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Why "You Only Live Once" is No Way to Live

Brooke Cooney

This Temporary Home
Updated Oct 21, 2015
Why "You Only Live Once" is No Way to Live
The phrase YOLO: 'you only live once,' has become increasingly popular in today's culture. But here's why it's a horrible motto for the Christian life.

And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment — so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:27-28

You only live once. This is a great lie of the evil antagonist of our souls. The enemy wants us to believe that this life is all there is and beyond that lays a great chasm of nothing—a cessation of existence with our final breath that commences into an eternal rest of mind and soul.

The famous and daring Bear Grylls enjoyed two successful seasons of Running Wild with celebrity guests. In each episode, the survivalist adventurer took a Hollywood star or a sports celebrity on a 48 hour adventure within the most dangerous and breathtaking landscapes around the globe. Their fears are pushed to the limit, and their wits and wills tested, as they faced dangerous terrain and death defying obstacles to get to a predetermined extraction point and the completion of their journey.

In one 2014 episode, guest adventurer rookie, Zac Efron is challenged by Bear to cross a chasm by sliding on his belly on a single rope with no safety net to catch him should he plunge to a rocky death. A maneuver utilized by military personnel and taught in basic training is quickly tutored to Efron minutes before he braves this endeavor hundreds of feet above a rocky freefall. Upon completion, Efron and Grylls rest to reflect on the parallels of this accomplishment and life’s challenges. Efron looks at the beauty of the Appalachian Mountain Range then looks back at Bear Grylls and communicates what we have embraced as a culture paralyzed in the temporary, "this is all there is, you only live once you know?"

It can be tempting to chase after a bucket list of wanderlust adventures in this life believing that our only adventures are within the context of earthly breaths. We can easily fall prey to the “YOLO” notion that “you only live once.” Or, in more sophisticated terms, carpe diem, seize the day. However, with a biblical worldview, living haphazardly from one whim to the next is an idea that should swiftly fly out the window. For those in Christ, and the broader Judeo-Christian faith, we clearly understand the true fact is we only die once. Not only that, but further, we only die once and then live forever! This realization should force us to live in such a way that all earthly actions transfer to the eternal realm.

Evangelical leader Russell Moore challenges our temporary perspectives with a Kingdom minded agenda in his most recent book, Onward. In chapter three, Kingdom, Dr. Moore makes this interesting note:

The way we fit that vision of the end into our present lives is betrayed by the way we speak of it—as an “afterlife.” Think about that word for a moment—the focus is on the “life” (this present span of time), and everything beyond that is defined as “after” your life. Reflect on how it would change your view of marriage if you referred to matrimony as your “after-love.” (pp. 50)

The natural world around us isn’t just a temporary “environment,” but part of our future inheritance in Christ. Our lives now are shaping us and preparing us for a future rule, and that includes the honing of a conscience and a sense of wisdom and prudence and justice. (pp. 53)

This present reality is not all there is. That is the good news for those in Christ Jesus!

We, with an eternal perspective, can scale mountain ranges in the Appalachian Mountains and stare in wonder at the breathtaking views across the globe. We can and are commanded to attempt great endeavors be they physically, spiritually or, philanthropically and reflect on the lessons and journey. However, in so doing we know that these views and our present struggles to summit the mountain range and cross the chasms provides a present parallel for the ultimate taste of life with Christ in Heaven for all eternity.

This life is not all there is. What is unseen outlasts the visible. There is mountain grandeur to be seen by feet and faith.

That’s why Paul could console, his fearful, concerned friends and fellow-followers of Christ at Caesarea, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13) Paul knew that there was more to life than the living; there was the dying for the highest Name above every name, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Jesus prompts His disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. Jesus knows that those who lose this one temporary life for the sake of the gospel will find their ultimate life in eternity. (Matthew 16:24-28)

Concerning the end of time, Daniel in the book of Daniel 12:2 reminds us that those who die will either awake to everlasting life or to eternal shame and contempt. We who live will all die and then we will awaken to the reality of the choice we made concerning Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

One of my greatest passions is hiking within the beauty of God’s creation. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to the grand adventures of Bear Grylls and his celebrity guests. The parallels of daring adventure and survival unto our pilgrimage with Christ are unending. Often God speaks loudest outside the bustle of the everyday multitudinous decisions we make and within the context of His grand and quiet creation landscape. Go on daring outdoor adventures; bask in the quiet of fishing trips to the pond, skiing in the snowy mountains, or a walk on the seashell lined shores. As you go, know these are only foretastes of eternity. There is more and greater life to come.

The Kingdom is approaching and it will be enjoyed with Jesus for all time. Beyond this death is life everlasting. Let’s take as many people with us to the throne of Jesus, and with the mind of Christ and the words of Paul, be ready to be bound, but also, to die for Jesus Christ.

We only die once; so we live in the temporary with eternal life in mind. 

Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.