There is a rather well known saying by the Quaker, William Penn that goes like this: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” These are wise words from an interesting man who was imprisoned several times in the Tower of London due to his faith. Penn’s life is an integral part of American history, which can be studied through various resources on the Internet, and in biographical books of his life.
Lately I have been musing on the fact that there is indeed a last time for everything in this world. This all started while watching a certain movie that had a particular scene of two people riding horses on a merry-go-round. It got me to thinking about the last time I happily rode on a merry-go-round. Then it occurred to me that little did I know it would probably be the last time I ever rode on one. If, at that time, I could have known that it would be the last “ride”, no doubt I would’ve been sad. The same holds true for my last horseback ride, last hike up a mountain trail, last trip on the vessel, Princess Marguerite, through Puget Sound to Victoria, B.C., last clam dig, and maybe even my last long stroll on an ocean beach with pockets full of agates. Who is to know, except God, when the last time will be for every detail of our lives? Then I began to remember a lot of other things in my life that definitely fall into “the last time” category, and how merciful the Lord is to conceal our future to us lest we faint in despair over the people, pets, places, and things we assume will always be there whom we never want to part with.
In the midst of our God-given days on this earth, however, what is of utmost importance is our walk with the Lord, and our response and obedience to Him. Before we can put William Penn’s summation of the Christian’s duty towards others into daily practice, however, we first must get past self. The problem is, if we are caught up with self from the moment we crawl out of bed in the morning until we crawl back into it at night, we will be oblivious to those precious, silent opportunities to show kindness to others that unobtrusively present themselves. It takes self-discipline, and practice to become aware of one’s environment where others are concerned. Sensitivity must also be developed in order to be able to sense, notice, and anticipate where others are at in their lives at that moment and wisdom to know how to best enter in, and do right by them (lift the burden, however small). An opportunity that is lost to do what is right, kind, good, honest, and honorable in any situation is the greatest of losses. Most of the daily opportunities that present themselves to show kindness are what we would consider to be very small, non-essential, or unimportant in the grand scheme of things, such as giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty child. “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” Matthew 10:42.
The reason we tend to miss so many small opportunities to show kindness, and do good is because it is our natural bent to admire people who achieve a modem of notoriety, and fame as a big hero who has done big things. We like to think of ourselves as potentially being such a grand hero. It’s easy to fancy ourselves as the type of person who, if given the chance to do grandiose acts of heroism, would rush into a burning house to save someone, or jump into a river to rescue a non-swimmer, or throw themselves in the path of a charging bull in order to protect someone else. That’s all well and good, but God doesn’t expect us to wait until such an opportunity presents itself to prove how wonderful we are. Instead, He watches us (all the time, I might add) to see how we are going to respond to the little daily opportunities to show kindness, be generous, understanding, and just plain useful to others in practical ways. Opportunities, whether great or small pass off the scene of our lives, for we shall not pass this way again. Each day is the last time.
You have to wonder if Adam had known that the day he chose to eat of the forbidden fruit would mark the last time he would walk and talk with the Lord God in the Garden of Eden. No doubt our first parents, after their expulsion from the Garden, thought back with great sorrow to their last day in Paradise. One wonders if there were times when Jacob, after fleeing to his uncle Laban, thought of the last time he saw his mother, Rebekah. The captive Jews living in Babylon surely remembered their last day in Israel, and the last time they saw Jerusalem and the temple. After Jesus’ ascension, surely His disciples talked about the last time they laid eyes on Him. And, so it goes, all through the Bible from cover to cover we see “the last time” for individuals, cities, and nations.
The question is, what would you do if you knew that today was “the last time” you would be alive on this earth? Would you redeem the time by sharing Christ with someone who is lost? Looking back, I can honestly say that two of the lost opportunities I regret the most (a deep, aching regret that I will carry to my “last day”) are the two times the Spirit of God pressed upon my heart to go and share Jesus with two individuals. I disobeyed the Spirit’s prompting, putting it off until a more convenient time. Not long afterwards, one of those people suddenly died of a heart attack, and the other drowned in her car when she missed a turn in the road and ended up driving into a lake. Lost opportunities to obey the Lord are great losses in our lives—losses we will sorely regret with shame and sorrow.
We can look back with regret or with thanksgiving (depending on the situation) at all “the last times” in our lives. We can look toward the future with dread or anticipation as to what could possibly be “the last time” but, the key is, we only have today, and what we do today is what matters in eternity when we stand before the Lord, and the books are opened. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” Exodus 32:33. “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” Psalm 69:28. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” Luke 10:19, 20. See also Revelation 20:11-15.
Consider Job, and the last time he saw his seven sons and three daughters, his oxen, asses, sheep, camels, and all his servants except for four who were spared by Satan to be the bearers of bad news. Job’s great loss occurred in a single day, yet “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” Job 1:22. On top of his great loss and grief came a day when Satan “smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” Job 2:7. Then in addition to Job’s grief and loss, financial ruin, and physical suffering, his friends came to sit with him. No doubt they were well meaning, but they all had the wrong doctrine, wrong advice, and wrong conclusions for Job’s unique situation. But, praise the Lord, the day came when it was “the last time” for Job’s suffering when he had a powerful encounter with the God of heaven. “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” Job 42:10.
Likewise, there will come “the last time” for those who live in the end of the latter days. There will be a last time for deception, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” Matthew 24:4, 5. Are you weary with hearing the news about wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes? The good news is there is coming “the last time” for such bad news. Jesus said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Matthew 24:5-8. As we continue to follow Jesus’ words through Matthew 24, we know that the time will come when it will be “the last time” for these events as assured us in verses 29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” [Emphasis added.]
There will be “the last time” for sorrow and weeping, pain and suffering, death and destruction. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” Revelation 21:4. In the meantime, Let us say with the Apostle Paul, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” Philippians 20, 21.
Until that day may the Lord of glory empower us by His Spirit to live each day as if it was “the last time”—helping us to faithfully redeem the time until the glorious appearing of our savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.