by Pastor Tim Burt
As a 67-year-old recently retired Pastor of 35 years, I have given ear to the confidential stories of more people than I can remember. People often needed to talk with someone they trusted for advice, consul, wisdom or prayer, or just to think out loud with. As people get older, they have the growing tendency to look back over their life. When it came to the subject of listening to people’s regrets, there are two in particular that stood out that I’d like to share with you. They were regrets that I personally tried to learn from and do my best to avoid. One was, I wish I would have used more of my life to serve the Lord instead of chasing meaningless dreams. The other was I wish I would have realized how short life is, valued it, and used it more for the Lord.
What stirs these two particular regrets in Christians? Everyone that makes it to middle-age or older, comes to the reality of how quickly life passes by. Many come to realize they’ve focused on elusive dreams more than living a beautiful life in Christ, and that they could have made a greater difference in this life for the Lord if they would have put Him first place. And secondly, they come to realize that thing that matters most significantly in this life, is to help others come to know their eternal destiny and experience the love of the Lord. But as they get older, they struggle to find the energy to commitment to that goal. They think it’s too late and they regret it.
As people get closer to the last seasons of their life, they come to grips with the truth that God has made nothing in this world to satisfy our longings, outside of Him. The thing that brings deep, inward, personal satisfaction to your life, is when you know that God has a plan for your life and you have walked it out to the best of your ability. That happens when you realize God wants everyone to be saved from their sins through Jesus Christ, and to grow, spiritually mature, and become disciples of Him. There are a thousand ways to contribute to that plan. When you come to realize this truth and allow it to become a core value of your life, then and only then will you look back in life without regret.
Many years ago, while working for the airlines, I was in a jet aircraft near-miss. It was so close that we barely avoided destruction and death. Though it happened almost 30 years ago, I remember it like it happened yesterday. Two jet aircrafts barely escaping a mid-air collision. As soon as the incident passed, I remember going through days of deep reflection about how my life almost ended. I couldn’t stop thinking about how disappointed I would have been standing before the Lord giving an account for my life. So many good intentions. So little follow-through.
l had made many changes since becoming a Christian, and yet I knew there were so many things the Lord wanted me to do that I was ignoring. I repented to the Lord right then and there for acting indifferent to His will and the things I knew He wanted me to do. It was at that time I experienced my second major life-change. The first was receiving Jesus as my personal Savior. This second one was to begin to live my life as wholeheartedly for Him as I could. I made a vow to the Lord to quit procrastinating and step out in faith to do those things He had been speaking to my heart about! That was a mountain-moving time for me. My life’s new core-value became that which was spoken by the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:24 (NIV.) “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
I immediately gave myself over to things that I knew He wanted me to do. My life has never been the same since. I am in a place where I feel as though I have served the Lord by serving people with every fiber of my being—writing Fresh Manna being just one part of that experience. I have no regrets and looking back, there is very little that I would have changed since that day of awaking! Since then, my life has been all about people—dedicated to the task of testifying of the gospel and of God’s great mercy and grace. And that was not because I was a Pastor. I hadn’t become one yet. I began to live whole-heartedly for the Lord in my job, in both of my two businesses, and wherever and however God would lead me. At church I started Bible studies, taught children, raised up others in leadership and started hundreds of small groups. In the beginning of all this, I knew nothing and had to fight fear and inadequacy in everything I did. But over time it got easier and the Lord strengthened my confidence as I bore fruit.
There is nothing material we can take with us in this life. The only thing we can take to Heaven with us are those we are privileged to influence and help know Jesus. Empty legacies and achievements without Jesus will mean little and fade over time. But the things we do to help teach, direct, and encourage people in the Lord, will last for all eternity.
I want the Apostle Paul’s testimony to be mine. We all should! He said in 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” There is nothing more satisfying and keeps us from all regrets.
Don’t wait until you experience a crisis or you get old to figure that out. Learn from others early in life and find out just how rich your life in God can become! Serve Him. Serve His plan. Serve others. Do so and you’ll lead the richest of lives with few or no regrets!
1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NLT) “After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!”
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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