Letter from Gerard O’Brien

What is the rest of my life for?

Dear Friends,

So you’re a Christian. Maybe you started following Jesus two weeks ago. Maybe you started two decades ago. At some point we all ask ourselves, ‘What is the rest of my life for?’

We know our present existence will finish in one of two ways: either we die or Jesus returns before we die. But what are these few decades we have in this world for? Do we just follow the pattern of the world around us? Get educated, get a job, get a spouse, get a home, get kids, get a retirement, get a coffin? Or is there something more to the here and now?

There are three passages I often read to remind myself of what I’m here for and I thought it might be helpful to share them with you.

In 2 Peter 3:9, there are people who accuse Jesus of being slow to return. The apostle replies, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.’ We are living in a time of God’s patience. This is the day of salvation. There will come a time when it is too late. But this is the time when people have opportunity to turn to Jesus and find forgiveness. And if we ask, ‘Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet?’, it’s because God is patiently waiting for all of his people (‘you’ in 2 Peter) to come to repentance. This present age isn’t about education or occupation or accumulation, it is about God’s patience for people to come to him. And so as Christians, our purpose is caught up in that – longing for people to come to repentance. This leads to the next verse.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gives you your mission statement: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ Jesus sends us to make disciples. A modern word for ‘disciples’ could be ‘students’ or ‘pupils’ or ‘apprentices’ or ‘learners’. We are sent into the world as ‘learners of Jesus’ to make more ‘learners of Jesus’. This is why opening the Bible with each other is so important – that is where we learn from Jesus. We are part of a bigger purpose in this world: making disciples of the nations. Of course we do this in God’s strength (Jesus says in the preceding verse ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ And he reminds us in the following verse ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’)

Making ‘learners of Jesus’ is a very meaningful endeavour. In Philippians 1:23–25, the apostle Paul said he was ‘hard pressed’ between his desire to die and be with his saviour, and the goodness of continuing in this life. But it’s fascinating why Paul wanted to continue in this life (surely being with Jesus is better!) He says ‘I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.’ That’s what the next few decades of life are for (if God grants them to you): to continue with others for their progress and joy in the faith. This could be brothers and sisters in Christ at church: thinking how we can help them progress and rejoice in Jesus. Or it could be people who don’t yet know Christ: how we can teach them about Jesus so they might become disciples and progress and rejoice in him.

And so I’ll close by encouraging you with the words of 1 Corinthians 15:58: ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’

Your brother in Christ,

Gerard O’Brien