September 30, 2013

Live and Die, or Live and Live – Your Choice

by Donald G. Mashburn

We take much for granted in this life. When we turn in at night, we assume we’ll awake in the morning and the next day will be about like today. But that may not be. It’s the doing of things, the activities of life, that increases the chances for things to happen to us. Some of them will be good things, but unfortunately for some people, some things will bring unpleasant change, grief, or even death.

Not many months before he passed away, a dear friend – a Christian physician who was loved by many – shared with me the old joke: “Have you heard that a study has shown that the fatality rate for eating birthday cake is 100-percent? If people eat it long enough, 100-percent of them will die!”

Eating birthday cake is only one of a host of things that make living an uncertain adventure, an adventure with risks we can’t foresee, or won’t heed. Most things we do in life carry some risk, of course, and the more active we are, the higher the odds we will get involved in activities that carry risk to ourselves or others.

For example, when we perform the simple act of getting into our car to go to work or the grocery store, there’s no guarantee we’ll reach our destination. Last year, 34,080 people lost their lives in vehicle accidents in the United States, according to government statistics.

One of the government agencies that collect data on various activities is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which in its huge 2003 report, furnished us with a lot of related and unrelated statistics on the risks we face trying to stay alive. Some of them are things most of us do and can relate to.

When we consider that in the U.S. some 6,420,000 automobile accidents were reported in a recent year, and that last year, traffic fatalities increased to 34,080, we can see how dangerous riding in an automobile can be. And we all do it – indeed, for most of us it’s a necessity.

The United States has nearly 200,000,000 licensed drivers, and the statisticians say that the chances of dying in an auto accident are about 1 in 6,700.

Government figures also indicate your odds of being struck by lightning are about 1 in 555,000. Of course, being government data, no allowance is made for either intelligence or stupidity.

The data don’t identify lightning strikes of people doing dumb things in a thunderstorm, like taking shelter under the biggest tree in the area, or being caught out in the open on a ridge, slope or other area where your body is the tallest “lightning rod” around.

If the lightning strike data could be adjusted for dumb decisions made by the “strikees,” the chances of being hit by lightning would be quite low for people taking normal precautions, and correspondingly higher for hikers in open country, and golfers that just have to finish the round before the “main storm” hits.

The odds of “accidental drowning and submersion” are 1in 1,112. The odds of dying as a pedestrian are 1 in 749.

The odds of dying from riding a motorcycle are 1 in 907, while the odds of dying from “firearms discharge” are 1 in 7,059. So, statistically, riding a motorcycle is almost eight times more dangerous than being around firearms that might “discharge”. Thus, instead of fretting about more gun control, perhaps we should be taking steps to keep people off motorcycles.

Published odds on drowning in a given year are 1 in 68,000. But that doesn’t take into account people who never go boating, swim in lakes and streams, or who stay in the shallow end of the pool. These would all have a lower probability of needlessly proving all over again that man is an air breathing being.

Compare these odds with winning the Florida lottery, 1 in 22,957,480, published on the lottery’s Web site. Many statisticians believe the odds are worse, but using the lottery’s own numbers, you are 41 times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to win the lottery.

We can only wonder why lottery players would ever be so careless as to wander onto a golf course, hike a mountain trail, or venture out in their cars.

There are no guarantees in life. We can do nothing to assure we’ll be a “winner,” and ultimately, we can’t control life or the world around us. Only God, who made and controls it all, can provide any assurance of what happens while we’re here, or after we leave here.

Statistical methods and the laws of probability are useful for many purposes, and have found their way into decision making in business, military operations and government planning. But we can’t compute the probabilities of life, or our exit from it.

From a personal standpoint, however, it’s useful to consider our chances of getting out of this world physically alive. They’re zero – as we’ve been told already by the One who controls all outcomes, statistical or otherwise.

That is, unless we’re still alive when the Rapture comes, and the Lord takes us home to be with Him forever.

Even then, only those who are guaranteed safe passage out of here will be those who have believed that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God; that He suffered and died on the cross to pay our sin debt; that he was buried and miraculously rose from the grave to prove He was who He said He was; and that believing, they have accepted Him as Savior and Lord.

For those who have not believed, their chances of getting out of here physically alive are zilch. As in zero, zip, nada. As in tough tacos and adios, for eternity.

But if you have believed in Him, and in the Father who sent Him (read the Gospel According to John 5:24), and have accepted Him as the Savior who died to save you, there’s a 100-percent probability you’ve got a reserved first class seat on the most glorious flight you’ll ever take.