Making the Most Of Life: July Magazine Article

Written a bit quickly this month, but this is something I've been reflecting on while reading What's Best Next by Matt Perman (which is excellent so far!).

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

In his very helpful book Don't Waste Your Life American pastor John Piper recounts a story from Readers' Digest of a couple who retired in their fifties so that they could cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. He asks us to imagine them, as they stand before Jesus on the day of judgement to give an account of their lives. What will they say about those years of retirement? What will they offer to Jesus? Their shells! His point, is to challenge us about how we use our lives. How should we live? What should we do?

In Ephesians 5:15-16 Paul takes us to that very question and gives us the answer. Our lives are a sequence of choices and opportunities -ways to do good and ways to do evils. As Christians, faced with those choices and opportunities, Paul tells us “Be very careful, then, how you live...making the most of every opportunity.”

The shell collectors might be an extreme example of waste, but we all know the reality of our own lives. Minutes, hours and days are often wasted if we think about it. In recent times the opportunities to waste our time seem to have multiplied. Not only do we have televisions and magazines that can suck time away from us. We have the internet, email, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to look at. If our goal is to live our lives for the glory of God with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, I wonder if our lives show it?

However, those things are not always bad. What should we do, when and how much? How do we make the most of our lives? Paul gives us a very simple phrase: “not as unwise, but as wise.” In some ways, I think that simple phrases sums up what the Ephesian church should have learned from this letter. Having shown Christians that they are saved only by the grace of God and not by anything they do (Ephesians 2:1-10), Paul points out that they are saved for (not by!) good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul has gone out of his way to give them instruction on how to live as Christians in the surrounding verses. We are to speak the truth lovingly to each other in church (4:15). In contrast to the world, we are to know the truth of Jesus and stop lying, stealing, talking inappropriately and start working, sharing, loving, helping and forgiving others (4:17-5:1). In other words, we apply the wisdom of the Bible to how we live. Facing that sequence of opportunities and choices, we make the most of them, by knowing what God has said so well, that we are able to make good choices and see the best in the opportunities.

In reality we probably need to admit that we don't know the Bible well enough to do that. If that's the case, then will we ask for “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:17) and get stuck into reading the Bible?

And as we do that, we need to remember that being careful how we live and making the most of our opportunities in life is done in a difficult context. Paul recognised that with the Ephesians, when he noted that the days were evil. I doubt that is any less the case in 21st Century Rochdale. The wisdom of the Lord is contrary to the wisdom of our world (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). To live well will be difficult. Making the most of our opportunities will often not go down well with those around us.

The challenge for us, as for the Ephesians, is to avoid wasting our life. More than that, we are to make the most of every opportunity. As the old Pepsi add used to say, we are to seek to live life to the max!

A few questions for this month.

1. Honestly, are you making the most of your life, or are you wasting it?

2. Do you know your Bible well enough to know how to live your life? How could you know it better?

 3. How do the “evil days” affect you in making the most of your life? What do you need to change?


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