“Saving Private Ryan” a movie released in 1998, opens as we watch an old man walk slowly across a field of white crosses in Normandy. He is searching for the grave marker of a Captain Miller who, along with a squad of Army Rangers, had been sent by the President to take Pvt. Ryan out of the battle theatre and return him to his family after his brothers were all killed in the war. In a desperate firefight, the squad comes under heavy fire and Miller is mortally wounded. As he is dying, he tells young Ryan: “James. Earn this . . . earn it.”
At the grave the old man murmurs “I’ve tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope it was enough.” It is a powerful moment! I have thought of that scene several times in recent days as I draw my time in pastoral ministry to a close. I remember those who invested in me, trusted me, loved me. And, I wonder if I have given my best in return?
Whether we come to the end of life with regret or fulfillment depends on how we live today. Today matters! The old saying may be a cliché but it is true: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’
One of my favorite quotes in the Scripture teaches me to “Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:16-17, NLT) Living in the will of God, to please Him, is about more than some BIG moment or grand gesture. Our commitment to Christ is largely lived in the ordinary.
God’s work is done as we listen compassionately to a grieving friend, when we take time to care for someone who is invisible to others, when we love our children when they are acting terribly, when we suspend judgment of a sinning friend and seek to understand, when we pray for a broken world with groans and tears, when we sit in a worship service and focus on Him, when we teach a Sunday School class with joyful enthusiasm, when we do the dishes without complaint, etc. As Tish Harrison Warren wrote – there is a Liturgy in the Ordinary!
Most mornings as I make my way into consciousness, I speak a simple prayer. “Lord, this is Your day and I am at Your service. Help me to recognize the opportunities You bring my way.” I am not a fatalist nor do I believe that we just somehow fall into the perfect plan of God. We must live humbly, willing to give up our comfort and to resist the impulse to sloth in order to walk with the Spirit in the lead. In the same breath, I hasten to say that there is no need to be stressed over knowing and doing the will of God. He guides us as we become like a little child, trusting, serving, loving Him in the situations in which we find ourselves.
Christian friend, let’s pray that our lives will make a difference for Christ and His kingdom; not tomorrow, but rather beginning today. With the counsel of the Spirit and the Scripture, choose the path of the righteous, and then walk it – consistently, day after day. I can make this guarantee – you’ll never live to regret it!
Here’s a word from the Word. I pray that when my race is nearly over, when the finish line is in sight, that I will be able to say what Paul said just days before he died. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT)
So, what is on our agenda today, Lord?
Come and join the reapers
All the kingdom seekers
Laying down your life to
Find it in the end
Come and share the harvest
Help to light the darkness
For the Lord is calling faithful men
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