Do you ever have those moments where you’re living life, being in the present, just doing what you do, and then it hits you? – I’m going to die. One day, I’m going to die. In a flash, you see time for what it really is compared to eternity. You feel the weight of needing to do something with your life. And you resolve, once more, not to waste it.
I remember last November, the shock and the heaviness I felt after hearing of the sudden death of Nick Challies, son of popular Christian blogger, Tim Challies . He was 20 years old. He died without warning while playing sports at college. Died… a supposedly healthy young man in his prime, getting ready to be married in a few months. A man not much older than me.
It was one of those moments of revelation, when I realized… that might have been me. It might be me someday when I’m not expecting it.
That’s a weighty thought.
Yesterday morning, I received an email notification for Tim Challies’ latest article. Turns out, it’s a year to the day since his son passed. The article itself is a memorial, testifying of both the heartache and the healing, the grief and the graciousness of God their family experienced in the last year. It is beautiful to read and touched me deeply. But it was the short video at the end, commemorating Nick’s legacy, that made me stop again.
Pictures of a toddler, a boy, and then a man flash onto the screen, the flow broken occasionally by a poignant note written by his father. Weaving it all together is the song, “Well Done”, by The Afters. I’d heard it in the background at different events or on the radio before – but yesterday, sitting with tears in my eyes as snapshots from this boy’s life passed before my eyes, was the first time I really listened to it.
What will it be like when my pain is gone
And all the worries of this world just fade away?
What will it be like when you call my name,
And that moment when I see you face to face?
I’m waiting my whole life to hear you say:
“Well done, well done
My good and faithful one,
Welcome to the place where you belong.
Well done, well done
My beloved child,
You have run the race and now you’re home;
Welcome to the place where you belong.“
Well done. Well done. Words I want to hear when I die.
Words that, if I hear them, won’t be coming from my friends, or my family, or myself.
Words that jolt me into heavenly reality, when I realize the fact that there are areas in my life that don’t always line up with God’s version of “well done.”
Like the pride that creeps in and taints my heart when I’m teaching Sunday school and someone compliments me. Like the fear that shuts me up and locks the words of the Gospel away when I’m with my coworkers. Like the laziness that’s too hard to resist in the mornings, that keeps me from taking advantage of opportunities until it’s too late. More often than I wish, I give into the flesh and avoid faithfulness like it’s the most dreadful thing in the world. It is hard. And it is uncomfortable. And sometimes I’m a regular Jonah, packing up and running the opposite direction. Anyone relate?
Nick Challies lived for twenty years. He wasn’t perfect. But he strove to live without reproach. From what I read and hear, he was eager to point people to Christ and to walk in accordance with the Gospel. Though I didn’t know him, the people that did believe that his genuinely faithful life, that honestly sought to glorify Christ, has been rewarded by the rich welcome of the Father: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I wonder if that will be me. Maybe you wonder if that will be you. Judgement isn’t just for the people who have rejected God. There’s a judgement for the believer in Christ. We have a solid foundation – Christ, the rock – but Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 that the work we build on that foundation will one day be tested by fire. And “if it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” Clearly, God’s “well done” will not be for the faithless.
According to World Population Review, 163,898 people die every day. Don’t let the numbers fool you. These are real people, like Nick Challies – people like you and me.
163, 898 people die. every. day.
And for eighteen years, God has allowed me to open my eyes every morning and live.
There’s perspective for you. To realize just how short life is, how totally helpless I am in determining the days of my life. To realize they’ve been numbered by God since before the creation of the world. To ask myself, “Am I being faithful with my life?” – to answer honestly that maybe I’m not really, not in every way. To realize that every day I wake up is a gift. And it’s one I can’t afford to waste.
Sobering thoughts, those. Discouraging, even, if you’re like me.
But I won’t be alone in this battle for faithfulness, and neither will you, friend. The Holy Spirit is at work, and he will bring his work to completion. For this reason, we remember to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). So, take heart. Your journey may be long. It may be short. But quiet, constant obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life will lead to transformation – a transformation from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It’s a promise that makes the effort so worth it.
I’m grateful for Nick’s life. As harsh as this sounds, I’m even more grateful for the ways God has convicted my heart through his death. I want my life to be wholly faithful, as his was. Life is fleeting. Every moment counts. It’s something to remember when I’m tempted to be faithless.