A German woman walked around for weeks with a lottery ticket worth nearly $40 million in her purse. After finally cashing in her ticket, the mother of one said, “I still get dizzy at the thought that I carelessly carried almost thirty-three million euros around in my purse for several weeks.” It’s unclear how she eventually discovered she was a millionaire thirty-nine times over from her winnings.
The Fox News article adds, “Billions of dollars in lottery winnings go unclaimed every year in the US alone, according to experts.” If this woman had thrown out the ticket or died before reclaiming it, she would have been in their number.
The only ticket you have
One of the best ways to live fully in the present is to live every day ready for eternity. We will “cash in our ticket” when we recognize the fact that this is the only “ticket” we have, the only day we are guaranteed.
However, it’s extremely countercultural to live for heaven while on earth. Our consumeristic culture is constantly trying to sell us products that promise to make tomorrow better than today. Western culture views history as a line on a page with the implicit promise that progress is inevitable.
Darwinian evolution promotes the assumption that we are constantly evolving and improving. Medical and scientific innovations have obviously improved our daily lives over the years; it is reasonable to expect that future years will be even better in this regard.
But none of this changes the fact that “you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4:14).
5 keys to living each day with transforming purpose
David’s prayer is therefore one we should emulate: “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (Psalm 39:4).
Here we discover five life principles:
One: We do not know how fleeting our lives truly are. Most of us think we have more time than we do. Few of us are ready for the end to come for ourselves or for someone we love. We tell ourselves that it may be next week or next month, but not today.
Two: This is a prayer because we need God to reveal this fact to us. By contrast, Satan wants us to ignore our mortality so we will put off preparing for eternity until it is too late. As C. S. Lewis noted in The Screwtape Letters, our enemy believes that “the safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Three: If we will not ask God to show us our mortality every day, he cannot answer our prayer. He must then use other means to show us our constant need for his provision. He deals with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must.
Four: If we do not make this our prayer, we are likely to live without the urgency that godliness requires. Our fallen human nature will inevitably compartmentalize our lives into “my” time and “God’s” time. But every moment we live outside his purpose is a moment wasted for eternity.
Five: If we do make David’s prayer ours, God will always answer it. John Wesley testified, “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit.” I am confident he could say this because he prayed for this gift and outcome.
This world is not your home
In our frantic, always-connected world, David’s prayer is more relevant than ever.
The Lord clearly answered his prayer, for David recorded his response in the next verses: “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!” (vv. 5–6).
In verse 12 he added, “I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.”
What a powerful and relevant metaphor this is. If I am a guest in a home, I will not think to make it my permanent dwelling. I will live in it with purpose while I reside there, doing what I came to do while preparing for what I will do when I leave.
Are you an “owner” or a “guest” in this world today?