Thursday, 24 September 2020

WISDOM FROM COUNTING

 WISDOM FROM COUNTING

A brush with death will sometimes have a dramatic effect upon a person. It can (and has) cause(d) people to re-evaluate their priorities and reset their life on a completely different course. This phenomena has been the basis for several Hollywood blockbusters including, Big Fish (starring Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Danny DeVito), and Meet Joe Black (starring Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt) are two great examples. But it’s not just the stuff of movies. Throughout history there have people who have had a brush with death which has shaped them to live a life without fear and accomplish extraordinary things. Examples include Martin Luther, who nearly died in a storm and cried out to God to save him (he is now the second most written about person of all time), and Winston Churchill who nearly drowned as a child. How differently would you live if you knew when you were going to die?

¶ So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

MAKE YOUR DAYS COUNT

Talk to an older person and you’ll often hear them say that the years have flown by. In fact, I heard one man nearing his 70th birthday remark, “The years fly by while the days drag on!” The apostle Paul was someone who knew that he was about to face death. Before he left this life for the next, he wrote to his protégé, Timothy and said:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ¶ Do your best to come to me soon.
Second Timothy 4:7-9

Paul described his life as like running a race and his death as being like a finish-line — but not the end of his life (since he went on to describe receiving a crown after the race). The grave is not the end of our life. Paul had lived a life where he had reasons to be confident that he could finish well. He wasn’t saying that he had been perfect, in fact, he describes himself as the greatest of all sinners (1Tim. 1:15). What Paul did do though was to make the most of the negative circumstances he was in so that he could be a blessing to others. From his imprisonment in Rome he wrote his epistles to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:20), the Colossians (Col. 4:18), to Titus, Philemon (Philem. 1:9) and to Timothy (2Tim. 2:9). And while he refers to be imprisoned, he never asked for his recipients to pray for his release or for his circumstances to be improved. Rather, his concern was for those he was writing to. To the Colossians, the death-row apostle counselled-

¶ Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
Colossians 4:5

Making the best use of time requires wisdom. The psalmist said that when we realise our days are numbered we will develop a heart for wisdom (Psalm 90:12). I guess therefore that the opposite is also true — that when ignore that our days are numbered and we assume that our lives will continue on indefinitely, we are more inclined to live foolishly. This is why the story of King Hezekiah’s final years is even more tragic than it ordinarily would be.

 

THE MAN WHOSE DAYS WERE NUMBERED

How different would you start living today if you knew when your life on earth would end? One of Israel’s greatest kings became horribly sick. He called for Isaiah the prophet to pray for him. Instead, the LORD spoke to King Hezekiah and told him that he was about to die. Hezekiah then wept bitterly and made an impassioned plea to God to preserve his life. Remarkably God did. Before Isaiah had left the palace the LORD once again spoke to him and gave him the remedy for Hezekiah’s illness and the news that God was going to give the king a further 15 years of life. Hezekiah’s days were then literally numbered (5,478 days left).

And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment,
Hebrews 9:27

What Hezekiah did with his 15 years of grace stands as a solemn warning for all God’s people. Rather than doing what the apostle Paul would later do, Hezekiah tragically grew increasingly arrogant and conceited. He mistook his increased wealth and fame as God’s blessing and approval. Rather than working at leaving a material and spiritual legacy, Hezekiah sired a successor who would commit the most godless atrocities in all of Israel’s history, and lead Israel into idolatry, apostasy, and its eventual destruction.

Plan for the future but live as if this day may be your last!

Not many of us will have the historical and global impact of a Martin Luther or a Winston Churchill, but we can gain a heart of wisdom to live our remaining days well by learning to number our days. While getting your golf handicap down or taking a cruise to another south Pacific island may be high on your Must-Do list, they probably shouldn’t be at the top of your list. The wisdom that comes from numbering your days should drive you to what the Westminster Shorter Catechism declares is the “chief end of man”, or, ‘the highest purpose of every person’ : The chief end of man is to know and enjoy God forever. Jesus described this as –

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ¶ “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:33-34

We may not know when the finish-line of our race on earth will be, but we can still make sure that we run our race well and make each of our remaining days count by sowing seed into the soil of the future and taking deliberate steps to walk more closely with Christ through prayer and the guidance of His Word.  

¶ So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

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