The Value of a Life
There are two conflicting theories, nowadays, as to the origin of man. One theory brings him upward from the ANIMAL, the other, downward from GOD; one gives him an ascent from the ape, the other a descent from the Almighty. I shall waste no time in refuting the first theory. Why need you and I seek to disprove what no man has ever yet proved or will prove? The other theory of man’s origin comes down to us in the oldest book in existence, the Book of Job, which we read from earlier, and tallies exactly with the narrative in the next oldest books, those compiled by Moses: “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” That is the Bibles account of your ancestry and mine.
We make a great deal of ancestry nowadays, but open this Biblical family record and trace your ancestry back to the most august parentage in the universe: One is our Father, God; One our elder brother, Jesus. We all draw lineage from the King of kings and the Lord of lords and therein consists the value and dignity of human life. Look back at the origin of the world. I find that for five days the creative hand of the Almighty is busy in fitting up a residence of what can only be described as palatial splendour. He adorns it; He hollows the seas for man’s highway, raises the mountains for his observatories, stocks the mines for his resources, pours the streams to give him drink, and crops the fields to give him daily bread. The mansion is carpeted in a variety of colours but mostly in green, illuminated with the greater light by day, and lesser lights by night.
Then God comes up to the grandest work of all. When the earth is to be fashioned and the ocean to be poured into its bed, God simply says, “Let them be,” and they are. But come the Sixth day – when man is to be created, and the Godhead seems to make a solemn pause, retires into the recesses of His own tranquillity, looks for a model, and finds it in Himself. “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness…. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…. So God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
No longer a beautiful model, no longer a speechless statue, but now vitalized. Life, that subtle, mysterious thing that no physicist can define, whose hiding place in the body no medical eye has yet found out—life came into the clay structure. It began to breathe, to walk, to think, to feel in the body the soul -“nephesh”: the word is in the Hebrew, it means, in the first place, the breath of life, then, finally, by that immortal essence called the soul.
Now, it is not my intention today to enter into any analysis of this expression, “the spirit,” but speak with you about life, to speak of its value, its preciousness and its power, its rewards and its retributions, life for this world and the far-reaching world beyond it – the life we call eternity. Life is God’s gift; entrusted to you and to me. We are the trustees of the Giver, unto whom at the last we shall render account for every thought, word and deed in the body.
Consider firstly then The Value of a Life.
The birth of a baby is a special event – they will be more trouble than you expected, but also more wonderful than you expected. Someone once wrote that “a Baby is Gods way of saying that the world must go on”! From the frequency of births, as well as the frequency of deaths, we are prone to set a very low estimate on the ushering into existence of a child, unless the child is born
in a palace or a presidential mansion, or some other lofty place.
Unless there be something extraordinary or unusual in the circumstances, we do not attach the importance we ought to the event itself. Yet in the darkest hovel in the land, in the dingiest attic or cellar, or in any place in which a human being sees the first glimpse of light, the eye of the Omniscient God sees it and knows all about it. Even before it see the light of any day, a life is begun, a life that shall never end. Yet we value human life so little nowadays that we may kill the infant in the womb long before it has a chance. God have mercy on us all. A tiny heart begins to throb that shall beat to the keenest delight or the acutest anguish. More than this—a soul commences a journey that shall outlast this planet on which it moves. The soul enters upon an existence that shall be touched by time, but is eternal.
The Scandinavians have a very impressive allegory of human life. They represent it as a tree, At the foot of it sit the Past, the Present, and the Future, watering the roots. But human life is more than plant life, … it is a transcendent, momentous thing, this living human is capable of working, thinking, feeling, loving and so much more. It comes from God; He is its Author and Creator; it should rise then toward God, its Giver, who is alone worthy of being served; that with God it may live forever.
Consider next The Value of a Life’s Work
Man was not created as a piece of guesswork, flung into existence as a waif or stray. There is a purpose in the creation of every human being. God did not breathe the breath of life into you, my friend, that you might be a sensuous or a splendid animal. That soul was given you for a purpose worthy of yourself, still more of your Creator.
What is the purpose of life? Is it advancement? Is it promotion? Is it wealth or fame? Is it merely the pursuit of happiness? Man was created to be happy, of course he was, but to be more—to be holy. The wisdom of those Westminster fathers that gathered in the Jerusalem chamber years ago, worked it into the well-known phrase, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
That is the double aim of life: duty first, then happiness as the consequence; to gather in real value to God, to bring up His kingdom, spread His truth; to bring this whole world, and lay it subject at the feet of the Son of God. That is the highest end and aim of our existence, and every one of you listening who has risen up to that purpose of life – lives. He does not merely vegetate, he does not exist as a higher type of animal: he lives a man’s life on earth, and when he dies he takes a man’s life up to mingle with the loftier life of the awaiting paradise.
The highest goals of manhood and womanhood is to be attained by duty and devotion to Jesus, the Son of God. That is the only way, to employ these powers and insights which you have gained from this sanctuary. That is the only idea of life which you are to take to-morrow into the toils and temptations of the week. That is the only idea of life that you are to carry unto God in your confessions and thanksgivings in the place of prayer. That is the only idea of life on which you are to let the light of eternity fall.
Consider too The Value of a Life’s Example
These powers, these gifts, the wealth earned, the influence imparted, all are to be laid at the feet of Him who gave His life for you. If I were to offer you an example of a well-spent life, I should of course point first to the radiant pathway that led from Bethlehem’s manger to the cross of Calvary. All along that path I read the single purpose of love, all embracing and undying: Jesus said: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me…. I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work thou
gavest me to do.” John 4:34
Next to that life we might place the life begun on the road to Damascus. In the Apostle Paul, without doubt, Christ lived again, with wondrous power, present in the utterances and footsteps of that servant. His word: “For me to live is Christ:” was the master passion of Paul. Whether he ate or drank, gained or lost, worked or suffered, Christ filled his eye and animated every step. The chief end of Paul was to glorify his Saviour; and at the winding-up of his days, he could exclaim, not boastfully, but gladly: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me
a crown of righteousness.” 2 Tim 4:8
Such a man never dies – Paul is as much alive today as he was 2000 years ago and his voice is never silent. In Pulpits and on Platforms today across the world, Preachers will speak well of him and desire to run and finish their race, as Paul did. Good men live forever. Old Augustine lives today in the rich discourses inspired by his teachings. John Bunyan lies in Bunhill Fields, but his bright spirit walks on the earth in the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Calvin sleeps at Geneva, and no man knows his grave plot to this day, but his magnificent “Vindication of God’s Sovereignty” will live forever. We hail him as in one sense an ancestor of our beliefs. Charles Wesley slumbers beside the City Road Chapel; his dead hand rings ten thousand Methodist church bells around the globe. Isaac Watts is dead, but in the chariot of his hymns tens of thousands of spirits ascend today in majestic devotion; and Abraham Lincoln’s breath still breathes through the life of the nation to which, under God, he gave a new birth of freedom. The heart of a good man or a good woman never dies. Why, it is infamy to die and not be missed.
Live, my dear friend, live as the brother or sister of Jesus,
live as a fellow worker with Christ in God’s errands.
Consider next The Value of Life’s Consequences.
This world, with its curtaining of light, its embroideries of the heavens, and its carpeting of grass, is a solemn vestibule to eternity. This world on which you exhibit your nature this very day, is the porch of heaven or the gateway of hell. Here you may be laying up treasures through Christ and for Christ, to make you as a millionaire to all eternity.
Here too, by simply refusing to listen, by rejecting the cross, by grieving the Holy Spirit, you may kindle a flame that shall consume and give birth to a worm of remorse that shall prey on your soul forever and ever. In this brief twenty years, thirty, or forty, (and even if He give you seventy) you must, without mistake, settle a question, the consequence of which shall lift you to the indescribable heights of rapture or plunge you to the depths of darkness and despair.
I am an infant at the thought of the word “eternity”; I have racked this brain of mine, in its poverty and its weakness, and have not the faintest conception of it, any more than I have of the omnipresence of God; yet one is as real as the other, and you and I will go on in the continuation of any existence that would only have begun were you to transport every grain of sand from these Ulster shores to the shores of America, (one by one) and then bring them all back, eternity I say would only have begun – It is overpowering.
How momentous, then, is life! How great its possession! what responsibility in its very breath! what a crime to waste it! what a glory to consecrate it! what a magnificent outcome when it shall shuffle off this mortal coil, and break itself free from its entanglements, and burst into the presence of its Giver and its God and rise into all the glories of life everlasting!
In view of that, what a solemn thing it is for me to preach God’s word, and to stand between the living and the dead! And in view of life, its preciousness and power, its far-reaching rewards and punishments, let me say here, in closing, that there are some practical considerations that should be pressed home on us and carried out by us:
The first practical thought is, how careful you and I ought to be to protect and preserve life. The neglect of our health is a sin; it is an insult to God; it is tampering with the most precious trust He bestows. The care of life is a religious duty. A great deal of your happiness depends on it, and I can tell you, that a great deal of your spiritual growth and capacity for usefulness depends on the manner in which you treat this marvellous mechanism of the body. Your Spiritual life is affected by the condition of the body in which the spirit tabernacles or resides.
Any one that recklessly impairs, imperils and weakens bodily powers by bad hours, unwholesome diet, poisonous stimulants and the like, is a suicide; they are shortening life by years and impairing its powers every day.
Once more I emphasize life, its preciousness and powers, its rewards and its retributions. And yet, what a vapour, what a flight of an arrow, what a tale that is told! Short, yet infinite in its reach and its retribution! When life is represented as an arrow-flight or as a vapour, it is not that it may be under-rated in its infinite importance, but only that we may be enlightened to the right sense of its brevity.
James reminds us that like a vapour “it appears for a little time and then vanishes away” James 4:14. At the end of it for every unbelieving soul is the great white throne, and the decisions of Gods judgment. Some of you, turning from this message today, may say it was nothing more than a reminder of an eternity to come. Yet because of the heart God has given me for your eternal well-being, I urge you to consider the possibility of your time running out soon, and your entering of eternity much earlier than you expected. So I need to ask you to …
Consider …The Abruptness of Life’s End.
Walk through any Cemetery, and look at the head stones, ponder the inscriptions and you will discover that death, and sudden death is no respecter of persons or ages. True, we expect most to live out their days and enjoy the benefits and blessings God has in store, but the tragedy and the reality is that this does not happen for all – it is not guaranteed. Death takes Children, it takes teen-agers, it takes young adults – as it takes old men?
So again I say, life is the porch of eternity, the only one we shall ever have; and you are to decide now whether it shall be the uplift from strength to strength, from glory to glory, until you come face to face with Jesus and live with him for ever, OR the plunge downward and deeper downward to darkness and eternal death – until you are separated from God and from every Good thing for ever. The choice is yours. God sends no one to Hell, hell was not made for people, it was made for the Devil and his angels. But Mans rejection of the one who came to “seek and to save the lost” – mans rejection of the way of Salvation, his rejection of Jesus Christ as Sin bearer, and Saviour and Friend will ultimately mean one thing, … HELL!
So what value have you put on your life, how much is it worth?
Jesus said: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26. Have you sold your soul to the Devil. Have you exchanged your eternal well-being for a few fleeting pleasures in this life, for a few so called friends who would drop you tomorrow if you weren’t always buying the rounds? Have you sold out to your social standing, or to how folks think of you? You don’t want religion in your life, you don’t want God now, maybe later, Preacher give me a break!
But this is your break – God has given you time, every moment of every day right up to this day, God has been patient with you, loving you, caring for you, reaching out to you, knocking at the door, waiting on your response. That’s the value of your life to him! You can’t control the length of your life, but you can have something to say about its width and its depth.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
I return in conclusion to Job 33:4 where we read:
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Do you realize that the only thing you can be sure of in this life, is the breath you are taking NOW. Let me illustrate the significance of the NOW with this thought. There are two days in every week about which we should not worry—two days which should be kept free from any fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday, with its mistakes and cares, its aches and pains, its faults and blunders. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said; we cannot rectify a single mistake. Yesterday has passed forever beyond recall. Let it go.
The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow, with its possible adversities, its burdens, its possibilities or outlook. Tomorrow also is beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise either in splendour or behind a bunch of clouds—but it will rise. And until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, because it is as yet unborn.
That leaves us but one day—Today! And we can do what’s right today – NOW – with Gods help.
Thoughts of Yesterday and Tomorrow are futile. Let us therefore resolve to think no more than one day at a time.
So value your soul today as God treasures it, and don’t loose it
when you’ve taken your last breath here.
God Bless You. Amen