Devotion for the Week...
This summer will mark 10 years since Paul, Aiden, Zachary and I left Igloolik, Nunavut and moved to Newfoundland. When I realized a few weeks ago that we had been here a full decade I was amazed. How could that moving day possibly be 10 years ago?
Every year I hear more and more people saying things like, "Can you believe it's almost June? The year is almost half over!" or "Christmas decorations are out already. Another year will soon be done." It seems we're all in agreement that the years flow by very quickly.
The Bible takes an even more drastic view of how quickly our years pass by.
Psalm 39:4,5 - "Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure."
Psalm 103:15,16 - "The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more."
James 4:14 - "Why,
you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You
are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. "
I don't know that I really want to know the number of my days, as David requested in Psalm 39. Do you? I think that would make for a morbid existence, always counting how many days or years are left, always focused on the end. And yet, there is some wisdom in learning "how fleeting my life is."
Our human minds can't really grasp eternity. We've only ever known time, measured and constant. Eternity is something altogether different. My concept of it is just thousands and thousands and thousands of years, never ending, but my mind struggles to comprehend even that inadequate description. Our lives here on earth are fleeting, a mere blip in the stretch of eternity, but that doesn't mean that this short time is all that we have. We will continue to live through all of eternity. Life does not end when our time on earth is over.
There are two things I think we need to consider, in light of how short our time on earth is. The first is the things we pursue, the second is the things we avoid.
Many of us spend our time pursuing a lot of different things, but most of them can be filed into two categories - stuff and popularity.
To a certain degree, we need stuff. We all need food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, transportation, etc. Stuff itself is not the problem. It's only when our priorities get out of whack that wanting stuff becomes a problem, when we are not content with what we have and we strive to have more and more and more. Jesus said, quite emphatically, "You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).
Jesus also told us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). All the stuff we accumulate here on earth will eventually decay or fall apart and need either repair or replacement. If we spend all our efforts chasing after stuff, we will never be satisfied.
As for popularity, we need a certain degree of that too. We all need love and friendship, to be accepted and validated. But it is possible to chase after people's good opinion so much that we forget that God wants us to live His way, not necessarily the way everyone else is living. Trying to please people all the time will inevitably mean going along with the crowd, not rocking the boat, not standing up when something isn't right. Living God's way may sometimes mean that people won't like us. That can range from mean words to violence, depending on where in the world we live, but the principle remains the same. We are to seek God's good opinion of us over all others. Paul wrote, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
And then there are the things we avoid. Things that we don't do, even though we know we should be doing them.
I will admit, I am a procrastinator. Though I have gotten better over the years, I am still prone to leaving things to the last minute. A case in point...it is 6:20 on Monday evening as I type this, even though I aim to have my devotions ready to post by lunchtime on Monday at the latest. I know all week that this work needs to be done. I even want to be doing it, but you can be sure it will be left until Sunday most weeks, and often Sunday evening. Sometimes, like this week, that causes problems because the words just won't flow the way I want them to and the writing takes longer than I've anticipated. And now here I am as Monday draws to a close, still trying to make these words say what I want them to say.
In the grand scheme of things, when I type a few thoughts into my computer isn't really a big deal, but there are plenty of big deal things that people put off over and over again, assuming they will always have more time. Repairing relationships, following a dream, telling someone about Jesus, starting a family, going back to school - whatever the case may be, are we putting something off, avoiding it because we think there will always be more time later? In Luke 12 Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, a man who thought he needed a bigger barn to store his abundance and planned to "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (vv. 19, 20). Though this parable is primarily about the foolishness of trusting in wealth rather than God, there is no mistaking the fact that the rich fool did not know how little time he had left to live. Had he known, perhaps he would have acted differently.
What if there isn't more time? Is there something you should be doing today, something that you've been putting off for another day? And where are your priorities with regards to stuff and popularity? Are you pursuing either one with more effort than it deserves? After all, our lives on earth are only "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14).