“If only ... .”
I think most of us hinge our dreams, ambitions, importance, and significance on this statement. As I reflect on my life, I know much of my thought life has been occupied by moments I’ve desired ultimate meaning and significance and believed a change in my circumstance was the key to finding it.
On a Friday night in high school, I walked on the football field for the biggest game of the year praying, “Lord, if You give me a great game tonight as the quarterback of my team, I will do anything You ask me.”
In business, I remember praying, “Lord, if You give me this deal, the company will be secure.”
In these situations, I was living for the moment, seeking success and importance in leading my team to victory and making the next big deal. We all have these types of thoughts and think life would be better:
- If only I became the CEO of my company.
- If only I win the Oscar.
- If only I win the gold.
These dreams and ambitions are good, but they don’t last.
For the Christian, there is one moment that defines our lasting achievement—the first second you spend in the presence of Jesus in Heaven.
I believe there are three emotions that dominate this moment:
- The feeling of how we lived with a cup half full or half empty
- The feeling of unspeakable joy
- The feeling of knowing whether we ran our race well or as a colossal waste
At that moment, no Christian wants to think, “Lord, I would have done better if only I had known.”
And if we do, we’ll realize that we lived with a different agenda than Jesus—the One who bought us with His blood, indwells us with His presence, and destines us for His glory.
It seems like it’s easy to always have something in our lives that is more important than obediently stepping into Christ’s agenda.
Yes, God has placed us all in different places, but what all believers have in common is a distinct story written between our birth and death. What we do within those chapters has eternal significance.
Every day we have defining moments where we make decisions about what we value. There is a daily battle we fight for the preeminence of Jesus or the preeminence of ourselves.
The moment we face Jesus, how we lived will pass before our eyes. The Father will reward us for how we responded in obedience to Him, and the blood of Christ will cover our moments of failure.
In John 12, Jesus tells us about this reward and the pathway to it.
"'Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.'” -John 12:25-26
It seems to me that the definition of success in the Christian life is summed up by answering, “Yes,” to this question: Have I lived in a way that I will not regret when my time to die comes?
My friend Jim Denison likes to say, “This is the purpose by which our Lord measures us—not by the size of our buildings or number of our members, but by the degree to which we make fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus.”
Today, let’s move forward wherever God has placed us for His namesake and the gospel.
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John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.