An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

Tim McGraw won a Grammy Sunday night for his hit song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” The song is about a man in his 40s who discovers he has a short time to live. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he goes out and has every kind of positive experience he can with whatever time he has left.

The power of the song comes as this man ironically discovers a joy in life such as he’s never had, even though he knows his time is short. His piercing words are challenging: “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

I don’t know whether McGraw’s song has the power to change lives, but it has a powerful message to those who live life as if they will never die. If we live as if we will never die, our lives need to be changed, because chances are we are living for the temporal and not for the eternal.

Every day we exchange part of our lives for something. According to William E. Thorn, a man who lives 70 years can expect to spend 23 years and four months of it asleep and 19 years and eight months at work. He will spend 10 years and two months in religion and recreation, six years and 10 months eating and drinking, six years in traveling, four years in illness and two years getting.

If the average television consumption is 20 hours per week, a person living 70 years spends more than eight years in front of the television.

Would we change the way we live if we knew we were dying? Guess what–we’re all dying. Every day we inch closer to the grave. Sooner or later, the obituary column will carry our names.

McGraw is on to something with his song. If we lived like we were dying, many of the things we view as important would become trivial. If we lived like we were dying, many of the things we never get around to doing, we would do.

McGraw sings, “I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t/ and I became a friend a friend would like to have/ and all of a sudden going fishin’/wasn’t such an imposition/and I went three times that year I lost my Dad/Well, I finally read the Good Book/and I took a good long hard look/at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”

If we lived like we were dying, we’d be less materialistic and more concerned about our fellow man. We’d be less selfish and more giving. We wouldn’t take life for granted. Rather, we’d wake up with thankful hearts for the gift of a single day. We would be less busy and more likely to notice the beauty of a rose or be more willing to sit with older people and hold their hands and listen to them share whatever’s on their minds.

If we lived like we were dying we would be more intentional about saying “I love you,” and we’d try harder to settle our differences with our neighbor. If we lived like we were dying we’d be less concerned about our earthly bank account and more concerned about storing treasures in heaven.

Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. His column appears in The Moultrie Observer.

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