“Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; Job 14:1-2
I've been told a number of times over the course of my life that I am an old soul. As such, I find that the older I get, the more reflective I become. Perhaps you are this way too? I will often look at old pictures of family and friends, particularly those I have not kept up with since then, and think back to that day, and try to recreate the scenario in my head surrounding the image that is forever captured in time. A snapshot of life at the moment, if you will. I always find myself asking the same three kinds of questions when I get into this nostalgic state of mind.
1. Where are those people now?
2. Did life turn out for them the way they imagined?
3. Did my life turn out for me as I imagined?
I think that if the present-me, went back in time to the younger-me, and told him how life would turn out, I would have laughed at the old-me (I had very little self-confidence back then). Nevertheless, at times, I find myself daydreaming about going back in time to warn other people I knew about how their lives would turn out, only to find out, they would have largely had the same attitude. This is especially true with regard to people who pass before their prime or have some other tragedies prematurely befall them.
But when I turn that telescope back upon my own life, I'm surprised that I am not all that surprised at how little I knew of what my life would become back then. I've always held my uncertainty about the future with a degree of sacredness. Even in my prodigal days, I understood that in the physical sense, we are but momentary creatures; either passing through time or watching time pass through us. Even then, I also knew we had an immortal soul, that once created, would live forever somewhere. This is, for the backslidden, the paradoxical dilemma of wanting to just exist in the flesh, yet, knowing deep down, that there would be a divine reckoning one day.
Nevertheless, through all the uncertainty of my own mortal limitations, I knew (and still know) God has foreseen all of my circumstances. He saw me before creating the world and decided for His own purposes, to place me here, at the end of all things, to participate in the final moments of human history, just as He has chosen you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6
Why God has chosen us is another question altogether. Even the best of us (for which I am not), falls short. We fall short because, in our flesh, we are infected with the same fallen nature that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. Furthermore, if we were truly honest brokers, we would stop measuring ourselves against other people, but against God's perfect standard for righteousness. In light of that fact, NONE OF US can measure up.
But I still tend to be my harshest critic.
As the passage from Job alludes to, even the mightiest of men, are here today and gone tomorrow. None of us, regardless of the size of our bank account, ethnicity, or family name, can extend our days one second beyond what God has already laid out for us. He knows our days, and He knows the end of our days.
Even the greatest pleasures and pursuits in life, are empty and meaningless unless God is behind them. Unless God has put those things in your life for you to pursue (passions, career, etc.), they will never bring the sort of spiritual contentment we always hoped things will bring. True, those pursuits might bring about momentary happiness, but happiness is not indicative of meaning. Happiness is a feeling (like sadness, anger, etc.) that is as fleeting as a leaf on the wind. Spiritual contentment can only be found in doing the will of God.
Task and Purpose
While each of us has many God-ordained jobs (i.e., father, mother, wife, husband, teacher, preacher, missionary, prayer warrior, encourager, etc.), our PRIMARY responsibility as believers, is to bring the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ) to as many people as we can. We are, in effect, to warn others that this ship we are on is sinking and the only lifeboat is Jesus Christ. There isn't any room on the boat for our stuff; all we can take is other people. While we are not responsible for saving anyone (that is the Holy Spirit's responsibility), we are responsible for being the messengers. IOW, we are not responsible for the results, only obedience in the telling.
A SECONDARY and no less important undertaking for believers is to recognize the times in which we live. I know on the face of that it sounds rather simplistic and obvious, but when we understand the season in which we live, we become sensitive to the Holy Spirit's calling to the work that must be done. In doing so, we learn to align our priorities with God's. We (temporal and momentary creatures) stop trying to do our own will but become sensitive to our eternal God who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
Thus, understanding when you are (in time) is just as critical to understanding what God has called you to do. Think about how much anger and confusion would be cleared up today if all professing Christendom understood this simple principle, especially given our proximity to the last days. Sleeping churches would be awake. Awake churches would be laser-focused on what matters. Misguided churches would course correct and become effective weapons against the rising antichrist spirit sweeping the world. Moreover, confusion about what we are to do would be cleared up. The Church is not called to build the Kingdom, we are what is being built. Think about it. We can't build the Kingdom any more than a house can build itself. Christ is the Master-builder, and He said He would build it. It is Christ's job to build us, not the other way around.
...and I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:18-19
Understanding when we are gives proper context to what we are to be doing. We are to be sharing the Gospel so that when the Kingdom does come, it will be peopled with humans from every tribe, tongue, and nation. We aren't called to build our 401Ks. We aren't called to create giant mega-churches. We aren't called to politically transform our nation. We are called to be a people obedient to the drawing of the Holy Spirit as He leads. His intent for the Church was to weave us into the geopolitical tapestry as salt and light, which would a) stave off the rottenness of Satan's corrupting influence, as well as b) be a beacon of light for the lost to flock to, until the fullness of time.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (my emphasis)
One of the commandments that a growing majority of churches are purposely forgetting these days is that Jesus told us, "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37). In not watching, Christian denominations have confused when it is, which has caused them to be confused with regard to what they are supposed to be doing.
I’m 48 now and inching my way to 49 with each passing day. I didn’t think it was possible to feel even more tired than the day before, but I do...daily. As we veterans are often prone to say, it’s not the years, it’s the miles. And if that is the case, then yeah, my 22 years in the military have put some serious miles on this old tent of flesh. And yeah, if I'd known I'd still be alive at 48, I would have definitely taken better care of myself as a younger man. But when you are in high school, and even college, 48 seems like a lifetime away.
Time is funny like that.
Ten years into the future feels like an eternity away, while ten years past seems like only yesterday.
I get it, you get busy and life happens. You don't really think about it all that much until you realize that your thirtieth high school reunion is just around the corner.
The truth is, we are all momentary creatures passing through time. For some, that momentary is either longer or shorter than others. Either way, we are here today and gone tomorrow. And time, like fire, is either a useful tool or a cruel master. It’s either a measurement of the number of breaths we take or if you are blessed, the number of moments that have taken your breath away. For most people, it is only when their own mortality is threatened, do they realize how precious and short this one life we get is.
Passing Thru, art design by Pete Garcia
Aging and longevity, while not indicative of fulfillment or satisfaction of a life well-lived, is still, an accomplishment most hope to achieve. Most want to live to see their own progeny extend beyond their life. They want to see their children have children, and for their legacy to extend to the next generation. But what happens when you are the last generation?
My wife's grandmother recently had her 84th birthday. Each of my kids made her a birthday card and daughter number three (who is 9 years old) wrote this on her great-grandmother's birthday card.
Congratulations on making it to Level 84
I never thought about it that way, but making it to level 84 (think computer game) is quite an accomplishment. Though I'm sure in asking how quickly her life went by, she would say without hesitation that it flew by like a rocket. Those who have reached or are about to reach this 'level' understand better than most how quickly this life passes. The wise then would ask themselves this follow-up question:
Have I built up earthly wealth or heavenly wealth?
If we truly understood that the ONLY things we can take with us, are the work we did FOR the Lord, and those people whom we shared the gospel with, our priorities would be vastly different in this age. It would drive our priorities. It would dictate our passions. It would help us discern the useful and wasteful things we do with our time. It would also dictate how loosely or tightly we grip the things of this life. Where should our investments be? In wealth, land, and things? Or in people?
Again, this is not taking shots at anyone who has done financially well in this life. God can and does bless people who are good stewards, and to whom material wealth could be used to extend His reach through the Church. Thankfully, God gives to those who have a proper understanding of using wealth as a tool, rather than as an addiction. My line of questioning is not directed at these people. It is directed at people who obsess about building and hoarding wealth in this life as if they can take it with them.
A) You can't take it with you
B) You can't take it with you
Again, a man’s life is like a vapor. If we truly understood that, then we know how precious the time we have left is. Let this understanding prompt you to use the gifts and talents God has given you, to redeem the time while you still can (Eph. 5:16).
I know all of us, want to live to see the Rapture. Trust me, I know. Personally, I've been looking up daily since 2007 and many of you have been looking up for a lot longer. While the Rapture could be today or tomorrow, the one thing we can bank on is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. None of us are even guaranteed our next breath. You or I could die in a car accident today. Or by a heart attack. Or a giant meteor striking us down as we clean our front yard.
Let us be a people who learn to live with the daily expectation that each moment we have is a gift of God and that our temporary, vapor-like existence (in these last moments of human history), was only ever to serve a greater good. Let us, in this season of thanksgiving, thank our Creator and Savior for the times in which we have, in the opportunities He has given us, and in the hope of what lies ahead.
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17