and follow Jesus-or at least giving it my best shot. I was talking about this with someone on New Year’s Eve, and she asked me, “What’s stopping you from doing it anyway?” We worry what people will think, if we’ll offend them; we worry about rejection. But if I had 30 days to live, I wouldn’t worry about any of that; I’d be concerned about my friend’s eternity.
You can redeem the time-make the most of the opportunity-or you can waste it. When you have limited resources, you tend to be more careful with them. For example, when you don’t have much money, you’re careful and wise about your spending; you’re not wasteful.
While Laina and I were out of town, Andy (age 10) went to a sleep-over for guys, and borrowed $10 from Grandpa. Since I had to pay back the $10, I asked him what he had spent the money on. He said, “Oh, bowling, food, video games, candy…it’s not like I wasted it!”
Here’s an amazing thing: most people are more concerned about their money than their time, but time is far more precious than money. You can always earn more money, but you can never gain more time. A dollar can be replaced; a day is gone forever. I know people who save their pennies and squander their hours. Wasting time is far more serious than wasting money, because if you waste your time, you waste your life. Redeem the time; make the most of every opportunity.
This is your life. There is no someday. Make the most of every day. Stop constantly waiting to live and start living, living the life that you were made to live.
So here are the questions I want you to ponder, discuss and then do something about.
What are your biggest time wasters? What would you stop doing if you had 30 days to live? What would you do instead?
2. Take risks; don’t play it safe.
To live passionately means that you take risks, that you don’t play it safe. Someone said, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!” It’s time to live on the edge, time to risk, time to go skydiving!
Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven”-Jesus has less than 30 days to live. He knows the end of his life is near, only a couple weeks away. Does he play it safe? No. He “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is where His enemies were conspiring to kill him. In John 11, when Lazarus dies and Jesus says, “Let’s go back to Judea,” His disciples protest, “But people there want to kill you!” Jesus goes anyway. With courageous determination, He heads for the front lines. He doesn’t play it safe and run away from the battle; He risks everything by running straight into the heat of the battle.
How about you? Are you playing it safe, or are you taking some risks? I’m not talking about crazy risk, stupid risk like driving too fast on compact snow and ice, or using your whole paycheck to buy lotto tickets! I’m talking about moving beyond your comfort zone, and letting God do something bigger than you.
You all know the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a mountain of a man, over 9 feet tall and incredibly strong. His armor weighed 125 pounds, and just the tip of his spear weighed 15 pounds. Try giving that a toss! No one in Israel wanted to go toe-to-toe with this monster. Even when the king offered a large cash reward, a lifetime tax exemption, and his own daughter in marriage, no one was willing to take the risk.
Then David showed up. He was only a boy, ruddy faced, which means he still wasn’t shaving, and had no armor and no spear, just a slingshot. But when David heard Goliath make fun of God, he got righteously indignant, and offered to fight the giant. I love his volunteer speech: “Don’t let anyone be discouraged; I will go and fight this Philistine.” I’m sure that encouraged them!
What gave David such confidence?
1 Samuel 17:34-37 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
David was only a boy, but he knew the Lord, and he had confidence that God would be with him and make him victorious. He had faith…ridiculous faith! So while everyone else played it safe, David took the risk… and won. He let God do something bigger than him.
Here’s a truth from that great theologian, Wayne Gretzky: “you miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Guaranteed! You’ve got to take the shot to make it. David took the shot and made it; he risked it and won. You can’t win without risking. Somebody has to trust the Lord and take on the giant; why not you? But what if he had missed and lost? You know everyone else in the army was thinking that!
ILL: Kerry Shook tells about taking his 5 year old son Josh to the school playground. Josh wanted to hang on the monkey bars so he asked his dad to lift him up. Kerry did and Josh proudly hung there several feet above the ground. Then he said, “Ok, get me down.” But Kerry said, “Let go, and I’ll catch you.”
“No, get me down.”
“Josh, just let go and I’ll catch you.”
“No. Get me down.”
This went on for several minutes. Josh held on with all his might, until his knuckles turned white. Finally, he couldn’t hang on any more, and he let go. Kerry caught him and set him down. Josh smiled and ran off to play on the swings.
Kerry thought, “That’s just how I relate to God. I’m hanging on desperately, trying to do everything in my own strength, white-knuckled. And God is saying, ‘Just let go and I’ll catch you. Trust me.'”
I think David took the shot and wasn’t worried about missing because he knew God was there to catch him. What about you? Are you hanging on to the monkey bars, afraid that God won’t catch you? Are you playing it safe, or are you trusting God and letting go and taking the shot?
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus told the story of a king who went on a journey and entrusted three servants with large sums of money to invest in his absence. The first two servants invested the money and doubled it, the third servant was afraid of losing the money, so he buried it for safe-keeping. When the king returned, he met with each to see how he had done. The first two were praised: “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many. Come and share your master’s happiness.” But with the third servant:
Matthew 25:26-30 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!
28 Take his money and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. 30 Throw him out into utter darkness.'” (The Message)
Here’s a question for you? What would have happened to the first two servants if they had taken the risk and lost the money? What would the king have said? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he would have said, “Nice try. I’m glad you took the shot. You did your best; we’ll win next time.” I think the king would have caught them. The story makes me think that win or lose, this king wanted them to take the risk. The only way they could really lose was by not trying at all, by playing it safe, hanging there white-knuckled on the monkey bars.
You’ve got to believe that the God who made you wants you live life to the full. He wants you to let go and know that He will catch you.
What kind of servant are you? Are you the kind who takes the risk, and makes the investment? Or are you playing it safe? God made us for risk taking. You will miss 100% of the shots you never take. If you had one month to live, you’d take some shots. You’d take some risks. You’d stop playing it safe. Here are the questions I want you to consider and discuss and do something about.
Are you playing it safe or are you taking risks, doing anything that requires “ridiculous faith”? What is one risk God is calling you to take? What would you attempt for God if you knew you couldn’t fail?
3. Get connected with God.
To live passionately means that you get connected with God. If you knew that you had one month to live, I think you would want to settle the God-question. Are you ready to meet God? Are you meeting Him as a friend or a stranger? I know that to some people this just sounds like fire insurance. You’ve lived your whole life without God, but now that you’re dying, you’d better get ready to meet Him. You had better make your peace with Him so you go to heaven and not hell. There have been lots of deathbed conversions, starting with the thief on the cross who died next to Jesus, and Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And certainly a deathbed or final month conversion is better than no conversion at all. “Better late than never.” True. But better early than late! Let me tell you why you want to get connected with God now, and how connecting with God relates to living passionately. Jesus said,
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Here is why Jesus came. He came so that you could have life and have it to the full. Life to the max! So many people mistakenly think that when you begin to follow Jesus, the fun is over, the adventure ends. You go from life in full color to shades of gray. Ask most people what they think of being a Christian and you’ll hear things like “boring” or “too restrictive” or “no fun.” Au contraire mon frère.
The adventure begins when you start following Jesus. Jesus came so that you could have life to the full. God made you for this-life to the full-and it starts when you follow Jesus.
So how do you get connected to Jesus? You make a decision. Jesus called Peter to follow him. “Follow me.” What did Peter have to do? Make a decision: follow or not. Peter decided to follow. When you follow someone, you hang out with them, get to know them. It starts with a decision: I will follow. In a moment, I’ll give a chance to make that decision.
Then what? How do you stay connected? Jesus said,
John 15:1, 4-5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
We’ve got to stay connected to Jesus. Just like a branch stays connected to the vine, we’ve got to stay connected to Jesus. If we do, we bear much fruit. God does remarkable things in and through us. He produces fruit from our lives that would be impossible on our own. He does God-sized things in us if we simply stay connected, stay close to Him.
So how do you stay connected? Do you know how I stay connected with my wife? Constant communication. I don’t mean we talk non-stop, but we talk every day. Lots.
One of the ways that God talks to us is through His word, the Bible. In your program you’ll find this bookmark, which is our Bible-reading plan for the first quarter. One of the ways I stay connected to God is this. I read the Bible-reading for the day. I ask God for one thing. “God, teach me one thing for today. Give me one thing You want me to know or do.” I write that one thing down in my journal and then pray it back to God. Then-and this is where the adventure kicks in-I try to do it. Each morning, I start my day by giving God an opportunity to speak to me and give me something for that day. Let God talk to you.
And talk to God. Pray that one thing back to Him-that’s how I usually start our conversations. But then I talk with Him about what is on my mind. And the conversation doesn’t end when I close my Bible and journal. The conversation keeps going all through the day because He is with me wherever I go, whatever I do.
Last year, I read St. Augustine’s Confessions for the third time. Augustine wrote his autobiography in the form of a prayer to God, a confession of faith in God, praise to God, and his own sin. The book is a masterpiece.
As I read it this third time, it occurred to me that I could live my life this way, as a living prayer to God, a constant conversation with God. It’s been life-changing.
Stay connected to God and live life to full. Join the adventure. Here are the questions I want you to consider and discuss and do something about.
Are you ready to meet God? Is He a stranger or a friend? How do you stay connected to God?
Make the decision to follow Jesus. Let the adventure begin!