The Debt That All Men Pay

Life’s best lessons often require the most difficult teaching methods.  I want those defending my freedom to have endured rigorous training.  I want the surgeon to have persevered through study and training.  I want my pilot to have logged thousands upon thousands of hours behind the yoke.

You see, if it were easy, then everyone would be a pilot, a surgeon, or a soldier.

As a college student, like many others I practiced the art of procrastination.  Most of the time, it meant waiting until the day or night before something was due to complete it.  Or waiting to cram in a study session the night before an exam.  I didn’t invent it, and since I didn’t exit as a Summa Cum Laude, I also didn’t perfect it.

One particular example always comes to mind.  I had the pleasure of taking many history classes under the late Dr. Randy Austin at Lambuth University.  This is not a sentence of sarcasm.  He was easily my favorite professor and since I was a history major, I always scanned the catalog to sign up for what he was offering.

My junior year, I was in the middle of an American Revolution class.  He had assigned a paper on a topic I cannot remember now.  Nothing that I hadn’t done before and, if I recall correctly, only 3-4 pages.  And if you’ve been frequenting this blog for some time, you know that rattling off a few sentences is something I can do pretty quickly.

As usual, I had waited until the time was almost upon me to turn the paper in to even give it thought.  So, after classes had ended the day before it was due, I sat down at my computer to knock that out. Between mid-afternoon and a little before midnight, I went back and forth between everything under the sun and that computer screen, to no avail.  I had heard of writer’s block, but never had experienced it. . . . until now.

So, I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. and went to bed – without the first word being written on a paper that was due at 7:50 the next morning.  Long story short, I got up the next morning, hammered out a 4-page paper, went to breakfast, and then walked into class to turn it in, all before 8:00.  I don’t remember all of my grades on individual college assignments, but that one got me a 19/20.  To me – not bad, considering.

But, at least I knew the deadline.  It wasn’t some infinitely possible date and time out there in the continuum somewhere.  If so, would I have gone ahead and done the paper when it was assigned, just to be sure?  I’d like to think so, but I don’t really know.  Because in the world that works for us, there are deadlines and cutoffs and boundaries and target dates.  Not uncertainty and probabilities.

The Bible teaches us that there is an assignment that has an unannounced due date.  We are reminded over and again that we won’t know when the end of life is coming – either through our own death or His returning to claim the church.

In case you aren’t sure that he said that, he reminds us that even Christ doesn’t know when the final return is going to happen:

  • Mark 13:32 – Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—except the Father.
  • Matthew 24:36 – Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son[q] —except the Father only.

He also reminds us that God has an allotted number of days for our time on Earth:

  • Job 14:5 – A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.
  • Psalm 139:16 – Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
    all my days were written in Your book and planned
    before a single one of them began.

I hope that the uncertainty of the “when” doesn’t keep you from procrastinating the most important “if” that is certain to come.  That certainty is the debt that all of mankind will pay – the end of their mortal life.

If you believe that reincarnation is possible – you are wrong.

If you believe that a “good life” will get you into a place called heaven – you are wrong.

If you believe that God is inherently good and wouldn’t doom anyone to hell – you are right (about Him being inherently good), but about the rest – you are wrong.

If you believe that death is the final chapter – you are wrong.

My friend paid that ultimate debt this weekend.  By most worldly standards, it wasn’t time yet.  He still had time to get the assignment done of forging a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He should’ve been able to put that off for at least a couple of more decades.  But, as Job 14:5 reminds us, we cannot live longer than the time God has set for us.

But, my friend already completed that assignment.  And while we are sad, he has already collected his eternal reward.  I hope that if you’re reading these words you have the same blessed assurance that I do – Jesus is mine!

Because, this is one paper you can’t write over.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
James 4:8


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