When You Need To Make Peace With God
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
When the Swiss Air flight went down off the coast of Newfoundland, the black box on the plane indicated that sixteen minutes elapsed from the time the pilot first recognized the plane was in trouble until the fatal crash. Sixteen minutes—one minute more than a quarter of an hour. Sixteen minutes to make peace with God.
Everyone, of course, realizes that someday he will die, in spite of the fact that we usually live as though that day will never come. Thomas à Kempis, the churchman of the Middle Ages, urged, “Labor now to live, so that at the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than fear.” No one, of course, knows when the hands of the clock will stop, and in all probability those on board that ill-fated Swiss Air flight didn’t themselves know whether they had sixteen minutes or some forty-plus years left. That’s the reason why you need to make peace with God now.
If you knew that you had sixteen minutes to live, what would you do? When the Titanic went down, some walked around straightening picture frames that were hanging at an angle. But nobody in his right mind waters flowers in a burning building.
Question: Is sixteen minutes long enough to make peace with God? I mean, can you go through the inventory of what you need to confess in sixteen minutes? Let me put the answer like this. When Christ was on the cross, two thieves were crucified with him. One of them cried out, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” And immediately Jesus responded, “Today, you will be with me in paradise!” That didn’t take sixteen minutes, but barely sixteen seconds.
Making peace with God doesn’t take a long time but it takes a deep contrition. How do you do it? Following an earthquake that threatened the future security of a Roman jailer, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). To believers in Rome Paul said, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NKJV). Yes, sixteen seconds is long enough to do that. But here’s the problem.
Matthew Henry brought it into focus some 250 years ago. He said, “Deathbed conversions are seldom true, and true conversions are seldom made on their deathbed.” In other words, he is saying that now, when you are rational and cogent, is the time to make peace with God. Then you live each day as though it were your last, so if by some strange series of events you are down to your last sixteen minutes, you know that heaven is on the other side, and you know how to get there.
The person who is always going to get right with God often never has the time to do it. I’m thinking of the time I stood at the bedside of a man who was dying, and I inquired, “Tell me about his faith.” Instead, his family told me about what he had done—his success in the business world, his relationship to the family and the community, but they didn’t tell me about his relationship with God.
“Did he go to church?” I asked. “No,” a daughter finally said, sadly adding, “He never had time for that.” I didn’t say it but I thought he had fifty-two Sundays a year for more than sixty years, and he was down to his last sixteen minutes, and it was too late.
Don’t wait until you are watching the clock and you have sixteen minutes. That may well be plenty of time, but again, who knows? John told us how to make peace with God. He wrote, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Resource reading: John 1:1-18.