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An Opportunity of a Lifetime

by Ron Matsen

When I was young, I attended a summer camp for kids near Mt Lassen in Northern California. During the week-long camp, they ran various competitions with prizes being awarded as points which would accumulate and be redeemed for some treasure or another from the camp store. At the end of the week I did not have enough “points” to purchase the model airplane I wanted so after considerable thought I traded my “points” for a little wooden plaque. On it was this simple poem, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past - Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

As I returned to my home, I placed the little wooden memento next to my bed and promptly forgot about it as, ultimately, it represented a failure to purchase the model airplane I had hoped for. In the passing years as I grew older, I would come across this little plaque. I would pause and ponder its meaning. I would then slip it back into a safe hiding place only to be discovered over and over again.

It was during my turbulent teens that this little plaque would reemerge at a time when I was musing on the meaning and direction of my life. Raised in a Christian home, I had made a public commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord as a very young age. Typically, I didn’t really do much with my Christian profession except to regularly attend church with my family.

“Only one life...” the verse began. Perhaps the crisis I was feeling at that time was the recognition that my life was finite. “Only what’s done for Christ will last” it continued. The verse concluded with a power-packed punch that left me breathless.

Looking back at those formative times in my life, I now realize that I was struggling with the ownership of my own life. First of all, no matter what I would do in my life, my time on this earth was still finite. Secondly, I came to understand that the measure of my life was not in what I accomplished by and for myself but the things that were done in me and through me for the glory of Christ. Purpose over process became my life’s quest. May our daily deeds be consistent with our eternal destiny.

It was only recently that I found the full poem penned by C.T. Studd. May it have its full effect on you as it did (and still does) on me.

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ’that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice;
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

This article was originally published in the
November 2019 Personal Update NewsJournal.

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