Summary: This life is not forever. However, it is important- very important, in light of where we’re going.
Life is a Temporary Assignment
Purpose Driven Life #6
September 6, 2003
We don’t want it to be, but life on earth is a temporary assignment, and this brings some perspective to what we do and how we live that might be different from what we have if we think we’ll go on forever. I don’t really think that most people think they’ll go on forever; they simply push mortality out of the way and don’t focus on it until they have to. Maybe we’re all the same way, though.
I remember some of the earliest times I had to face mortality. I remember when our neighbour drowned himself and Dad came home from being part of the group dragging the dugout to find Percy Hutchinson’s body. I remember the sadness that affected our community area, as his children, who had been left without a mother from cancer awhile earlier, became true orphans. Even though they were all teens- 3 years older than me- they were still so alone and went forward together, with a lot of help from the community. Then there was the death of Charles Anderson- the son of our Sunday school superintendent at Carroll United Church. He was a handsome young man, 18 years of age, had been drinking and barreled off the road and hit the steel culvert and died instantly. In a church community that didn’t drink, that was scandalous, of course, and his parents ended up leaving the community so they could better cope. But he wasn’t all that much older than me, and he was no more. Then there was Pam Duncan. She was a gorgeous young lady and part of my high-school graduating class. We spent time together working on chemistry labs and trying to help her with Math, which she wasn’t strong in, but needed, in our University Entrance Class. We graduated and within 3 years of that, she was dead- only 21 or so- from leukemia.
At 21, you don’t think of being mortal- you’re supposed to have 60 years still ahead, and most, in Canada, at least, do. But she didn’t and Charles didn’t and Percy, who was already an adult, of course, didn’t. For differing reasons, they were ‘gone’, as we say.
Job 8.9- tells us that our days on earth are transient. This thought can drive us to depression, if we allowed it, but God tells us a lot more than that about our lives. What He tells us is very encouraging, too.
First, compared to eternity, life here is extremely brief. Secondly, earth is only a temporary residence. David asked God to help him properly gauge his life here, and here are the words he used:
Psa. 39.4- he sought understanding. He sought to understand so he could live properly in the reality of life. So need we to be able to do.
God compares life on earth to temporarily living in a foreign country. Here is not your permanent home or final destination. You’re just passing through and just visiting earth. God calls you an alien, pilgrim, foreigner, stranger, visitor, and traveler.
Psa. 119.19- foreigner on earth
1 Pet. 1.17- temporary residents of earth
Most countries allow ways for people to live in them without being citizens. People who move to Canada, but who are not citizens, are called ‘Landed Immigrants’. In the United States, they are called Resident Aliens-, which conjures up images of green, antennae, and the like, to me. These have special papers given to them that confirm their right to live in a country, although they are not citizens. Christians- you and me- are only landed immigrants on earth- we are resident aliens- this is not our home. Our home is not here.
Phil. 3.19-20- we are citizens of heaven! That is our country. Believers understand that there is more to life than just the few years that we live on this planet. Your identity is in eternity, and your homeland is heaven.
What does this reality do for you? Among other things, it gives perspective on ‘stuff’ and acquirement here. A lot of people are caught up with having it all right now, so they try to have the house, the car, the clothes, the job, and everything in perfection now. However, we don’t have to. This doesn’t have to be our quest and doesn’t have to dominate our priorities and lifestyles. Without question, we are to do well what we do here- God tells us that. But He doesn’t tell us that we’re going to reach all peaks here and now.
There is a concept that Paul uses that really defines our role right now.
2 Cor. 5.20- ambassadors for Christ.
Ambassador Paul Celluci, US ambassador to Canada, has been in the news a bit of late. With the war in Iraq, our stand on marijuana legalization, and the potential legalization of gay marriages, where our country is taking quite a different position than the US, the ambassador has made some statements that might have been better not to make, or might well have been just fine, within the freedom he has as ambassador.