Saturday, November 21, 2009

A shortness of breath

It is amazing how fast the days go by now. That wasn’t so much the case last year.  I am not exactly sure why.  Perhaps it was just the newness of Africa, combined with a hot season that was hot, combined with trials and hard times and frustrations and difficulties and humblings.  But, even then, when I look back on that loooooooong period, that first nine months before we came home to have a baby, it did go by fast. As did the next seven months when we were home, flew by, and now we are nearing completion of a year in Zambia.  Crazy.  The bible speaks a lot about how short our life is and uses metaphors such as a breath, (just had three breaths writing this sentence), a shadow (the sun is always moving), a passing breeze (just felt it as it came through the window), and a mist (here and gone).  That is how God describes our life.  See for yourself:


Job 7:7 -  Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath…


Job 8:9 -  for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.


Psalm 39:5 -You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.    


Psalm 78:39 - He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.


Psalm 89:47 -47     Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men!


Psalm 144:4 - Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.


James 4:14 - Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.


What do we make of that?  How is that my life is but a breath or a fleeting shadow? Surely that is not true.  Surely our lives amount to more than that.  I am teaching through the book of Revelation now during our Action Pastor’s College classes.  And, we were talking about the return of Christ yesterday.  One of the verses that came up was found in  2 Peter 3:8 - But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.   Peter is talking about the end times and how these last days are near and that He will come like a thief in the night. (But, he said that 2000 years ago…)  The reason that God is delaying is because he is patient towards his people, not wanting any to perish, but to come to repentance.  So, though his nearness seems slow in our time, his time, which is like a 1000 years to our 1 day (so, in essence, 2 days, really is near.)  If I told you that you were going to die in two days, I believe it would change your priorities and your plans. I know it would change mine.  The end is near. 


I was thinking about that again today and talking about this verse to a pastor.  I asked the question, “If one of ours days is a thousand years, then how long have I been alive?”  So, I did the math, busting out my dusty (pun intended and a shout out to my math teacher friend in Bellevue) algebra skills on Microsoft Excel, trying to put my life into perspective.


If, as Psalm 90:4 says,  “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” than how long I have been alive?


1 day = 0.039 days I have been alive

1000 years = 39 years I have been alive


24 hours/day = 0.936 hours I have been alive

1 ½ day = 0.039 days I have been alive


60 minutes = 56.16 minutes

1 hour = 0.936 hours



I was humbled to realize that I have been alive in God’s timetable for 56 minutes.  If God gives me another 39 years, my life will amount to just under 2 hours. No wonder life is a breath, a vapor, a shadow and a mist.  My life is a movie, literally.  You know how fast a good movie can go. You settle in to a comfortable padded chair, have some popcorn and a soda, and boom, it is over. The lights come on and you go home, literally.  What do we make of this revelation?  If my life is a movie, what kind of movie ought I do star in?  What kind of movie will last? 


Will my life be remembered as a classic Singin’ in the Rain or It’s a Wonderful Life, or will it be like Dumb and Dumber 2?  I was in a movie once. I was an extra in the movie Primary Colors, a movie based on Bill Clinton’s life.  Yeah, exactly. I don’t think we even finished it. It was horrible. You really don’t want to be in a bad movie. The problem is that you really can’t tell if it is going to be bad when you are in the middle of it.  So, how do we live a movie that is good, that lasts, that changes lives, that is worth it, that is remembered? 


There is a great manuscript called the Bible.  And, this manuscript continues to challenge the followers of this God that the best use of life here on earth is a life who’s script is focused on eternity, even to the extent that we sacrifice what we could have on earth. We should store our treasures there. We should pray for rewards from there.  We should fast because of that reality. We should serve the God from there. That reality (should) affect every area of our lives here on earth.  


It is indeed staggering to realize how much we risk on such a short life here on earth when eternity is so, so, so long. In essence, so many here on earth trade 2 hours of me-pleasure, me-comfort and me-luxury and me-independence for 2 trillion years of God-joy, God-reward, God-friendship and God-worship.  How foolish that comparison seems.  Who would trade two hours of fleeting and unsatisfying pleasure for 2 trillion years of eternal and pleasure with Jesus?  If we are completely and utterly selfish, we would choose the two trillion years in a heartbeat.   I am challenged this day to live with eyes on eternity, enduring the sacrifices and the affliction so that eternity can be seen in my daily life.  As C.S. Lewis said, “the saints who did the most in this world were precisely the one who thought most of the next world.” 


56  minutes.  That’s all. 


So, how should we live this short movie of a life?


Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.


2 Corinthians 4:16-18 - So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.


Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.


1 Peter 4:10-11

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


This concept of our shortness of breath should encourage us to live carefully, making the best use of our time, but it also should encourage us in our darkest days. This momentary trouble that seems like eternity is preparing us for eternal glory where it will all be worth it.  Our trials and our difficulty and our pain is being used to prepare us for an eternity of glory, changing us and molding us into a likeness of our Savior. Salvation is not just a belief, but a process, where God births in you His Son, from the inside out.  So, work today, wherever you are and in whatever you do, for the Lord.  It is from Him that you will receive a reward. It is Him you are serving.  He has you alive at this short moment for some reason with the gifts and personality and experiences all for the purpose to bring Him glory. 




So, how long have you been alive?


What script are you working from? 


What difference does eternity make in your temporary life?


What evidence is there that your citizenship is in heaven while you are on earth?



No comments: