“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” James 4:14
I expected some challenges when I took on the presidency of Moody Bible Institute, but I never expected a death threat.
It happened during my first year at Moody. For reasons completely unknown to me, a convicted murderer decided that the world would be better off without me. And so, from prison, he let me know his feelings by sending a death threat. My colleagues and I immediately consulted with the Chicago Police, and they advised me, based on this guy’s past criminal history, that he might very well have the connections and criminal bent to pull it off. We needed to take this seriously.
It’s amazing how quickly news like that reshuffles your priorities. There were lots of tasks planned and my schedule was packed. But suddenly the important meetings didn’t seem quite so important and the urgent, pressing items demanding my attention didn’t seem quite so urgent and pressing. In fact, as I pondered the thought that my life was apparently in danger, my mind moved to two items that I had been trying desperately to avoid: shopping and bowling.
Under normal circumstances, shopping and bowling would be dead last on my task list. I particularly loathe shopping for clothes, especially when it involves standing in a cramped changing room trying on pair after pair of pants. And bowling? Well . . . I’ve just never been a big fan. But both of these activities, in that moment of considering my own mortality, represented opportunities to express love to those who counted most in my life.
My wife, Martie, had been asking me for quite a while to take our school-age son to do his back-to-school shopping. I knew that would involve traipsing from mall to mall, with hours (or what would seem like hours) of helping Matt in the dressing room. I had found every excuse to delay the pain! And Matt had also been asking me for weeks to go . . . you guessed it . . . bowling!
So when I got home that day, with the death threat looming over my head, I proposed that we spend the evening bowling and shopping for school clothes. Matt and mom were both stunned. Matt had no idea why I had experienced such a change of heart; he just happily jumped in the car! And off we went on a productive evening.
Well, obviously—and thankfully—I lived to see another day. And now, if I ever go bowling again, it will no doubt be with my grandkids! But I wish that I would always live as though today would be my last. Priorities get clear real fast when that’s our perspective!
It’s what James is getting at when he says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow . . . You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). What difference would it make if we truly grasped the fact that there are no guarantees about what tomorrow holds?
I suspect we would be a lot quicker to forgive. I think we would be much more apt to consider the needs of others around us. We’d say “I love you” more often and prioritize people over things and duties. I think we would spend a lot less time pursuing earth-side stuff and care a lot more about eternity and the lostness of people around us.
Count on it . . . we’d all be a lot better off if we heeded the words of James!
- How would today’s priorities be reshuffled if you thought there was a possibility that you might not see tomorrow?
- How can we, as followers of Christ, maintain a balance of responsibly planning for the future, and yet living with the awareness that each new day is a gift—not a guarantee?
- I can’t talk about the brevity of life without asking, Have you invited Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? Out of all the emotions that came with a death threat, my faith in what Jesus did for me on the cross gave me such assurance and joy in knowing that I would spend eternity with Him. If you don’t have that assurance, turn to Him in faith today!