Where will you be one hundred years from tonight? Undoubtedly, many reading this will think they will be dead and will just have ceased to exist. Their body may be l laying buried in a grave someplace, or at a mausoleum, or their body may have been cremated and their ashes scattered to the wind. In fact, the soul, that part of each of us that lives on past death into an afterlife will be in existence somewhere one hundred years from now. It may be in a state of eternal bliss or it may be in a state of eternal torment, but it will be in conscious existence in either one of those states.
Yes, I really believe that. I will admit that after the small church I pastored was closed in early 2010 and after some tremendous losses for our entire family, including the residence where we'd lived for over twenty years, I went through some times of very deep despondency. There were months of me being numb- just numb. Life seemed surreal and unfair. I walked through a very emotionally dark time. At times, I just sat and stared and asked myself, "Do I really believe all this stuff?" That was the painful question I grappled with over and over again. In Philippians chapter four, the Apostle Paul writes of his own life experience, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:12). Honestly, I'd often struggled to understand that verse and now I was faced with it "up close and personal". Paul indicated that his testimony was if everything in life was just great, he was joyful and praising the Lord, and if things in his life couldn't be worse, well, he was also joyful and praising the Lord. That was very difficult for me to accept. I would never have "signed up" for what has happened in my life and in my family members' lives over the past few years. However, I've come to a genuine answer to my question of, "Do I really believe all this stuff?". I can say that I really do! I celebrated my sixty-first birthday just a couple of weeks ago. The past few decades have just flown by! My own parents each died in their seventies. I suppose the actuarial tables would say I've got around eighteen more years to live, and that's it. This life and all that goes with it is so fleeting. James 4:14 indicates that life is as a vapor or a mist- it quickly appears and it's quickly gone. I'm amazed that so many of the people who prepare so thoroughly for retirement, and for the possibility they will be placed in a nursing home and need long term care; so many of those same people make absolutely no preparation for eternity. They don't even give it a thought.
This past March, I had the difficult experience of being called upon to lead the funeral service of a two-month-old baby. What a difficult task! I suddenly remembered the words of my late Uncle Raymond from many years ago. He told the story of the death of his sister Irene. She died from diphtheria in 1915 at the age of seven. Her funeral service was at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Boston's West Roxbury section. Uncle Raymond remembered a horse-drawn hearse and a white, child-sized casket. He also remembered my grandfather (who died before I was born) sobbing uncontrollably. I told the audience of mourners in March of 2015 that despite all of the advances in science and technology over the past hundred years, the feeling and the loss and the grief are no different.
In a sense, one hundred years is a long time, but most historians will tell you it's really just a turning of a page, and not long at all. I was a first-grader fifty-five years ago. The Kennedy-Nixon election happened that autumn. Today, probably most of the Americans who were alive at that time have passed on. I'm really not trying to be morbid! I believe we should truly "live every day", that is make the very most of every day of our lives. When opportunities come our way, we should take advantage of them. I had a great time joining my son on a popular national television game show recently. (It was recorded in July and will air this month.) Yes, many "fun things" can come our way and we should enjoy them, but we must never completely forget the brevity of life and our responsibility to God. I work two pretty humble jobs at the present time. It's very different from being the noted and respected, "Pastor Bob Baril"! One of those jobs is handing out flyers at a "big box store". As I did that today, I stopped a woman who'd come into the store with a propane tank. It was a previously used tank that she wanted re-filled. She was completely unfamiliar with the law that propane tanks are never to be brought inside public buildings like that! It seemed right to her to bring that tank into the facility. It was wrong. Both Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 speak of a way that seems right to a man but that leads to death. So many people say, "Well, I believe this or that." They expect that it really doesn't matter what they believe when it comes to spiritual matters; that God will just say that it's O.K. It's just not so.
Sadly, evangelical Christians are often our worst enemies! So often we embrace extreme right-wing politics and then we try to jam it down everybody's throats! That's such a turn-off to people. And, it's nothing like Jesus Christ! It's nothing like the Lord Jesus Christ would ask or expect of us! Sometimes we're unkind, cruel, or insensitive. I'm glad that 99% of the evangelical Christians I know do not support the tactics of the crowd that holds up those cruel signs indicating God hates homosexuals, etc. (In fact, God doesn't hate them. He "so loved the word" -see John 3:16- and that includes homosexuals.) Even so, that crowd has pushed a lot of people away from God and too many of us don't agree with them, but we aren't vocal enough about that.
I like the song, "100 Years" by Five For Fighting. It chronicles a life from age fifteen to age one hundred. I "received Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior" and was "born again" at age fifteen. And, today at sixty-one, I guess I'm closing in on one hundred. I've seen and experienced miracles. My sister and I laid hands on our tax accountant over thirteen years ago and prayed for his miraculous healing. He was seriously ill with cancer. In fact, he was checking himself back into the hospital as soon as that appointment was done. We were meeting with him about settling the estates of my parents who'd died within weeks of each other in 2000. My motives were selfish. I didn't want this guy to die in the middle of that estate settlement process! A few months later, Jim the accountant told me over the phone that he'd been miraculously healed! He credited me with the healing, and I firmly corrected him, telling him Jesus Christ was the healer! Today, he's living in South Carolina and continues to enjoy good health. Yet, our brother Eddie collapsed in 1983,
existed on life supports for just a few days, and died. Of course, we prayed much for him. I don't know why I've seen some like Jim healed and some like Eddie not healed, but it doesn't stop me for praying for miracles.
There's a beautiful old hymn, Blessed Assurance which speaks of a Christian's story and song of rejoicing in life in Jesus every day. That's been my testimony through very good times and very bad times.
In closing, I ask you the very important question I opened with: Where will you be one hundred years from tonight?