The Measure of a Life

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There are different ways to measure things. Pastor George Raley told about a little boy who excitedly announced to his mother that he had grown to 7 feet tall. She asked the 4 foot tall boy why he thought his height was 7 feet. He said, “I measured my foot. Then I figured how many of my feet tall I am – and I am one inch short of 7 feet!” The little guy’s foot was 7 inches long, and measuring a 48-inch tall boy, by a 7-inch foot, he was exactly right! Results in measurements always depend on your measuring device.

“How far do you live from Little Rock?” a man asked me. I told him, “About 90 miles.” But I could answer the question in a different way. The distance is 90 miles, but measured by time, the distance is relative—that is, relative to who is driving the car! See, Little Rock is closer to Monticello when my wife drives. I mean, Little Rock doesn’t move, but Pat does!

See: Measurements are directly related to the measuring device you use. It is the same in the measure of a life. Every person’s life can be measured in several different ways.

Consider these life-measuring tools:

  • The Measure of Possessions

Many people make the mistake of figuring the value of life based on the amount of their possessions. But life is much more than personal assets. Life is not measured by ownership of houses, land, CD’s and automobiles. Some would consider the materially prosperous as, really living, or of possessing the good life. But, even to the casual observer it is obvious that sickness, suicide, drug dependencies and broken homes happen to the rich and poor alike. Life is not found in a bottle or in a bank.

Jesus said, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The satisfaction that can be found in things is often short-lived. Solomon, one of the world’s wealthiest men, knew from experience that “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). The possession of things just does not satisfy. It is said that someone asked the wealthy, John D. Rockefeller, “How much is enough?” to which he replied, “Just a little more.” Life is not measured by possessions.

  • The Measure of Longevity

God created life, formed it, and allows it to end. Though length of life is a great concern to men, it is of small consequence to God. Even at the longest, human life is brief. Job said days of life fly by, “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6) and are, “swifter than a runner” (Job 9:25). The Psalmist said, “My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass” (Psalm 102:11). Isaiah compared the length of a person’s life “as a shepherd’s tent” that is here today and gone tomorrow (Isaiah 38:12). Our lives are also like, “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

That may seem depressing, but it should be motivating. When David lamented, that his days were “as handbreadths” and that “every man at his best is a mere breath” (Psalm 39:5), he realized the brevity of life in a new way. A handbreadth was the spread of the hand, a palm breadth, not the finger span. Even a lengthy life is not very long. We need to make our days count for God.

Howard Hendricks, a long-time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, used to say that life is not measured by duration, but by donation. Some of the most influential people in my life did not live long, but affected my life and others in powerful ways.

If the measure of life is not possessions or longevity, then what is the true measure of life?

  • The Measure of God’s Purpose

The important question is, are you seeking God’s will in your life? The man or woman, who accomplishes God’s purpose, reaches a full measure of life and living, no matter what they possess, nor how long they live. That is what Moses meant when he wrote, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years…for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10), “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (verse 12). Numbering your days means to make them count—to be wise—to live with purpose.

Paul shared how Christians are to “be careful how you walk. . . redeeming the time. . . understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). He said two things will make your life count:

First – You must be careful how you live. The KJV says to walk “circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Reaching God’s purpose in your life means living a resolute, determined Christian life. It is the kind Paul said was to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1).

Second – You must seek to know and do God’s will. Paul wrote, “do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.” If progress toward God’s purpose is an accurate measure of life, then to understand and obey God’s will for your life is the best step toward the good life.

Living according to God’s purpose in life is what Jesus meant when He said, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

You can enjoy a wonderful life if you will live it according to God’s will and purpose.

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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