Yesterday, on the 10th Anniversary of 9-11, I was talking to an older man after church about all the blessings we take for granted here in America and the fact that the God who gave it all to us can just as easily take it back in an instant. (Example: the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament). He then said this: “When I was in the military, serving overseas, I quickly learned that my life is only worth a 2-cent bullet.”
As I went through the day, this quote kept coming back up in my mind. I kept wondering at the great value we put on our own life as we try and guard against any dangers and protect our ever-so-fragile selves from doing things that could hurt us in any way. Yet the thing we are guarding so closely is the very thing God calls us to lay down in the decision to follow Christ.
Joan of Arc, before being wrongfully burned at the stake at age 19, is quoted as saying, “I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing.”
Sadly, what I am coming to realize about most people in 21st century America is that the “little or nothing” that we are giving our lives to is the belief that we don’t have to give our lives to anything.
We waste away our years working harder and longer thinking one day we will attain it all, and in the mean time letting all the important things in life slip by us. Friends begin to drift away. Kids grow up and leave. The ones you love most begin to grow distant. And our own youthful, energetic years slowly give way to sitting alone somewhere daydreaming about how things could have been different.
That wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
This life is a gift from God, given with the charge that we will engage with Him and have eternal impact in the world. Look at any person in the Bible for proof. God calls all of these men and women – from the mediocre to royalty – and challenges them to look past what their lives can be on their own and follow Him to something greater.
We, too, must come to the realization that the one thing we want to keep more than anything must be given away to really mean anything. The only way our lives become significant on the scale of eternity — the only way we get to keep our lives for eternity — is to give them to Christ, now.
Jim Elliot, missionary in Ecuador, killed in the 1950’s by the Waodani Indians wrote a few years before his death, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 16: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (that is, the thing that will kill him) and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (vv. 24-26; parenthetical mine)
The fact is, too many of us will read these words, then go back to our normal routine, as though our lives are of more worth being kept for ourselves. The reality is though, your “2-cent bullet” will come. The question is, on that day, in light of God’s Kingdom, will the life you lived prove to be worth the loss.
I hope mine is.