While looking through family pictures, I noticed pictures when I was two, then in school, in the army, in college, just married to Daniela, with small children, with our sons at their weddings, and then found myself looking at the pictures of Daniela and me with our grandchildren. I have gray hair now! Wow, how did time go so fast?
I remember when my dad would take me on walks through a cemetery across from our apartment building in Romania, especially in the spring when it was full of flowers. One time, while reading the epitaphs, my dad asked me, “What do you think is the most important thing on this stone?” I told him I did not know. He underlined the dash between the birth and death years and said, “Jesus is coming soon. How you use this short dash is all that matters; it decides your eternity.”
How do you spend it?
How you spend that dash is who you are. But how do you know who you really are? How do you test whether you really are a child of God? Is it because you work for Him? What stresses you? How much quality time do you spend with God? What do you think of when you go to sleep and wake up?
We spend most of our dash focusing on what makes us happy, satisfied, even comfortable. But is that what God wants us to do? Paul said that he considered all things a loss, even garbage, for the price of knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:8). We must focus on Jesus to the degree that all other things pale; they lose value, they look like garbage, compared to the desire for Jesus. Unless you consider all things a loss, Jesus will say to you: “I don’t know you. You may have tried to serve Me, even preached in My churches, but I don’t know you because you don’t know Me.”
Author Ellen White writes, “Some, I saw, who profess to be the followers of Jesus, are so ambitious to obtain earthly things that they lose their love for heaven, act like the world, and are accounted of God as of the world. They profess to be seeking an immortal crown, a treasure in the heavens; but their interest and principal study is to acquire earthly treasures. Those who have their treasures in this world, and love their riches, cannot love Jesus.”1 Did you catch that? If you treasure anything of this world, you cannot love Jesus.
What’s your priority?
Unless you make your relationship with Him a priority, unless you use this short passing of time to focus on Him, you waste your dash. Do not pray and study as a duty or just to prepare a sermon; do it to know Him personally; do it with a driving thirst and hunger for Him. “If you would have the rich treasures of heaven, you must hold secret communion with God. Unless you do this, your soul will be as destitute of the Holy Spirit as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. When you hurry from one thing to another, when you have so much to do that you cannot take time to talk with God, how can you expect power in your work?”2
They don’t mix
Do not try to mix God with your interests and plans; they don’t mix. You must consider all a loss and focus on Him. If you try to do both your own agenda and God’s agenda, you will lose both. If you try to save something, you will lose it. “ ‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ ” (Matt. 16:25, NKJV). Whatever you surrender, give up, give to Him; that’s what He can preserve, bless, and multiply. Whatever you try to preserve and keep, you lose.
The reason we often have no power, growth, or success is because we try to mix things—have both the things of this life and things eternal, too. We struggle to fully surrender and renounce all things. Seek first God and His kingdom, and God promises all other things will be provided (Matt. 6:33).
How can you lead others to go where you haven’t been yourself?
You can never lead others to surrender if you have not experienced that yourself. In my former churches, I called people to full commitment to prayer, Bible study, and service/mission. We all made serious commitments, even though many did not know what would happen to their businesses, jobs, and even their homes if they did so. Among other things, we conducted many seminars and evangelistic series. At the end of the year, many gave powerful testimonies. All testimonies had something in common: people were all blessed spiritually, their families were blessed, and they all experienced blessings in their businesses, too. While they spent more time with God and serving God, they could clearly see God’s hand in their lives. While this is not a promise of prosperity, God’s Word is clear: seek Him first.
God is calling the shepherds—you—to lead by example. And only when you intimately know God can you lead others to Him. Jesus is coming soon! And He is calling you as a leader to make Him a priority today and every day. You must do that first before you call others to do it.
- Ellen G. White, Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1922), 164.
- Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1915), 272.