One of my friends has a wonderful townhouse on the beach in Destin, Florida. He graciously allows my family to spend a week there every year. In the mornings, I love to sit on the deck and watch the waves rolling in to shore. This year, the folks along the beach were consumed with building sand castles. These were not your every day, run-of-the-mill sandcastles either. They were epic! They were huge fortresses with towers and moats. Some had decorative designs and flags. A group of adults, with no kids in sight, built the nicest one! When I complimented them on their architectural masterpiece, they assured me their next project would far surpass it.
When I retired to our townhouse at the close of the day, I would gaze across the beach and see dozens of sand structures proudly guarding the coastline. But as I surveyed the beach each morning, I was struck by how clear and smooth it had become. All night long the waves steadily, relentlessly swept the coastline clean. The beauty of the sand structures or the amount of time people had invested in them did not matter. The next day, people began erecting new fortresses and palaces destined for the same fate as those that had gone before.
Scripture warns, “Each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:13-14). The average person who begins working full-time right out of high school will work approximately 94,000 hours over the course of his or her career. In addition, people invest thousands of hours in various activities and projects on weekday evenings and weekends. The potential contribution of one person is enormous.
Unfortunately, many people are lured or lulled into investing their life in activities the waves of time will ultimately wash away. Many businesspeople neglect their family while feverishly climbing the corporate ladder. One day they will receive a brief retirement party and return home to a family in tatters. Others may invest their free time in hobbies and pleasures but neglect to invest in God’s kingdom. At the close of their life they will have closets filled with personal trophies and projects but nothing to present to their King.
So how do you develop a life that is immune to the shifting tides of time? Build with the tide in mind. Focus on what lasts. People who selfishly invest their life in themselves will ultimately discover that self-centered living is extremely dissatisfying (Just ask Ebenezer Scrooge). Make sure you are not investing solely in temporary pursuits. Your career is not eternal. Neither are your pleasures and hobbies. While there is nothing sinful about giving time to these, be cognizant of the fact that they will not survive the relentless waves of time. On the other hand, Jesus promised that whatever we bound on earth would be bound in heaven (Matt. 16:19).
Few things are more demoralizing than knowing our life made no difference to other people. Such a belief has inspired countless suicides. I have had the sad experience of learning that things I invested my time in no longer exist. I have invested in churches and in numerous programs that have been washed away by the waves of time. People, on the other hand, are eternal. When you find yourself too busy for people, it’s time to wake up and adjust your focus.
How long will it take before your life’s investment is washed away? A day? A year? Ten years? An eternity?