Do you remember the biggest problem you faced when you were 9 years-old? Unless you had a traumatic event take place at that time, chances are that you can’t. The problems that we had to deal with when we were children seemed enormous at the time and probably resulted in many frustrating tears. But years later, looking back, they more than likely now look either trivial or long-forgotten. Actually, you probably don’t even have to try and recollect back to your childhood to now see the problems you had just a few years or even months ago in a different light which now makes them look a lot smaller than they appeared at the time. The passage of time tends to give us a different perspective on life and our priorities.
¶ I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
TAKING A LONG-TERM VIEW
It’s difficult when you’re young to think too much about the future. When we’re young we tend to focus on the now. On the other hand, when you’re old it’s too easy to look back over the years of your youth with a host of “If only” regrets. If only I’d…saved my money…listened to my parents…gone to university…said yes…said no…not eaten so much…learned the piano…made more time with those I care about… You can tell when a person has become wise by how they regard their future. A wise person will always take a long-term view of their life. It’s not that they don’t make mistakes now, or even seem to waste time or money occasionally. A wise person takes a long-term view of their life and adjusts their perspective on their present challenges accordingly.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
LIFE IS SHORT
The other week I saw a childhood schoolfriend of one of my children whom I hadn’t seen for quite a while. Four days or so after I had seen him I received a phone call from one of his other friends that on the weekend their mutual schoolfriend had been killed in an horrific accident. Today, someone came to see me to tell of a friend of theirs whose child had committed suicide this week. Both of these lives ended tragically and prematurely. When we say, “Life is short” – it’s easy to think of such youthful tragedies. But the reality is, everyone’s life is short!
My hero, F.W. Boreham, was fond of writing in series. He wrote a five volume series on Texts That Changed The World that became a best-seller and still inspires millions of people even today. When he turned 40, he began to write a series in which the first instalment was entitled, On Turning Forty. He wrote the second instalment when he turned 50. He wrote the third when he turned 60. He wrote the fourth when he turned 70, and he wrote his last when he turned 80. As he got older he increased his reflections on some of his regrets. Even though he was one of the world’s most acclaimed preachers and Christian authors – whose books have possibly led thousands to Christ – he said that he had one big regret toward the end of his life and career as a preacher. “I did not preach enough about God!” he lamented. To be sure, he had preached about God’s deeds and acts, the attributes of God’s grace and love, and other peripheral topics associated with the doctrine of God, but he felt great sorrow that he had not preached more about God himself! If only, he said, if only I had presented God for who He truly is then surely more people would have come to see Him as the most beautiful being in the universe whose magnificence and wonderfulness would melt the hardest heart and soften the most resistant. His regret spurs me on to make sure that I know who God truly is and love Him for who He truly is and serve Him because He is who He is. And I daren’t waste a moment in this holy quest because life is short.
¶ A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
IN THE END
As F.W. Boreham approached the end of his life, he longed to know God more richly and deeply. This was also the quest of the apostle Paul as he approached his end. He wrote to the Philippians from a jail cell. Even though it appears that he held out hope for an early release from his imprisonment after he was to be brought before Caesar, this hope was not realised.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.
“That I may know Him!” Fancy that! The apostle who was struck from his horse by the radiant glory of Christ while on the Persecutor’s Road to Damascus; the apostle whom the resurrected Christ appeared to in a vision and spoke directly to him (Acts 18:9-10); the apostle whom Christ used to raise people from the dead and to heal many people miraculously; and, the apostle who testifies that he was caught up to heaven and saw things too wonderful to reveal — this apostle gets toward the end of his life and states that he doesn’t yet know Christ the way he should! This apostle, the apostle Paul, toward the end of his life begins to see his life and his troubles in the light of eternity. And I am thus assured that in this light many of the problems that we face today will fade from our gaze and vanish as we fix our eyes on the Source of eternity’s Light.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
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