Life has a way of changing for you when you are in a car accident that very nearly took your life. At least, that is the case for me. As most of you know, Sarah and I were in a terrible automobile accident two weeks ago yesterday.
Several people have asked if the events didn’t happen very slowly, and we have replied that some of it did. I can vividly remember the slide just before hitting the other car. Sarah actually had her eyes opened as we hit, watching the cars crumple together. I must have closed my eyes at the point because I have no recollection except for the awful sound of the impact.
I do remember thinking, “This is it!” I knew that there was no way to avoid the crash, and I was left to press the brakes and wonder what would happen. Was this the way I was going to die?
And I remember the shock when I was still alive after the wreck. And I was utterly amazed that my legs weren’t crushed, and that I could even open the door and walk around the car and open Sarah’s door. But then the shock hit me, and I had to kneel on the ground to keep from fainting.
And now two weeks later, I am left to ponder the accident. One conclusion is abundantly clear – if the Lord had wanted to take me, that was the perfect time. So I can only conclude that God must not be through with me yet. He let me live another day.
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Then comes the question, “What now?” Well, more accurately, “What will I do when I am well enough to do very much again?” The past two weeks have been a blur of pain, medication, and attempting to feebly go through the motions of ministry. But once I am fully recovered, I must face that question. “How am I supposed to live when I have been spared in such a miraculous way?”
Well, I found the words from Ephesians to be an excellent answer for all of us. How are we to live? Paul says, “Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father.”
I suspect those words are good advice for all us. And a good answer when anyone asks, “How shall we live?”
First, Paul says, “Watch carefully.” I certainly have a new appreciation for those words after the wreck. When you have driven for 40 years without a wreck, as I had, you begin to assume you can drive your way out of any dangerous situation.
Sarah had a fender bender on the ice last December. Since that time, she has become more jumpy than she used to be. Maybe all wives give advice from the passenger seat, but since her accident, she gasps and stomps the phantom brake on her side all the time. For the most part, I was amazingly patient with her. After all, she did have a wreck.
Now I am afraid I will be the same way! I have learned that you really do have to be careful out there! We have to be careful not just in driving, but in how we live our lives. Living is also a high risk adventure, and Christians need to be very careful how they live.
Next, Paul advises us to “redeeming the time” (5:16). Paul was convinced that the Lord would return during his lifetime, so he worked tirelessly to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. He understood that time is a gift, that our lives are like a canvas on which God can paint beautiful pictures. So he urges us to make the most of the chances we get to do something right in this life. The hymn writer put it this way: “Work, for the night is coming.”
The verb used here means to purchase or buy back. It means to redeem something. We are to redeem the time by making every minute count. He says in Romans 13:11: “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already time for you to awaken out of sleep, for salvation is now nearer to us than when we first believed …” There is an unmistakable note of urgency about this call.
The Greek language has two words for time. One is chronos, which means the ticking of the clock. The other is kairos, which means time filled full. That’s the view of time in the Psalmist mind when he says, “This is the day that Yahweh has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24).
One of our elders loves to tease about the value of time. Since his heart problems, he realizes that every day is a gift, and that we can’t count on tomorrow. He loves to quip, “Hey, I don’t even buy green bananas.”
When you have been given a second chance at life, you want to make every moment count. Every day is a good day. Every day is a day to practice the presence of God.
Next, Paul warns us against being foolish. ” Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish…” (Ephesians 5:15-17a) To be “foolish” in the Jewish tradition means throwing away the chance for salvation.
We need to use our time wisely, not foolishly. We need to use our talents to give of ourselves to others in ministry and to pray all the while.
Jesus had something to say about those who were wise and those who were foolish. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says, “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
Verse 17 says, “Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The opposite of being foolish is understanding the will of God. If Christians are to be different from the rest of the world, we have to know “what the will of the Lord is.” We have to know what is pleasing to God. The “will of the Lord” is the standard for all Christian behavior. Since we have so little time, let’s live every day oriented toward the will of God.
Next Paul says that Christians are not to live like pagans who get drunk to induce a religious experience; rather they are to enjoy the ecstasy provided by the Spirit of God. The Christian, then in a sense, is to be “drunken,” not with wine but “with the Spirit,” as the believer is to “be filled with the Spirit.”
When we view every day as a gift, we have a new appreciation for living “in the Spirit.” Being filled with the Spirit has specific results — singing, making melody and giving thanks (vv. 19-20). These activities are not isolated, personal experiences, but community events. The effect of the Spirit is congregational worship.
Worship is perhaps the most important thing we do in life. And I now have a renewed commitment to be here with you in worshipping the God who gives us all a second chance at life.
And it seems to be no accident that the writer emphasizes the importance of thanksgiving in worship. The natural outpouring of the Spirit-filled Christian results in “giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father.” The Christian lives in a constant state of thanksgiving, giving praise to God for what God has done.
Let us live as wise ones, understanding the will of the Lord, opening ourselves to the movement of the Spirit. Then let us give God our thanksgiving in the midst of the worshiping community.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2003, Mickey Anders. Used by permission.