That’s the amount of time residents of Hawaii spent last week believing they were living the last moments of their life.
A week ago Saturday, Hawaiians received an alert on their cell phones and their television sets that a ballistic missile was on its way and that residents should take shelter.
The alert concluded with … “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
A second alert notified residents that the first message was a false alarm, and that there was no missile on its way to destroy Hawaii.
But for 38 horrifying minutes, panic and fear gripped the tiny cluster of Pacific islands. Some people followed the instructions in the alert and tried to find shelter. Some called loved ones to say their final goodbyes. One dad described putting his children in the bathtub and praying. "There's not much else you can do in that situation,” he was quoted as saying. One mother described the agonizing dilemma of her two children being in different locations and trying to decide which child she was going to spend her last moments with.
What would you do? If you knew today was the last day of your life, how would you spend it?
In fear and dread? In reckless, carefree frivolity? In prayer?
When God sent the prophet Isaiah to let king Hezekiah know that he was going to die, he advised the king to “set your house in order” (2 Kings 20:1). Which begs the question: What preparations are you making for your last day?
Modern-day preaching often focuses on our best life now, and fixing our health problems, or fixing our financial problems, or giving us favor among our peers. In that kind of message, Jesus is essentially reduced to a genie in a bottle whose sole purpose is to grant our wishes. While the God of Bible is fully capable of saving us from our daily problems, His primary concern is saving us from our biggest problem.
The main point of the entire Bible is that, because we’ve all sinned against God, we’re all going to die, but that God, himself, has provided Christ as the rescue from death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
David said: “Lord, make me to know mine end” (Psalm 39:4). He didn’t know when he was going to die, but he knew that death, at some point, was a certainty.
We know today as well as David knew generations ago that we’re going to die one day. It’s the reason we buy life insurance. It’s the reason we pay lawyers to draw up wills. We all know we’re going to die, so why would we allow ourselves to not be fully prepared for something that’s so certain?
There is exactly one way to be fully prepared for death, and that is by placing our faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God who conquered death on the cross.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55)
Facing death becomes less frightening when your faith is in the One who defeated death and rose from the grave. It doesn’t mean that we never die. It means that, for those who are in Christ, death is not the end. It means there is eternal life, eternal joy, eternal peace on the other side.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
How much time do you have left? Could it be 38 years, or 38 days, or -- like the people in the state of Hawaii feared last Saturday -- a mere 38 minutes?
It makes perfect sense that you’d do everything in your power to set your house in order if you knew that today was the last day of your life.
The question is: How do you know it’s not?
Anthony Cook is the editor of The Daily Home and pastor of Christian Fellowship Bible Church in Anniston. Reach him at email@example.com or 256-299-2110.