Deora Bodley grew up in San Diego, CA. where she enjoyed reading, writing and spending time with her family. She showed her love for children in very real and practical ways by tutoring in afterschool programs and working as a peer counselor for troubled teens. She volunteered with several charity groups, including the Special Olympics and the local zoo. As a student at Santa Clara University, Deora studied French and psychology with aspirations to become a child psychologist. At one point in her life, she decided to take a break from her hectic schedule and visit some friends back East. When her visit was over, she boarded a plane to fly home. She never made it back. Deora died 35 miles from here when her flight, Flight 93, crashed on September 11th. She was 20 years old.
I realize some of you are too young to remember the events which happened 15 years ago this morning. Many of you weren’t even born yet. But for those of us who are not only old enough to remember but also old enough to understand what happened, the emotions we felt that day are flooding back into us right now as we think about it. Our desire to worship God is now mixing with feelings of sorrow, uncertainty and anger. Hopefully these emotions, combined with the painful memories of that day, will challenge us to think about the way we’re living our lives. We’re just like the 2996 innocent victims who died on 911. We too are living on borrowed time.
Deora had a promising life ahead of her. It appears that not only would she bless herself, she would also bless our society. However, circumstances over which she had no control cut her life tragically short. She had dreams. She just didn’t have time to make them come true.
We too have dreams. We dream about getting married and having a family, paying off our debts, holding our future grandchildren and great-grandchildren, taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip and having a good retirement. As followers of Jesus, we should also have dreams about improving and expanding our ministries. Since we’re living on borrowed time, are we using our time wisely? Does it even matter if we aren’t?
In the book of James, God does hold us accountable for how well we use our time. James wrote to Jewish Christians encouraging them to remain faithful in the face of opposition. He challenged them to live out their faith by doing good deeds for others. His letter also contained a warning in James 4:13-17 – “ 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
There are three main points in this passage. First of all, we make all kinds of plans for the future yet we don’t even know how much borrowed time we have left. We may die tomorrow. At 8:42 AM, Deora took off on Flight 93 with plans to finish school and make a difference in the world. Perhaps she even had dreams of marrying and raising a family. At 10:03 AM, she, along with the other passengers, was gone. We don’t know if we’ll see tomorrow. Hopefully we will but we simply don’t know what this day will bring. This means we plan for the future but live each day like it’s a gift from God.
Thinking about our own deaths can be scary. We don’t have to fear it, though, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
Jesus became human, died on the cross and resurrected so he could free us from the curse of death. Although our bodies will die, our spirits will live with God forever. This means we don’t have to fear death.
The second main point in James tells us to focus on doing the Lord’s will – not doing our own will. One place Deora volunteered was at St. Claire Catholic Elementary school, where she helped with children’s programs. Even though we don’t know how close of a relationship she had with Jesus, we do know she spent time doing his work.
We all have to work once we get out of school, whether it’s in the workforce itself or as a stay-at-home spouse and parent. Our work schedules have a major influence on how we spend our time. This is a fact of life. Many people are eventually able to reach a point where their children are grown and they have enough money to retire. They start volunteering in community organizations to do all of the things they couldn’t do when they were younger. They suddenly find themselves busier than they were when they were working.
We also need to take time to enjoy life. Life makes us too stressed if we don’t have some downtime. God didn’t create us to work 24 hours a day.
Nonetheless, even with our busy schedules of work, community activities and downtime, we need to make God our top priority. If we really believe the Bible is true, that Jesus is the Messiah and that we will spend eternity in heaven, then we need to live like we believe it’s true. One way to measure our faith in Jesus is to look at how we spend our time.
In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says, “19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Many of the things we think are important here on earth will have absolutely no value in heaven. This needs to be reflected in the way we live.
The third point in this passage is we sin when we don’t take time to do the good works God calls us to do. As Christians, our purpose isn’t to please ourselves or even others. It’s to please God. Doing this requires action on our part. Hebrews 13:16 says, “16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
One evening I decided to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I went to the refrigerator to get the jelly. It wasn’t there. I called to my wife, Stephanie, who was in the living room, and asked, “Where’s the jelly?”
“It’s on the top shelf,” she replied.
I looked again. It wasn’t there. “No, it’s not,” I replied.
Stephanie got up from her chair and walked into the kitchen. She looked into the refrigerator, looked at me, then looked back into the refrigerator and reached up to the top shelf and pulled out the jar of jelly. It was right in front of me the whole time but I couldn’t see it.
Many times the work we need to do to please God is right in front of us but we can’t see it. This is because we’re so busy doing the things we want to do that we become blinded to the things we need to do. We have to ask God to open our eyes so we can see the things he wants us to be doing.
As we live our lives for God, there’s one other important thing we need to do. We need to enjoy the Lord. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 says, “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Appreciate the favor God gives us. He saves us from ourselves and the sinful world we call home. Relish the fact there is nothing we have to do to spend eternity in heaven other than accept Jesus as our Savior and follow him. We are still redeemed even though we constantly sin. Don’t live like someone who is defeated and beat down. We’re children of God. Don’t look at living for Jesus as a burden. Know it’s a privilege to serve him.
We’re called to live our lives for Jesus. Perhaps we’ll live to a good old age before we’re called home. Or perhaps, like Deora, our lives will be cut short because of an accident, illness, or act of violence. We don’t know how many more days we have left. Let’s make the most of the days we do have and live them in ways which are pleasing to the one who redeemed us, Jesus Christ.