“Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)
W. M. Taylor, a somewhat forgotten pastor of another generation, left a needed message. He said, “There are no more sad words in the language than, ‘too late! I have heard them uttered by a brother as he hurried home to see a dying father, arriving only to be told that he already breathed his last, and I will not forget the agony they expressed.” Taylor continued, “’Too late!’ I have heard them from a skilled surgeon when he was called to the bedside of a dying man, and I have seen the sadness that followed. I have heard the words, ‘Too late’ uttered by the anxious crowd who stared at a burning building, knowing that people remained inside. I have heard those words from the crew of a rescue vessel that reached the boat that was sinking but saw it go down before their eyes.
Pastor Taylor continued: “But none of these circumstances are as heart-rending as those in which the lost soul who has lived his or her life and sees the heavenly gates, but discovers that it is too late – they cannot enter heaven.” There is ample opportunity for us to give ourselves to the Lord throughout our lives on this earth, but there is a moment after leaving this place for those who have no faith in Him, when the only words left are – “Too late!”
But if you are able to hear or read these words, it’s not too late. And note, it is not just about your life alone. You might be saying, “I have already placed my trust in the Lord; I am His. I do not have to worry about my final destination because I am saved!” But again, it is more than just about you.
You were born for a purpose, God’s purpose; intended from eternity past, before this world even existed. His intention is that, yes, you will give your heart to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and be “born again,” as written in John 3:3, 7. But there is an additional part of His intention for you. He wants your heart and when you give it you will enter heaven, but He wants others to be there as well. Your life is to count for other people. He has a plan for each one of us that is beyond our expectations, our ideas, and our abilities. You may become an evangelist, a teacher, a comforter, a dynamic man or woman of prayer, doing something that was possibly never heard about before and the world may not recognize what has been done until eternity future. Your life is to be used for others and through His grace it is NOT too late, for them or for you.
Today’s verse in Ezekiel is powerful. That verse is addressed directly to Israel, but it also pertains to God’s promise and hope for us all. Revealed through the prophet are God’s thoughts, feelings and intentions for humanity: He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and LIVE.” We glimpse this at other places within Scripture, such as 2 Peter 3:9, where Peter, a prophet at a later time, revealed that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” He wants you and He has a purpose for you. Just like He spoke through those ordinary men, Ezekiel and Peter, He will use your life for the good.
He has in mind that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. And you might think, “I’m afraid of what might happen!” And it’s true - When you trust in Christ, He gives you His Holy Spirit which includes a call to action that will take you in unexpected directions. Your concern might include a fear of uncertainty, but God intends “joy” for those who answer His call.
Jesus called out, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And He will. That lasting happiness you likely want is surprisingly not going to be found in money or anything else that this world counts as valuable. Here’s what you get when you trust in the Lord and receive His Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” and more. That happiness we all want is in the Hand of God which is being offered to you right now.
On Thursday mornings, as it has been for the past eight years, I teach a Bible study at the Southland Convalescent Center in Norwalk, California. Many have faithfully attended those studies since they began and others come from time-to-time. Some younger people attend the studies, but the average age is probably somewhere in the 80’s. They are mostly women but some are men and all have lived lives, owned homes, had jobs, raised their children, hoped and dreamed and now they are old and think it’s over - they can do no more. But it’s not over for them or for you.
You might have a thought deep inside: “If only I had done it differently… If only life had been a little bit kinder… I might be wealthy… living in a mansion… be respected… I might not have that disease which wracks my body and soul… I might have children… my life could have counted… If only I could get a new start, things would work out.” Maybe so, maybe not, but your life can be changed for the better even if outwardly things may seem the same. God can turn us from the mistakes that characterized our lives, and make us useful. All can be men and women of prayer.
He is holy, just and pure, and when we look up, away from a life lived through our own efforts, we find Him reaching to us in a way that will change us for the good – forever. Some are annoyed with the way life is and have decided they don’t want to be happy. There is likely something about ourselves that we just don’t like. It might be our appearance, family, nationality, intelligence or whatever. But God likes you. He actually loves you, just as you are. He knows your real need is to be in relationship with the God who created you. If you painted a magnificent portrait or created a breathtaking sculpture you would not leave it on the floor of a closet. Instead, considering its best possible use, it would be displayed in a place that would touch others with its beauty. God has a place for you, just as you are, that will surprise and delight you.
We look at things and people externally; God looks at the heart. It’s never too late for us to trust in the Lord and receive His Spirit, who makes us beautiful in His sight. In Psalm 45:11, we find that “the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him.” In Psalm 149:4, we read, "The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.” God says of those who give their hearts and lives to the Lord, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaim peace… (and) salvation… (saying) Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7). Romans 10:15 and its context quotes that verse in Isaiah, applying it to those who believe in the Lord Jesus (Verses 9-10), who call on the Name of the Lord (Verse 13) and have the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God (Verse 17).
Again, you may feel it is too late for you. You may have done things and had thoughts that you feel will disqualify you from the Kingdom of God. You may have been called by the Lord years or decades ago, but did not respond. When they went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade, you were drawn to go forward also, but sat still and did not go. The Lord may have called you to ministry, but it frightened you and you had other plans. Is it too late? No, it’s not. I was 16 when the Lord called me to ministry and I was 61 when the door opened and I responded to that call.
Are you secretly insufficient in some manner? You don’t have to tell me about it or tell anyone else. Just simply do what we saw in Matthew 11:28. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Come to Jesus, come to the Lord and receive:
Lord, forgive my unbelief. I see that it’s not too late. I give my heart and life into Your Hands. I am Yours, Lord. I trust in You. Where You lead, I will follow. Use me. In Jesus Name. Amen.