“Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
How has the past five years passed so quickly? My 15 year old son was just ten. I turn around and the daughter that was as high as my belt not long ago is now as tall as I am.
Where is life going? Where has it gone? How have the past 50, 30, 20, 10, 5 years passed so quickly? What have I done? What is the present counting for? What does the future hold and how long do I have? If the next 10 years pass as quickly as the previous ten, I find that I am, at times of weak faith, actually scared or at least very sobered by it all; what can I do to redeem my remaining time? What can I do to have no regrets when I am dying? Such thoughts often fills the mind of one who is in the second half of life.
O, how fast is life. It is a vapor, a mist, a disappearing cloud; it is churning away and passing like a bullet toward its target- eternity. The brevity and speed of this life reminds us, as dear Geoff Thomas says, that we are not here to stay but we are here to go, and while we are in this world we are strangers on a swift journey. This certainly becomes more real with each passing year, especially when birthdays come around.
Birthdays, for younger folk, are times of celebration and encouragement, with feelings that are affirming and uplifting. You are glad to be getting older and feel that you have 500 years to yet live. But not so for those who are getting older. When people get into their forties, fifties and beyond, birthdays become a different thing altogether. They are not the fun things they were when young, but rather are sobering reminders that the days have quickly turned into years and you are feeling the great reality- “I don’t have many years before it will be my funeral that others will be attending and I will not be here– I will be in eternity.” This is what becomes more and more real with second-half birthdays. By second-half, I mean birthdays that come in the second half of life. The second half has become very, very real to me.
If we are realistic, when one turns forty, he is already in that “second-half”, because Scripture promises three score and ten- 70 years; but we all know that it is not a promise that is certain for all believers; there have been many wonderful Christians who have died before the age of ten, twenty, thirty, and forty. So those thirty-nine and older ought to welcome themselves into the second half of life. Everyone’s life is passing away and will soon be gone.
We tend to live life before fifty as if we are never going to die; intellectually, we know we will die, but we don’t feel it and we certainly don’t dwell on it enough; it is not real to us; we don’t prepare for it like we ought to; we don’t meditate on it enough and develop an eternity-conscious mentality. Then when our later years are upon us, we are not ready for the reality that comes with it– “O my, I am approaching sixty– seventy– where have the years gone? what have I accomplished? What do I do now? How can I best use the few and fleeting years I have left, whatever that might be?” This can bring with it a dampening, depressing feeling which can cast one down for months if they are not mindful of it and don’t guard themselves against it.
What is the remedy for such a trap? It is the Bible. And more specifically, particular needed graces that the Bible alone and Christ alone gives– an eternal perspective, a deeply satisfied heart that is satisfied in Christ alone, and a life that is truly kingdom-centered. Any heart that is attached to this world will feel sadness as they realize that before long they will be leaving it. But the heart that is in heaven, that has its mind set on things above, that longs for Christ, that sees this vile world for what it is– temporal and passing vanity– such a heart will not continually be cast down with the passing of time and the second half of life. Each passing day, month, and year brings the true Christian closer and closer to being with their Saviour forever and forever. Can you imagine the moment when you actually see Him and know that you are now with Him forever?
More and more, I find myself saying to my close friends, “It won’t be long before one of us will probably be standing at each other’s funeral.” We know it’s coming. At that time, as someone has said, I seriously doubt that anyone on their death bed will ask, “Would you read me the amount I have in my bank savings account and the summary of my financial port folio?” No one will be asking that. Rather, all earthly things are behind them and they are starring death and eternity in the face big time. Then– at that moment– nothing except Christ Himself will matter. That day, the day of our death, is fast approaching for you and for me. We ARE going to die. John Wesley was right, “This life is only a dressing room for eternity.”
I must confess that I at times feel dread at the though of dying and leaving my children and grandchildren in this world without me. It casts me down at times. But then I remember that, though every Christian must pass from this life, the God and Father of that Christian lives on and He can and will work in the lives of those descendants of ours we love so much. I can trust Him with their future here without me. I can’t keep them now; I can’t protect them now; so why should I worry about their future life when I am gone? God is real; He is able; He is the everlasting God and Father. I can trust Him with their lives present and future.
It ought to be our continual prayer: “Lord, teach me to number my days and teach me to apply my heart to wisdom; give me enabling grace to redeem whatever days and years I have left and fit me for eternity, as well as enabling me to leave a Christ-fragrant legacy behind when I am gone. It was just such a person with such a perspective who wrote:
Only one life
Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.
And when I am dying
How glad I shall be,
That the lamp of my life
Has been burned out for Thee.
For those who want to learn to number their days and apply their hearts to wisdom,
Isaac Watts is always a help:
O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten as a dream
dies at the opening day.
Any funerals to attend soon? Yes, O yes, for each of us.
And precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
From a dying friend to a dying friend, hopeful that we will spend one bright eternal day forever together.
– Mack T.