"WISDOM OF LIVING (41) EMPTY SPACE" By Pastor YAU
Text: 2 Timothy 4:7-8 January 15, 2006
- A true story: Ann Landers, a popular columnist, had written advice on everyday life for more than 1,200 newspapers over 40 years. When she and her husband divorced after a long and once-good marriage, she requested the editors of those papers to leave some empty space at the end of her article that day as a memorial of a marriage "that didnít make it to the finish line." I am sure most of the readers could feel how regretful she must be when she wrote her article that day.
- A timely warning: Most of us, if not all, understand that life is not always a smooth ride. There are times when things happen not exactly the way we expect them to. Some of those things we never have control but others we do. The fact that we regret on things we do have control but chose either not to do them or simply because of procrastination would certainly leave us feeling empty on the inside---some empty space in our lives.
WHY EMPTY SPACE?
- We mix up priorities: No one on earth may have all the time or energy to do all the things he/she wants to do. We can only do the things we deem to be important or necessary with the limited amount of time and resource. That is where priority comes into place. When we have our priority mixed up, we tend to choose doing things that are not really important or necessary leaving things that are. When too many of those things we should do but didnít get done accumulated, there will be a sense of emptiness on the inside---the blank space of life.
- We miss opportunities: Many stories or parables were told on the importance of catching opportunities when they are within our reach. Opportunity is one of those things we have little control but have the "opportunity" to make the best use of them if we are wise and alert enough to do so. Often times, we are engulfed in minute and routine affairs that we are blinded of the coming opportunity and we just allow them to slip through our fingers. This is very important to our relationship, career, family, emotional balance and many areas of life. When we missed the opportunity, there is an empty space inside us that leave us with regret.
- We have too much pride: Many broken relationships could have been restored if one side could just let go of the pride and take the first step of reconciliation. Pride blocks people from going to the other side and extend love and grace that certainly will melt the ice between people: parents and children, spouses, siblings, friends and even people in the church. Pride stops us from doing what we always want to do: to repair or restore that broken relationship that used to mean so much to us. Often time it is until too late that we feel so regretful and that is empty space in our life.
- We think we still have time: Procrastination is another big problem that causes blank space in our lives. We always believe we still have time to do what we know it is important until there is no time: people move away, pass away, the ditch of separation is too deep or hearts have hardened beyond human efforts. Many parents know the importance to spending more time with their children, but jobs and other things took precedents until kids have grown up so much that they no longer want to talk to you. The blank space left by our own children is painful to take.
- We are too self-centered: All people are capable of being self-centered, not just those who think they are better than others. Many of us are tempted to only care about ourselves. Not all these kind of people will make it to the top but even if they do, there is no one to share their success, glory, pride, wealth or anything else. That is the real blank space in life to have no one sharing whatever you may have and worth sharing.
WHAT EMPTY SPACE? We create blank or empty space in life by:
- The empty space of love withheld: Withholding love creates empty space in both sides: you and the other person. God has created us with capacity to love and to receive love. When love is with held, it becomes congested in our hearts and leaves that empty space in others unfulfilled. We all know the importance of love in our lives and that of others. When we hold back our love, for whatever reason we may find to justify, it hurts and creates empty space in hearts that will never be complete.
- The empty space of grace not given: Christians should fully understand the importance of grace in our lives because we are the very recipients of grace of God. Grace is about forgiving, letting go, forgetting and accepting. When we treat others without a touch of grace that keeps us from forgiving each other, let go of the grudges against people who are suppose closet to us. When our heart is empty of grace it becomes the fertile ground bitterness and even hatred.
- The empty space of good not done: Most people, especially those of us who are saved by the grace of God, have the inherent desire to do good: we want to be good, to do good and to bring good results on things we do. But when we, for one reason or another, do not do what is good in our job, relationship, family, friendship, we create in us that empty space feeling incomplete and unworthy.
- The empty space of not being right: People who call Christians have been given the knowledge and desire to be right, to do right and have a right relationship God and people. But when we compromise our sense of right for selfish gain or sinful desires, there is an empty space yarning for change and for fulfillment of do right and be right. Our conscience will not let us go until we correct the wrong with right. Be right is not for others but for yourself.
- The empty space of duty left undone: Since the day God created the world, men were given the opportunity to fulfill responsibility or duty as part of Godís design to keep things going properly. When duties were not done, people and things around fall into problems even chaos. Keeping duties done demonstrates the quality and value of the person. You will feel empty when you donít fulfill your duties.
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE: Not everyone could look back on his life when he is old and feels that he has done all he needs to do and have no empty space in between. That is how Paul felt about his life when he wrote to Timothy. Letís examine some of the reasons on how did he achieve such a success and fulfillment and may be we could do the same.
- He had a clear purpose of life: More than once, Paul expressed the reason of his life is to fulfill a call received from the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. His life is a life of purpose and mission. Whatever he did, he did it to fulfill that purpose God gave him. The purpose God gave him served as the guiding light for his life.
- He had a steadfast commitment to his call: In more than one occasion, Paul claimed that he would not and could not abandon the call God had given him. Even under much pressure to give up his call, facing tremendous persecution and suffering, he continued to live what he was called to. He did not surrender to problems or setbacks. He was determined to finish what he was called to do.
- He was determined to remain faithful: Being faithful is being truthful to your responsibility: you believe in what you are doing and do all you can to get it done. This takes more than just knowing your purpose of life or having some kind of commitment. It takes hard word, determination and endurance to pursue and press on what you are called to do.
- He kept pushing forward: With all the virtues and merits in the life of Paul, he never had smooth sail in his endeavor. There were many circumstances he might quit, give up, fold his hands and say to God, "Enough is enough." Yet he wrote that "I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." (Phil. 3:13)
- His secret power: In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Paul revealed his secret of power to keep pushing forward by saying "but we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and nor from usÖ" There are times human power is far from adequate to achieve our goals. It is of supreme importance that we stay close, connected and consistent with God that He may continue to use us to finish the tasks He has called us to do.
CONCLUSION: At the royal banquet set by Pharaoh, king of the most powerful Egyptian kingdom at the time, in honor of Jacob, father of the most honored and trusted Joseph, Pharaoh asked Jacob of his age. With all the memory of failure and sadness on too much empty space in his life, he said, "The years of my pilgrimage are 130. My years have been few and bitter of evil."(KJV) Jacob felt that way because there were things he wished he wouldnít have done and things he wished he could have done better. But it was all too late to do them over again.
- Donít leave any space of life empty: Follow Paulís example to live your life to the fullest extend. Donít leave any space empty that certainly would cause you to regret and feel sad later. We only live once. Make the best of the opportunities God allows you to have.
- While you still have the chance: Eternal life is the most important thing anyone could ask. Through the sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus had prepared that for all who will believe in Him and accept His gift. Make that important decision NOW that you wonít feel regret and despaired at the end of your life. Donít leave any empty space in your spiritual life.