There are things which are not worthwhile. If a man lives seventy years, and then leaves nothing good behind him – nothing which will stay in the world after he is gone, enriching it, beautifying it, and sweetening its life – has it been really worthwhile for him to live?
Or suppose that in his threescore and ten years a man lives to do evil, speaking words which become seeds of unholiness, scattering influences which cause blight, and doing things which hurt other lives – who will say it has been worthwhile for him to live? He may have been a splendid success in a worldly way, amassing money, winning fame, getting honor, his later years a blaze of glory, and his funeral one of magnificent pomp; yet has his life been worthwhile?
There are things that are truly worthwhile in the highest sense. A man spends his seventy years in humble Christian living. He fears God, and walks after God’s commandments. He makes no marked success according to the world’s standards. He is even spoken of by others with a sort of pity, as a man who has never been successful. Yet all the while, he has lived honestly and faithfully in his place. While other men have been fighting for position, scrambling for honor, and thinking only of advancing and pleasing themselves; he has been giving out his life in generous love, serving others, and doing eternal good. He has not gotten on in the world, and his hands are empty at the last. But there is a success which is not measured by the standards of this vain world. There is an invisible sphere in which values are not rated by dollars and cents, but by their spiritual and eternal character. In that sphere, a cup of cold water given to a thirsty one in the name of Christ will count for more than the piling of a fortune for self. Hence it is that a man who has seemed unsuccessful, but nevertheless has been doing good all the while in Christ’s name, has really achieved a success which lifts his name to high honor.
Sometimes in the country, you will see an old waterwheel outside of a mill. The water fills its buckets; and all day long, it turns round and round in the sunshine. It seems to be working in vain. You see nothing that it is doing by its constant motion. But its shaft runs through the wall; and inside the mill, it turns the stones which grind the wheat, and the bolts which prepare the flour for the bread that feeds hundreds; or it runs the looms which weave the fabrics that keep many people warm in winter. There are lives which, with all their ceaseless toiling, seem to be accomplishing nothing; and yet they reach through the veil into the sphere of the unseen world, and there they make blessing and benefit with a value that is incalculable.
Some Godly people become discouraged because they do not seem to get on in life. They work hard, but can scarcely make ends meet. As fast as they earn, they must spend. A father toils through the years, bringing up a family, and dies at last a poor man. Other men who began with him as boys – they succeed and grow rich. He feels that he has failed. But consider what he has really achieved.
To begin with, work itself is one of life’s best blessings. This man’s years of daily task-work have built up in him many of the best qualities of true and worthy character, promptness, accuracy, faithfulness, patience, persistence, and obedience. Work, too, has given him health, has kept him from many an evil, has knit in him strong muscles and bones, and has wrought in him a spirit of confidence and independence.
Consider, too, the value of his work to his family. He has provided a home for his household where the wife has presided with love and gentleness. Through his toil he has furnished means for the education of his children. In his own life he has set them an example of honesty, truthfulness, unselfishness, diligence, and faith. Dwelling himself near the heart of Christ, he has made an atmosphere of heavenliness in his home, in which his family has grown up. He has taught them the Word of God, and has given them books to read which have put into their minds and hearts pure, inspiring, and elevating thoughts. One by one, they go out of their father’s house to become influential in building up homes of their own, carrying with them and in them a heritage of Christian character which shall make them blessings in the world.
Though this good man leaves no money and no monument of material success, yet his life has been well worthwhile. He has given to the world something better than money. He has shown it an example of a true and faithful life, in conditions that were not always inspiring. He has maintained in it a Godly home, keeping the fires burning on God’s altar, and putting into the lives of his household the influences of true religion. He has trained his children and sent them forth to be useful members of society, new centers of good influence, and new powers for righteousness. His name may be forgotten among men, but the blessing of his life and work will stay in the world forever. It is worthwhile to make sacrifices of love in order to do good.
In India, they tell the story of the Golden Palace. Sultan Ahmed was a great king. He sent Yakoob, the most skillful of his builders, with a large sum of money, to build in the snowy mountains the most splendid palace ever seen. Yakoob went to the place, and found a great famine prevailing among the people. Many were dying. Instead of building the palace, he took the money and gave it to buy bread for the starving people. At length, Ahmed came to see his palace, and there was no palace there. He sent for Yakoob and learned his story, and he then grew very angry and cast the builder into chains. “Tomorrow you shall die!” he exclaimed. “You have robbed your king!” But that night, Ahmed had a wonderful dream. There came to him one in shining garments, who said, “Follow me.” Up they soared from earth, until they came to heaven’s gate. They entered, and behold – there stood a palace of pure gold, more brilliant than the sun! “What palace is this?” asked Ahmed. His guide answered, “This is the palace of Merciful Deeds, built for you by Yakoob the wise. Its glory shall endure when all earth’s things have passed away.” Then the king understood that Yakoob had acted most wisely with his money.
This is only a heathen legend, but its teaching is true. If we are doing true work, we do not need to concern ourselves about visible results. Even though in self-denying life we build no palaces on earth, we are piling far nobler walls beyond the skies. The money we give in service and sacrifice of helpfulness may add nothing to our bank account; but it is laid up as treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
Whatever adds in even the smallest way to the world’s brightness and cheer is worthwhile. One who plants a flower in a bare place where only bleakness was before, is a benefactor. One who says an encouraging word to a disheartened neighbor, gives a look of love to a lonely one, or speaks a sentence which may become strength, guidance, or comfort to another, does something worthwhile. We never know how small a thing may become a blessing to a human life.
It was worthwhile for David to write the Twenty-third Psalm to go singing everywhere to the end of time. It was worthwhile for Mary to break the alabaster vase, pouring the spikenard on the head and feet of the Master; all the world is sweeter ever since from the perfume of her ointment. Every singer who has sung a pure, joyous song has given something to earth to make it better. Every artist who has painted a worthy and noble picture, or made the smallest thing of beauty which will stay in the world, has added something to the enriching of our human life. Every lowly Christian who has lived a true, courageous life amid temptation and trial has made it a little easier for others to live right. Everyone who has let wholesome words, good words, and Divine lessons fall into the stream of this world’s life has put into the current of humanity a handful of spices to sweeten the bitter waters a little. It is always worthwhile to live nobly and victoriously, struggling to do right, and showing the world even the smallest fragments of Divine beauty.
One of our poets has told us that our life is a leaf of white paper on which each of us may write his word or two, and then comes night. What are we writing on our little leaf? It should be something that will bless those who read it. It should be something fit to carry into eternity; it must be most beautiful and worthy for this.
It is well that we do only things that are worthwhile; things that are right and true and pure and lovely; things that will last forever. “The world passes away, and the lust thereof, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
photo by Neale Bacon | Pixabay.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.