Your Expiration Date

I was walking through the grocery store picking up a few items I was assigned to get. As I was putting them in the buggy, I noticed one of the items had an expiration date. It wasn’t past the date, but it was getting close to the time when the date would run out. It was one of those “best used by” dates or “best sold by” dates. As I walked on through the store, I noticed that not everything but a lot of products have an expiration date. Milk, crackers, packaged turkey all have dates indicating its time of usefulness will eventually run out.

I didn’t start looking for a mirror but I thought, “Do I have one of those expiration dates on me, a “best used by” stamped on my forehead or tattooed on my arm? We probably have one somewhere. We just don’t see it. The fact is all of us can fool around in life, wasting precious time and ignoring opportunities until it is too late to do anything about them and the expiration date is crossed and life is over.

It is for sure we actually do have a time frame in which God wants to use us, bless us, and touch others through us, and there is a “best used by” date about which we need to be aware. Of course, all of us need to face the reality that today could be the last day of our earthly lives and thus we should use it wisely by being good stewards of what opportunities God has given us to do this very day. I can tell you this: whether you realize it or not, there are some things in life that have an expiration date on them. Just for our thought process, let me give you three.

One is childrearing. Raising kids doesn’t start just because school has started back or they’ve gotten to high school. You have a small window of opportunities to touch your child and help him or her look to the Lord. It will not happen just through lectures you give them. It will not happen simply because you take them to church occasionally. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” No doubt, day by day by day the regularity of helping, instructing, encouraging, disciplining, loving your child can take its toll on the parenting process. As parents grow older, they sometimes suddenly realize the opportunities to influence their children are about to be gone.

When the Proverbs tell us to train up a child, it’s talking more about the totality of life than about some instructional process by which you dump endless information on your child. Beyond anything of which a parent would be aware, children are looking at how you process life and learning from you as they see you dealing with issues or people or each other. They’re getting messages you oftentimes don’t even know you’re sending. The day will come when those lessons will be a memory out of which your children will either react or function, realizing that what you passed on to them has worth and value.

Of course, the same fact is true when you care for other children in your circle of influence, whether grandchildren or cousins or nieces or nephews. We can make a difference in their lives, too, if we live with an awareness of care and love and encouragement toward them. When it comes to raising kids, there’s a short period of time to influence them for the Lord. Don’t miss that opportunity and suddenly wake up one day to realize that crucial expiration date has run out and they’re off to wherever they’re going in life, whether it’s on to college or career, and you’ve missed the moments you could have spent with them showing love and helping launch them into the rest of their lives.

Another expiration date that seems to be in the Scripture has to do with climate change. I’m not talking about the climate change we hear on the news and how scientists think the earth is warming or cooling or whatever. I’m talking about the climate around you and me. Ponder that thought. The climate that exists around us can be affected and you and I can make a difference in it. Of what am I speaking? Look at what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24. You bring your gift to the altar, “and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. and there remember that your brother hath ought against thee.”

Then, listen to this remarkable word that follows. Jesus said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison” (Matt. 5:25). Jesus is instructing us about changing the climate around us while there is still time, because it can escalate and spiral out of control to the point there is nothing we can do about it.  So, He said, agree with your adversary quickly.  Do what you can to take an explosive situation and make it into a positive experience if you can.

It seems as though in our culture today that when people find an explosive issue, their first impulse is to add fuel and make it explode even bigger. Time and again that seems to be the approach and it is not what Jesus would have us to do. The harsh words are followed by even more emotional and heightened expressions. Rather than helping solve problems, we explode problems. The fact is that there is a window of opportunity when there are difficulties and problems that come up and maybe even disagreements between people, that something positive can be done. It doesn’t mean you can solve every issue. It doesn’t even mean you can agree on every point that’s expressed, but you don’t have to escalate the issue. You can de-escalate the rhetoric and heated emotions — some of the hatred, even — and use a small window of opportunity to change the climate.

Jesus instructs us to do it quickly, to make things right, better, or good, before it is too late and there is nothing left that can be done. How many marriages would be saved if those verses were put into effect in the relationship? How many friendships would be secured, blessed, and continued to be a joy if we just simply did what Jesus told us to do rather than doing what we feel at the moment. How many churches would not be in the chaotic condition in which they are, if when conflict or awkwardness or misunderstandings take place we would act before the expiration date came and went, when it’s too late to help change anything and all we have is an explosive mess on our hands.

One other area that has an expiration date is what I would simply describe as “conclusion securing.” I’m talking about the end of life, when eternity is ahead. There comes a day when all the opportunities to make things right with each other — but supremely with God — passes by and you have no more opportunities ahead. Repeatedly, Scripture tells us we need to turn to God while there is time. Today is one of those days you can take action, look to Jesus, trust Him as Lord and Savior, and make things right with God. If you die tonight, peace will be in your heart. If it’s twenty years until you meet your Maker, peace will still be in your heart. If it’s fifty years in the making, fine. Live out your life serving Christ and know the peace that passes all understanding. Life does conclude. There is an expiration date. “It is appointed unto to men once to die” (Heb. 9:27). You can be ready when that day arrives because you made ready this day.

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer