Saturday, May 29, 2010
I had always assumed that this verse meant that God knew the number of days that my life will contain—and of course, this is true. Yet the sense in which I now saw it is that God has ordained each of my days for a specific purpose. God, as a Being Who is infinite in every dimension of His character, knows everything , so He has always known what would happen on each day of my life. Yet it brings an entirely new perspective to realize that He has designed a purpose for each of my days, and the circumstances they contain. Of course, if I choose to disobey His will as revealed in His Word, then I will miss out on some of the benefits that He intended for my days to hold. He hasn’t programmed me to do certain things, such that I have no choice in the matter. But let’s assume that a Christian is walking, to the best of his ability and knowledge, in the path that God wants Him to take.
He has some days that are obviously wonderful days. Perhaps they are days in which he accomplishes some notable victory over sin, or sees God use him in a remarkable way. Perhaps they are simply days in which he came to know and enjoy God better. It’s easy to see how God ordained those days.
Then, there are the bad days. A tragedy happens, or a great disappointment comes; it is a day of pain and sadness. Fortunately the Lord put Romans 8:28,29 in the Bible, so that we know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose…to become conformed to the image of His Son.” It is possible to see how the Lord is using a bad day, to help us draw closer to Him and find Him sufficient.
But on the average days, it can be so hard to see God’s purpose. They are days in which we are simply doing what is our duty, going to work or school, trying to do all things to the glory of God and yet not seeing anything remarkable happening. On one such day, I rode the bus home from work, wondering what had been accomplished for God that day. I couldn’t see that I had passed by any great opportunity to serve Him, nor did I see much that I could have done differently so as to allow my day to have more eternal impact. Then verses started coming to mind like James 1:4, “and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The Lord speaks so highly in the New Testament of endurance and perseverance, as something to be sought after and cultivated—and yet how are these developed but by time? Most board games have blank spaces as well as those that say, “Congratulations! Take two tokens and move ahead six spaces.” The blank spaces don’t seem to accomplish anything, and yet they do have a purpose. Fine wine and cheeses have to be aged for many days—days in which nothing visible is happening, and yet which are vital to the aging process.
So when I see my days slipping by and think that God should have given me something more significant to do during those days, I’m completely missing the big picture. I may feel like my life is speeding by, like the hourglass is running out, and yet God has plenty of days to spare in which to develop me into the person He wants me to be. After all, He does know the number of days that my life will hold, and it’s just the right number to do the work that needs to be done.
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 reminds Christians, “Do you not know that…you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price…” If my very body is not my own, but belongs to Christ Who bought me with His blood, then my days are also not mine to spend. It is also not my place to judge whether or not God is spending “my” days in the best way possible. My only concern should be that I am walking in His will—and sometimes the only thing I understand about that will is that it is “good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
The other day I was mixing muffins. A most unfulfilling and trivial occupation in the light of eternity. Mix, mix, mix, trying to get the flour evenly blended with the liquids. Whoop-de-do. I could live rather easily without muffins, especially when I have to take the time to make them. But I was making them for my grandparents, and a fresh batch of muffins can be a big event in their monotonous days. So I found myself stopping and committing the muffins to the Lord as a tiny gift of love to Him. The words of Moses the man of God seemed so fitting for that day, and for many “average” days, “Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children…and do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm for us the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:16,17)
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
One dog is the border collie who belongs to the farm; his job is to help herd the cows each day. If you’ve ever met a working border collie, you know that they are usually very intense dogs; they would love to be herding something all day, if possible.
The other dog is my own lovable mutt. He, like his cousin the border collie, likes to be active, but work is not so much on his mind. In fact, he’s not good for a whole lot, when it comes to accomplishing things.
If you were to drive up the hill to our farm, both dogs would probably meet you, both more or less muddy, both excited to see you, both hoping that you might have a cookie for them like the mailman always does. Both of them would be eager to leave some token of their appreciation on your clothes, the border collie in the form of muddy footprints, and the other in the form of doggie breath scented slobber on your face. But after the initial greeting was over (whew! You survived!) the difference between them would be evident. The border collie would disappear for a moment or two, and return with several sticks (he can carry up to four at a time in his mouth). He would deposit them at your feet, where he would stare at them until you, naïve visitor, would bend down and throw them for him to fetch. Thus you would become his life-long stick thrower; any time that you have a couple spare moments, he will go get you a stick to throw for him.
The other dog might have some interest in running after the sticks (especially if he felt like competing with his cousin), but would get completely distracted as soon as you smiled at him or showed signs of petting him. Then, he would be all wiggles and wags, turning his body into a horseshoe shape and going in circles in order to keep passing under your petting hands, and look adoringly into your face at the same time. If he’s really VERY happy to see you (don’t be flattered, he’s really VERY happy to see everybody), he might even pull his lips into a snarling position (it’s just a very toothy smile) and utter a joyous, “woo-oo—OOH!”
When I’m working in the garden, the one dog will be at my heels, jumping at every single clump of weeds that I toss away (they are a poor substitute for sticks, but will do in a pinch). The other will lay down in the grass near where I’m working, or come over every so often to exchange kisses. When I go for a walk, the one dog will range far and wide, chasing sandpipers or playing with his cousin until he gets bored and returns to the farm. MY dog will also go exploring in the grass, or jump into the pond for a swim, but he frequently looks back to see where I am, and if I lay down in the grass to enjoy the beauty of the day, he’ll often come find me and sit down nearby, like a sociable sentinel.
Now as I said, both dogs have their lovable points, and both fill a place in the lives of their respective owners. Of course I am biased toward my dog. Yet I have to ask myself, which dog better represents me, in my relationship to God? When I come to Him, do I always bring a project for Him to work on, a problem for Him to fix, a stick for Him to throw for me? Do I love my God for the things that He gives me, and does my love flag when He withholds some desire? Or do I come to Him full of wiggles and wags, enjoying His gifts, but most of all glad to see His Face, to give Him kisses of love and worship, and to enjoy the stroke of His loving hand?
The answer is revealed when He withholds the thing that I want more dearly, the hope that I cherish above all others. Do I mistrust His love, and take things into my own hands? Or can I face the very real possibility that He does not intend to give me that particular gift after all, and in that knowledge say, “I want You more, Beloved. Nothing You could give me would be worth more than knowledge and enjoyment of You.”
And just like I treasure those doggy breath kisses, God takes delight in even my feeble loving of Him.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
How often this is so! A difficult day is eclipsed by the joy of a couple hours spent with a good friend. Memories of a less than delicious meal swirl down the drain with the dishwater, when we take the first spoonful of dessert. The pain and exhaustion of a day of strenuous labor is transformed into only satisfied weariness by a refreshing shower.
Of course, it works the other way too. There are days that seem perfect until some shock or keen disappointment comes at the end, and the knot in the pit of your stomach tells you that none of the previous pleasures can make up for this pain. The fun of a vacation is ruined by the memory of one heated argument.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." And again in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison." Or, as the hymn writer said,
"One glimpse of His dear Face,
All sorrows will erase;
So bravely run the race,
'till we see Christ!"
Somehow that perspective makes twelve hours of stress and strain--or even eighty years of life in an imperfect world--seem awfully trivial!
But what of those who choose to reject God's offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ? What will there be to comfort them throughout an eternity--endless millions of years--of anguish in hell? Only seventy or eighty years during which they got to do their own thing, a little fun mixed with a lot of sorrow--and the knowledge that they could have been enjoying the eternity of delight that God had prepared for them, if only they had taken the gift.