Living on the Edge
I recently had the wondrous privilege of visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona (along with other amazing sites and vistas - the red hills of Sedona, the desert of south Arizona, and even a nostalgic tour down old Route 66). There were moments in which I literally had no words - I was awestruck by such beauty, dumbstruck by the sheer power and authority of the Great God who literally spoke such beauty into existence.
At one point, I ventured out from the safety of the “barrier” - something I have been prone to do all my life - even as a child. I stepped out on an outcropping rock that overlooked the south rim of the Grand Canyon - coming within 10 inches or so of the edge, I had my camera on a selfie-stick so I was able to extend its length right out over the edge to take a panoramic video of these marvelous scenes.
I was breathless - I was on the verge of tears as I stood there, a great eagle soaring and screeching over my head - the hot sun beating down on my head and the warm desert breezes caressing my face. When I would look up so that the stone I was standing on was not in my view it seemed as if I was floating freely in space––unhindered, unbound, and unencumbered by the cares of this life. I have been enduring some difficult and painful struggles of late and in those moments, all the pain simply evaporated and for a few seconds I was experiencing complete and utter bliss.
The other part of this reality is that I was standing just mere inches from the precipice. Just one step in the wrong direction, a slip on some small stones, or a moment of vertigo and I would have become just another statistic that counts the number of foolish men that did not comprehend the wisdom and value of a fence.
It was at that very moment that the thought came to me - I am literally standing at the very edge of eternity. As I stood there in that moment I came to the sobering realization that all of us - me, you, and everyone we know are all standing on the edge of eternity.
There are folks that you know and love, who are standing on the edge of eternity.
There are people you work with - every day - who are standing on the brink of eternity.
One heartbeat, one breath, one foolish decision, one moment of rage, one wrong turn on the highway, one disease, one infection––we all live on the edge of eternity.
When evangelist Paul Washer returned to the states after many years serving as a missionary he was invited to speak at a large Baptist youth event. He spoke at length about the deplorable condition of a generation of youth that does not seem to know God. He addressed some difficult issues such as the sexualization of young people, immodesty and irreverence, preparital sex, unplanned pregnancy, abortion - not to mention disrespect toward authority and disobedience and dishonor toward parents.
After a while, one of the deacon chaperones at the event with a loud voice shouted “Amen!” which was followed by a raucous moment of applause. After the room had quieted down a bit, Washer looked straight at the Deacon in the back and said, “I don’t know what you are cheering about - I’m talking about you - and your kids.”
The room grew deathly quiet and eyes turned to the floor at the impact of his words. Young people — our young people –– precious children standing on the edge of eternity, oblivious to their peril. Many children are growing up, even in the church, each one of them living unawares on the edge of eternity - and often living without a warning.
I stood with a man in a hospital room as he looked upon the bruised and broken body that just a few hours ago had been his beloved son. Through no fault of his own he had been thrown from the edge of the abyss by a drunk driver who crossed the median and slammed into his little compact car - killing him and his best friend.
Sobs wracked his body as tears flowed from his eyes and snot from his nose. He shook with grief as he looked at the remains of what had been a vibrant young man filled with hope and promise. A friend put his arms around his shoulder to comfort him as the brokenhearted father began to scream, “I don’t know!” O God, I don’t know!”
His grief-ridden cries echoed through the halls of the hospital as he moaned and groaned, howls like an animal broke from his chest as he looked into our eyes and pleaded for some kind of comfort in his moment of terror, experiencing what no parent ever wants to experience. Again, he cried out - “I don’t know”.
In an effort to comfort his friend, a man said, “None of us know when death will come, none of us.” The man was unconsoled as he shook his head saying over and over again, “I don’t know - I don’t know - I don’t know if my son was saved! I don’t know if I will ever see him again!!!”
His precious son had been mercilessly cast from the edge into eternity and now, this broken hearted father could find no consolation, no hope, no peace because he didn’t know whether his son had experienced the joy and safety of knowing Jesus.
I came home from my brief vacation with a growing conviction that we need to come to grips with the reality that everyone around us is living on the edge of eternity. How can we not live with the urgency that that knowledge should create within us. The eternity each man faces must be settled on this side of the edge, and we are called to give clear, urgent warning to those who stand upon the precipice.
As I stood on that outcropping at the south rim of the Grand Canyon last week, I was perhaps foolishly, but certainly joyously, contemplating the reality of eternity, I heard a man say to his wife with a silky southern accent, “That man is going to die.” I thought to myself, “No. No. Should I lose my footing and be flung into the abyss - I will not die. For he who lives believing in me [Jesus] shall never die.”
This is the message of our day: Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
And while we are distracted by the various social messages of our day: Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Black Lives Matter, Abortion, Defund the Police . . .whatever flag you might be waving. None of those messages will matter––at all––when a man is suddenly thrown into the chasm of eternity