This is the first in a series we are calling “One Life,” where we discuss the urgency that comes from having only one life to live. It provides insight on how God teaches us to live life better and to number our days by living spiritually not carnally. We will explore three ways God teaches us how to live this one life with better priorities. This article talks about the first way that God teaches us to live better lives — He simply tells us in advance.
All of us have heard this expression: “You only live once!”
Usually, we use this phrase to convince ourselves to do something that is a little out of the box, or to seize the moment, or to take advantage of an experience that we might not otherwise have if we don’t do it now. There’s this sort of compressed urgency that we only have one life to live, and it’s not a soap opera. When you have that inkling and you take advantage of it, usually there is a reward on the other end and you’re glad that you did it.
A lot of times, we don’t choose to seize opportunities that are in front of us. To live more meaningfully, to live better lives, we have to get shocked into it.
That’s what happened to me when I was 27 years old. At the time, I was the clinical pastor on rotation at Western Medical Center’s cancer unit in Santa Ana, California. That’s the year when God gave me glasses — my “One Life” glasses. The way He did this was by having me meet with men, women and couples who were diagnosed with cancer. I tell you, if you want to get shocked into living a better life, spend two hours a week talking with cancer patients.
What I learned was that trauma dissolves the trivial. Pain has a way of producing clarity of vision — not physical vision — but life vision.
Miraculously, God gives cancer patients “One Life” glasses too. They savor the moment. They realize the beauty of life. They glorify the majesty of life. They appreciate their relationships. They embrace reconciliation and forgiveness. They elevate the spiritual. They use words more carefully.
When God gave me these “One Life” glasses — he stopped me in my tracks. Instead of focusing on the peripheral things in life, many of them great, He moved me towards the central things in life.
What are the central things in life?
What bubbled into focus was how precious our one life is. You see, getting a cancer diagnosis — or any kind of life threatening illness — changes people’s perspective. It creates urgency. Urgency creates new priorities. New priorities create new investments of time. Serious illnesses teach us to number our days. When I was on the 7th floor of Western Medical Center, I watched cancer patients get real smart real fast about the important things in life. They get smart about relationships. They get smart about priorities. They get smart about the investment of their time. They get smart about their money. They get smart about planning.
For the followers of Christ, or even if you’re not, the Bible encourages us to not use hindsight and trauma as a means to get us to live better. In fact, God’s word encourages us to use foresight to be proactive, emphasizing the right priorities now.
Psalm 90, verse 12, says: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The Psalmist teaches us to live life more urgently.
How does God teach us how to live with better priorities, to live better and to number our days?
God teaches us to number our days and live a better life in three ways. The first way is that he simply tells us in advance. God tells us in advance that He owns the future. That God’s will is what’s going to get done. That we can’t presume anything. God is the architect of this universe. He owns it.
We can’t predict ANYTHING with reasonable certainty. I think we learn that. We learn it through natural disasters. We learn it through collapsing economies. We learn it through foreclosures. We learn it through just circumstances where God sort of reminds us of this truth and tells us in advance and gives us the most notice and says: “Hey, don’t presume upon the future. Seek the Lord’s will. Be flexible and do the Lord’s will, and don’t anticipate or expect things to roll out.”
In James 4, verses 13 to 17, God tells us in advance how we should look at life:
“13 Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
So God tells us in advance. You can’t presume the future.
Watch one or more of the One Life Sessions where men’s expert and pastor Kenny Luck helps you to learn how God’s men are learning to live their “One Life.”
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Kenny Luck is the founder of Every Man Ministries and the men’s pastor at Saddleback Church. His 20th book – SLEEPING GIANT: No Movement of God without Men of God – is the proven blueprint for men’s ministries, and was recently released through B&H Publishing. Watch and read more of Kenny’s teaching here at EveryManMinistries.com.