The story is told of a young foreign immigrant who enlisted in the United States Army during the hectic times of World War II. The one drawback to his service for his new-found country was that he had great difficulty with the English language. One day, his squadron leader announced in advance that the general was coming to their base and to their barracks soon for an inspection. This fellow’s buddies realized that if they didn’t help him with the language, he would flunk the inspection. So they began to tutor him in what to say when the general came.
They told him, “The general always asks only three questions. He will ask you first how long you have been in the army. You say, ‘Two years.’ He will then ask you how old you are. You will say, ‘Twenty-two years.’ And finally, he will ask you, ‘Are you getting good food and good treatment in the army?’ You will simply say, ‘Both!’ All you have to remember when the general comes are those three responses: ‘Two years, Twenty-two years, and both’ and you will be fine.”
The young fellow was doing fine and reviewed those answers daily until the time for the general to come to inspect the base actually arrived. And when he came up to this soldier he congratulated him for his service to his “new” country, then proceeded to ask him three questions. The only problem was, he didn’t ask the questions in the same order that the young soldier expected. He first said to him, “Son, how old are you?” The young fellow, as he had been trained, replied enthusiastically, “Two years!” The general thought that was funny, but then asked him the second question, “Well, sir, how long have you been in the army?” The new recruit replied, “Twenty-two years!” The general was now thoroughly confused and getting a bit perturbed with this brash young soldier, so he asks him one more question, “What do you take me for – an idiot or a fool?” to which this young fellow replied, again as he had been prompted to, “Both!”
I don’t know about you, but I would not have wanted to be in that young soldier’s boots after those responses to that general. And yet there is a far more significant inspection coming up for each and every one of us, and our answers to the questions asked us then will be critical. The Bible tells us, in Hebrews 9:27 that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
I have actually heard some people suggest that we will not as a nation see another election, but that “Judgment Day” will come before another president is elected. I for one do not know, but whenever that day may come, most people will face God with a sense of dread, if not downright fear. But, I am here to tell you today that there are some questions that God will not be asking you to answer. Those questions are implied in Romans 4:5, where we read, “…to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” This verses makes it clear that God will not ask us (1) How many good works we have done?, (2) How well we have behaved? or (3) How long can we last? The issues for us on that “inspection day” will not be related to our behavior on earth, but to our believing in Christ and in Him alone for our eternal destiny.
William Law (1686-1761 AD) in his classic work, “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life” puts forth some thought provoking ideas for the committed follower of Jesus Christ: “The devout … are people who do not live to their own will, or in the way and spirit of the world, but only to the will of God. Such people consider God in everything, and make every aspect of their lives holy by doing everything in the name of God and in a way that conforms to God’s glory.”
Law continues with a rather long list of what such consideration of God in our daily lives teaches us to do. Some of the things he includes in this list are: To renounce the world and be different in our attitudes and ways of life (Ephesians 4:17-24); to renounce all its goods (Luke 14:26-33; 18:22, 23; Philippians 3:7, 8); to be as newborn babes who are born into a new state of things (1 Peter 2:2, 3); to live as pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:15-17); to take up our cross daily, to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23, 24; John 12:25, 26); to reject the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17; Colossians 3:1, 2); to bear injuries, to forgive and bless our enemies… (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36; Romans12:14-21); to give up our whole hearts and affections to God (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13; 1 John 5:2-4); to strive to enter through the straight gate into a life of eternal glory.” (Matthew 7:13, 14).
If one is not careful, you could simply take this list as another “to do” list of ways to hopefully get closer to heaven. Like the young foreign immigrant, you could memorize a list of answers and hopefully God will ask the questions in the correct order. But in reality, all you need to do is to sit back, let out a sigh of relief and relax a bit, because the issue is not you, but Christ! Christ died for me and you and wants you to trust Him completely today. Will you say on that day, “This is what I’ve done” or “I’m trusting in what Christ has done for me?” How will you face that Great Inspection Day?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.