The song Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw came out in 2004 shortly after the artist’s own father passed away from terminal cancer. It reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Country charts, won AMC single and song of the year, CMA single and song of the year, and Tim McGraw netted an Grammy award for the song. He also performed the song in Rome for Bono’s Live 8 concert, and his song was the most played during news coverage of the event. With the possible exception of “Don’t Take the Girl,” it is easily the single most recognizable song by this artist.
The song tells the story of a man with a terminal illness having a conversation with the narrator, telling the narrator how he changed his life with the news, and, in doing so, he expresses his desire that the narrator make these changes himself. In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at three of the improvements this individual makes (and, no, riding a bull named Fu Man Shu is not included) because we really should be living like we are dying. After all, we are.
Living Like We’re Dying
“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t.”
I really am just going to focus on husbands here, but these words do apply both ways. Most of us could probably quote Ephesians 5:25, but I think this “giving” of one’s self here is deeper than we usually apply. Yes, we should be willing to give up our lives for our spouses, but what about giving up our time? How do we feel about giving up a hobby or a bad habit? How do we feel about giving up a preferred activity in favor of spending time with our wives, doing something they want to do? If any of us husbands were to pass away right now, could our wives say that we were the husbands that we should be? Wives, can your husbands say that of you?
I Corinthians 13 describes love as something optimistic, patient, kind, faithful, and tender. I think how we treat our spouses and how we behave towards and around our spouses can provide a very good mirror of our true character. Personally, I would like to say one day that I spent every moment I could being the husband my wife wants to have.
“I became a friend a friend would like to have.”
What do we look for in our friends? We want someone who is trustworthy, reliable, helpful in a pinch. However, do we demonstrate the friendship toward others that we want in return? In Romans 15:1 we are instructed to bear the burdens of those who are struggling or feel weakened. Paul goes on in verse two, telling us to do good toward our neighbors, being an encouragement to all.
Galatians 6:9-10 encourages not lose faith in doing good and that our friendly attitude should be demonstrated to all. In our daily lives, we sometimes seem to confuse “friend” with “acquaintance.” We call each other friends – fellow Christians, people we work with, our physical neighbors – but how well do we really know each other? Are we willing to go out of our way to help our friends out? Can they rely on us, or do we make excuses to them and ourselves to avoid a true commitment in our friendships? If I’m going to be a good friend, then I need to be the friend I want to have.
“I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin.’”
We hold grudges so easily. “Never forget. Never forgive,” is a phrase used in so many contexts it’s hard to think of just one example. Unfortunately, we can sometimes get caught up in this attitude over the smallest of offenses which seem so huge from our limited perspective. In Matthew 18:21-35, after the well-known “seventy-times seven” response to Peter’s question on forgiveness, Jesus tells the story of a master who forgives his servant a large debt. Unfortunately, this servant is unforgiving toward another indebted to him, inciting the master to punish him for his callousness. Jesus simply states that our Lord looks upon us this way when we refuse forgiveness.
Likewise, during Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:12, God is asked to forgive us as we forgive others. Are we forgiving, or are we denying forgiveness? Regardless of the reasons we think we have for withholding forgiveness, all we do is hurt ourselves and others when we do so. We want our God to forgive us. We should be willing to forgive others in turn.
At the outset, I said we should all live like we are dying because, in reality, we actually are. Our bodies mature and grow for a given time. When that maturation process ceases, we begin to slowly break down. Every day brings us closer to death – expected or unexpected. Now is the time to make things right with others and with God. We don’t want to miss the chance we have because we waited until it was too late.