On October 30, 2002, rock musician Warren Zevon made his last appearance on the David Letterman show. Zevon had been diagnosed earlier that year with inoperable cancer, and as the two old friends conversed, Letterman asked Zevon how the diagnosis had affected his life. Zevon memorably responded, “You put more value in every minute. It’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich.” Warren Zevon, age 56, died in September 2003.
Fatima Ali was a young Pakistani-American chef who, among other accomplishments, appeared on the TV show “Top Chef”. In late 2018 she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, this time terminal. She spent much of her remaining time seeking the best culinary and dining experiences, renewing old friendships, and “smothering” her family, “giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before.” She poignantly wrote, “I was always deathly afraid of being average in any way, and now I desperately wish to have a simple, uneventful life.” Fatima Ali, age 29, died in January 2019.
There is something about deadlines: they concentrate the attention wonderfully. But why should we wait until it appears our span on this earth is coming to an end before we give thought to our lives? How should we view our lives? Why are we here?
The first question and answer of two catechisms, the Westminster Shorter and the Heidelberg, help us out. To the question “what is the chief end of man?”, the Westminster answers: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” And to the question “what is your only comfort in life and in death?”, the Heidelberg answers: “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
How then should we live? Make God first in our life. Love him and do what he commands. Enjoy him, and enjoy all his blessings. Rejoice that we who trust in him belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, now and forever.
Psalm 16 is a wonderful psalm to guide us. Derek Kidner says “the theme of having one’s affections centred on God gives this psalm its unity and ardour” (yes, he was British). David says that apart from God he has no good thing, that the Lord is his portion and cup, that God has given him a delightful inheritance. He praises God; he keeps his eyes fixed on God. He knows that God will never let him go, and he concludes “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Know God and his promises to you. Set your affections on God. Submit to his perfect will. And enjoy Him! Enjoy him in worship, enjoy him in good times and bad, enjoy him in busy days and quiet hours, enjoy him with your family and friends and when you are alone; enjoy him always.
And while you are going about your simple, uneventful life, don’t forget to enjoy every sandwich.
Steve Hoogerhyde is a Ruling Elder at GRC.