Imagine you lived in Hawaii, and you woke up to find the following text alert on your smart phone……….
BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
I don’t know about you. But I imagine the words coming from my mouth would have been something like “%%$%&*$%#%!!!!” In other words, not printable for a Christian blog. But the dread of such a message was very real for hundreds of thousands of Hawaiians on Saturday, January 13th, 2018. A day no Hawaiian could ever, or will ever, forget. Thank God, it was a false alarm. But it was nearly 40 minutes before the terrified residents of Hawaii found out that the ‘threat’ wasn’t a real threat. That 40 minutes gave them plenty of time to think. It must’ve seemed like forever under the circumstances. I can only imagine what some of the racing thoughts would be for most people:
What do I do? Where do I go? Where exactly is it going to hit? Where’s my kids? Where’s my wife/husband? OH NO!! We don’t have a shelter!! HELP!! GOD, please help us!!
Fear. Panic. No…………more like unbridled terror…………hearts beating faster than they would in any of your worst nightmares…………….absolute, utter terror.
“I am going to die!!” was the theme of the day. A day that started like any other. And then, all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, you find out that you may only have minutes to live. As the initial “fight or flight” panic winds down just a little, what would you think about? Whom would you think of? Would regrets begin to flood your mind? Would you really go from terror to regret? You might think such a response could never happen if your very life were at stake. You might think that the entire time would be focused on physical survival and nothing else whatsoever. Think again.
You would think about more than just your own, and everyone else’s, physical survival. Your relationship with God and how you have treated others would overwhelm you. Why? Because when you’re a Christian, eternal things matter more than anything. Obedience to God, your prayer life, unsaved friends and family members……….it all matters. And when your time is short, especially with only minutes to live, you won’t be able to stop thinking of eternal matters. If you doubt me, I suggest you read this sobering article by pastor Garrett Kell. In it, he recalls the harrowing account of a Christian woman named Dee, who was in Hawaii that fateful day. She received the ominous false alert. At the outset, her initial reaction was like a lot of people’s would be. Survival mode instinct kicked in. Then, because she is a believer, everything turned Christian from this point on. Instead of just thinking about physical survival, and what to do in a panic, it became ‘What important thing have I failed to do?’ or ‘What did God command me to do that I have willfully neglected?'”
Don’t get me wrong. It certainly matters what you do in survival mode. It matters whether you live or die. We have a God-given instinct to want to live. Your behavior matters when threatened with death. But ultimately, it’s in God’s hands whether you make it out alive. It’s in God’s hands whether a threat is real or a false alarm. But what matters even more is this: How did you live before the threat even happened? What was done for Christ? What was done in love? How much did you pray? Did you put your hand to the plow without looking back?
Remember our sister Dee in the above story. Something else came to her mind during the threat. She remembered that her son did not know Jesus. It scared her something fierce. He had resisted the gospel many times in the past. It wasn’t that she failed to try. It’s just that she knew one thing: if the Lord didn’t grant her son repentance before imminent nuclear fallout, then he would be forever under the wrath of Almighty God. I guarantee you that she will share the good news with him again very soon if she hasn’t already…….and again soon after that. No hesitation. No apologies. I believe that missile threats help to turn people into passionate evangelists.
You may be thinking, “Jamie, that missile crisis was a fluke. Ain’t gonna happen again! And even if it does, what are the odds it will happen in my unknown part of the world?!” Ok, maybe so. But what about this next hypothetical scenario? What if this were you? Could the scenario below be you tomorrow? Or the next day? Next week?
Your eyes begin to open ever so slightly. “Sir, can you hear me?” asks the nurse as you look up in bewilderment. You don’t even know what happened. All you know is that you are in a hospital, lying down and in a lot of pain. You are conscious enough to hear the question. But you don’t have the strength to answer. The nurse stares at you softly with a mildly reassuring smile and says, “Sir, we are going to take good care of you.”
You are confused and disoriented. You muster up enough strength to ask one very important question………….“What happened?” She replies, “You are having a heart attack and we need to perform surgery. The doctor is on his way.” Your wife and kids are crying profusely, not knowing what is going to happen. And just like that, you realize that this may be it. You might not be around much longer. Technically speaking, you are on your deathbed. You didn’t plan it. You had no idea it was coming. But here you are.
Christian, have you ever thought about your deathbed, if you even get one? What will it be like? What will you think about most? What will you want to do over again? What will cause you to shed the most grievous tears? Whom will you think of? What will be a great source of regret? Have you thought about the terrifying emotions you might experience? The frustration of a bad choice made, or not made? The spiritual agony of not obeying God? The “what if” thoughts plaguing your mind something fierce? The agonizing prayers asking God to “just give you a few more weeks of time!!” That sinking feeling of “It’s too late to do anything now.”
What if you were to suffer a severe stroke and you had this gut-wrenching thought:
I want to do something now. I want to make things right with her. But I can’t speak. I can’t move my arm or my fingers. I can’t call her to tell her how much I love her. She may never know that I wanted to reconcile with her.
Sad. Pitiful. Devastating. Let’s pray to God that we take care of these things while we have time. Scripture tells us to “redeem the time.” Christians should pursue good with others, and make the most of the time God has given us. Obedience requires us to put things in order as best we can in the here and now. Fight against regrets now, so you don’t have to deal with them when it may be too late.
Whether or not you experience a missile threat, one thing is for certain: You will have regrets. I’m not saying that you can take care of every single one of them. I mean, we are sinners. There is only One who lived and died with zero regrets. His Name is Jesus Christ. But………..we can work through them while the Lord has given us time. Let us seek Him for the grace we need to pursue God and others with love. In the here and now.
The reality is that we are all on our deathbed every day we live…….so to speak. We are dying. Every moment that passes we are one step closer to the grave. So maybe we ought to consider every day a deathbed experience. In the famous work “The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards”, Resolution #17 states:
Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
In other words, we should start doing those things that matter now, not later. Don’t wait for your deathbed. You are already on it. In the Book of James, we read this:
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. (James 4:14)
You don’t have to be lying on a hospital bed with a heart attack to begin attacking your regrets. By the grace of God, do what you can. Make your best effort. It won’t be perfect, of course. But you will not regret trying. I can assure you of that. Deathbed regrets are not those things we tried to make right and failed. They are the things we never even tried to fix. Nothing brings regrets to the surface more than serious threats to our lives.
There are things we all need to do now. Let us pray that God’s Spirit would bring us to the place of obedience. If you’re a Christian, you can take comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ has died for all those regretful things we have ever done, or failed to do. Praise His glorious Name!
In my next post, I write about 6 specific regrets we may have. Stay tuned!
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