A Short Time to Live

A few years ago I was returning to Jackson by air from a meeting in the western part of the country. I connected in Dallas for the final flight to Jackson. Sitting comfortably in the plane after takeoff, I waited for the hour-long flight to be concluded. As the flight approached Jackson to land, something unusual took place in that the plane lifted back up and circled away from the airport. It was at that point the pilot came over the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry but we’re going to have to return to Dallas.” He went on to explain that the landing gear would not lock in place and the instrument readout was that they would be unable to land the plane in the usual way. He further gave us information that we were going to go back to Dallas because there weren’t enough fire trucks and emergency equipment at the Jackson airport in case the plane crash-landed.

After receiving that information, you can imagine the buzz and the stir on the plane as we tried to stay calm and talk to each other. We were on the way back to where we had just left, in order to be taken care of after the possible crash-landing. We talked a little bit back and forth and then there was an unusual silence on the plane, as it began to set into all of our hearts that this may be the last 50-60 minutes of life for us. As we flew on, many of us began to try to process what could be the last hour we would spend on this earth. Maybe we had just a short time to live. What do we do and how do we think through that process?

There are a number of instances in the Bible where people face the conclusion of life. In Luke 12, Jesus told of a rich farmer who had such big harvests he couldn’t get everything in his barns, so he tore down the barns to build something greater. He quickly filled up the new barns, and life was good — except God said in verse 20, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be?” He was abruptly facing the conclusion of his life. Here are three vital questions that somewhat arose not only out of that Scripture but out of my own experience in the airplane that day:

n How much time do you have left to live? The average person living in America lives to be 78.9 years old. The uncertainty of all that is, you do not know if you’re going to be one who will bring the national average down or up. It is worth stopping to ponder that if this is indeed your very last hour or day, what would you do and what would you feel impressed of God to do before the time ran out? I thought about that when we were flying back to Dallas, but of course I was buckled into an airplane seat with nowhere to go. About the only decision I could make was whether I would drink Coca-Cola or coffee. I did think about how much time I possibly had left and realized, every once in a while when I looked at my watch, that I was quickly moving from 50 minutes left to 40 minutes and then only 30.

n What have you done with the days God has given you? While we all want to live longer, the truth is that if God gave us another year or five years or ten, probably the pattern of what we’ve been doing for the last decade is the pattern we’ll follow for the next decade. I asked that question to myself in the airplane and I ask you to think about it, too. What have you done with the days that God has given you? Have you been faithful in serving the Lord and living for Him? Have you found places where you need to reevaluate and readjust your life and lifestyle in order to be more in line with where God wants you to be? Have you recognized that maybe you’ve failed to trust in Jesus, and you want to give your life to Him? The good news is that if you’ve not yet done that, you have right now to do it. 

n Where will you be when this life is over? However much time you’ve already spent or however much time you still have is not nearly as important as where you will be when your earthly life concludes. The Bible only has two destinies that are described by God. One is heaven and the other is hell. God makes provisions for us to miss hell and to have heaven forever, but He places the burden of responsibility upon each one of us to say yes or no to Jesus as Lord of our lives. Scripture says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). You can be ready to live because you are ready to die.

We made it back to Dallas that day and as we descended toward the runway, it was lined with the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, fire trucks and all kinds of equipment, waiting on us to crash-land. We didn’t. In fact, they discovered that after they put down the landing gear in Dallas and we landed without incident, it was the sensor on the landing gear that was having a problem, not the landing gear itself. Later that day I flew back to Jackson on another airplane. I was thrilled that we didn’t have to crash-land in Dallas, but remember this as I was reminded that day: Wherever life concludes and your last hour is spent, you can know today and forever that you belong to the Lord.

The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer