This article shows how the reality of death should shape the Christian life. It shows that one should build on Christ, have godly fear of the Lord, and prove faithful.

Source: The Evangelical Presbyterian, 2005. 2 pages.

The Last Hour of Life

The Psalmist reminds us of the brevity of life and the certainty of death. We are to live with the end in sight. “Teach us to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom” is the prayer we find in Psalm 90:12. Such was the view of Jonathan Edwards. We consider another of his resolutions, the seventh, which states, “Never do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” 1

Life at Best is Brief🔗

One day, all of us, shall enter into the last hour of life. That is a sobering thought for none of us know when that may be. Thousands awaking on Boxing Day morning in South East Asia were totally unaware that for them, the last hour of life had arrived. Numbering our days is a reminder that we are not going to live forever. Most people recognize that fact. Alistair Cooke, the broadcaster, famed for his “Letter from America” radio series said, “In the best of times, our days are numbered.” 2C H Spurgeon points out that the Psalmist speaks of days, not months or even years. Life at best is brief. In the context of all this Moses prays for a heart of wisdom.

What is wisdom? The Dictionary de­fines it as being wise, having sound­ness of judgment in matters relating to life and conduct. How are we to live every hour of every day as though it was our last? Wisdom is using the know­ledge we have to live for the glory of God. Let’s look at some Biblical principles.

Having a Godly Fear of the Lord🔗

It was John Murray who said “The fear of God is the soul of godliness.3The life of the Christian is to be marked by godly conduct.

We are ever to live in constant awe before a holy God and have a reverent fear of His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. “Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13. There is little fear of God in society today. His name is held in ridicule and scorn and His Word ignored.

The Shorter Catechism reminds us that the Scriptures principally teach what duty God requires of man. We are to “hold fast the form of sound words.” (2 Tim 1: 13) We are to be people who live by the Book. Wise living is to have a healthy fear of God.

Building on Firm Foundations🔗

Wise living also means having our lives built on solid ground, not on sinking sand.

The wise man builds upon the rock. We are familiar with this story that Jesus tells at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It concerns two men who are engaged in similar work. They are both building houses and it would seem hard to distinguish one house from the other. Much diligence, lots of graft, sweat and perhaps tears have gone into the work.

Watch out! Heavy rain, blowing winds and rising floods and down goes the house without firm foundations. What does it mean to build on a firm foundation? Sinclair B Ferguson says, Obedience to Christ’s word distinguishes the wise man from his foolish neighbour.” 4

Building on a firm foundation means more than just hearing God’s word and being familiar with it. It means putting into practice what we have heard. “Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father.”

Are our lives grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love? Are we obedient to the demands that His Word places upon us? Many who claim to be building on solid ground are often found to be building on sinking sand.

Being Faithful unto Death🔗

Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to “continue in the things which you have learned”, 2 Tim 3: 14. In the face of perilous times that are coming Timothy is to hold on to the truths of Scripture. Keeping the faith until the course is finished is vital in Christian living. We read of some in the Bible who made shipwreck concerning the faith. Demas forsook Paul and the work of the Gospel because he loved the things of the world.

We often come across “Famous Last Words” allegedly spoken by peo­ple of note at the end of their lives. Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, “I am so bored with it all.” Sad words indeed from one old soldier who contributed so much to the cause of freedom and liberty in the 20th cen­tury. For Churchill, it seemed there was little to look forward to.

Listen to the words of another old soldier as he neared the end of his life, “I have kept the faith.” The words of the Apostle Paul, who had constantly fought the good fight of faith and who persevered in the face of much hardship and severe opposi­tion. Paul could see that there lay ahead a crown; he calls it a crown of righteousness. He had fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. As the last hour for Paul ap­proached there was a confidence and an assurance that belongs only to those that long for the appearing of the Saviour on that Day. Godliness, obedience and faithfulness. Necessary characteristics in the Christian life.

Is everything we do marked by Godly fear, obedience and faithful­ness? It ought to be if we are living each hour as though it were our last.

Endnotes🔗

  1. ^ The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, Banner of Truth Trust, 1974 p. xx.
  2. ^ Alistair Cooke, Letter from America 1946­-2004, Penguin, 2004, p.xix.
  3. ^ Principles of Conduct, John Murray, The Tyndale Press, 197 1, p.229. 
  4. ^ The Sermon on the Mount, Sinclair B Fergu­son, Banner of Truth Trust, 1987, p 170.

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