By Thom Mollohan
“Live for Now!” shouts a roadside billboard with pictures of a top-contending soda. Every time I see it I feel a pang of astonishment and I immediately begin reflecting on the overall spirit of our age. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not finding fault with that company in particular. Their marketing people have simply done what marketing people get paid to do; namely, finding a slogan that will so resonate with the advertising’s viewers that moves them to buy. A smart advertiser will come up with a motto which fully captures the deep-seated feelings, ambitions and drives within us.
What saddens me, however, is not the fact that this company used this slogan—I wonder why someone didn’t use it sooner—but how very successful it is likely to be. It says what we want to hear. It echoes what our urges compel us to do and it conveniently cloaks responsibility for the repercussions of living for the now. Why is it likely to be successful? Because, the world says there may be no tomorrow.
Ever since the movie, the expression “bucket list” is in wide use. It is especially interesting that most things that end up on a bucket list are self-gratifying endeavors. People want to perform a particular stunt, try a particular kind of food or visit a particular place. The general idea seems to be that we’d better hurry up and do all the things we’ve ever thought we wanted to do in this life because the now is all we have. Fill it up with all the fun, pleasurable and self-centered ambitions we’ve stored up for ourselves because there is nothing after the now to look forward.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with being adventurous, doing exciting things and rejoicing in God’s goodness. These things are, after all, what motivated me to explore a jackal den when visiting a desert in the Middle East. But how many of us have things on our bucket lists that will make an impact in the hereafter?
I’m sure there are many factors that make our generations so receptive to the “Live for Now” slogan. Many people have bought into the lie that “now” is all there is. Others are still worried about the off-the-wall interpretation of the Mayan calendar—which would mean the world should already be gone by now and you wouldn’t be reading this. Or perhaps the movie “2012” set off too many morbid imaginings. Whatever the case, many people do indeed believe that the only worthwhile pursuit in this life is to grab what we can, while we can, before we lose the chance.
But there is more to this life than the now. I believe the Bible’s claim that God will wrap up things in His way and in His time—He specifically said that no one else knows when that would be. I also believe that there is an eternity awaiting us and that this life has been given to us so that we can prepare for that next life. I even believe the Bible when it says that Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into that life.
For the disciple of Jesus, the motto cannot be to live for now, because doing so, focuses our window of eternal opportunity upon a moment that vanishes like smoke. For the disciple of Jesus, the only genuine motto is to “live for… ever”. Why? Because while the here and now is a fleeting moment, forever is… well, a really, really long time. Just ask anybody.
Jesus discussed everlasting life on multiple occasions. He was an eyewitness to the wonders of heaven because He had originally come from there. He said that eternal life is, “that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Eternal life then is an endless abiding with God who is so incomparably vast and infinitely wonderful that awaiting us are pleasures and adventures and experiences so numerous that they cannot be counted and so beyond our imaginations that we could not possibly begin to describe them.
He also said that God loves those who live in this world and expressed it perfectly through the gift of His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay for our sin. By believing in Him we are given eternal life. We believe in Him by staking our hope and confidence so utterly upon Him that we forsake all our false hopes or idols as well as our living-for-now habits and selfish pursuits.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (John 3:16, Romans 6:23 ESV)
Hopefully, you also see the short-sightedness of “live for now,” and are willing to settle for nothing less than “living for… ever” with God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Maybe we should make a bucket list with “live forever” at the top. What else should we put on that list? Maybe joining a fellowship of Christians. Maybe hosting a Bible study in your home. Maybe a mission trip or a tutoring program. Maybe helping the sick neighbor across the street. Maybe reconciling with a loved one. And maybe, just maybe, skydiving… at least once.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 17 years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables and Crimson Harvest. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.