NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.”
Psalm 39:4, NIV
All of us have thought about the march of time, another year is now on the record books forever. It’s now recorded history, and God has the complete record of your life and mine. Before us is another year—what should we expect, and how should we live it? These are the questions before us, and we must confront them. 2022 is before us, we march on together through the pandemic.
All of us should have the same desires expressed in this verse from the Psalms. Each and all should say to God, “Remind me how quickly my life will be over and my work will be done. Lord, let my life count for something significant.” (read Psalm 90:10-12)
The famous black American baseball player Jackie Robinson was near the end of his life and he commented, “A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.” That’s true, and so we ask—how significant is my life? How can it be better?
It seems to me that we must think in concert with the verse from Psalm 39. We need to number our days, living each as if it were the last. Also realize, we have this life only to please God and to make an impact on the lives of others. And then, realize for all of us time is running out! What we are going to do we must do now.
Four things come to mind if we are serious about life. First, find out who we are. Second, as indicated, discover how we can be significant by positively impacting others. Third, we must say to God, “Show me,” and allow God to guide us and to teach us how we can have value to others. And fourth, to make every hour of every day have meaning; that involves living life with wisdom. Those are four critical areas of life, and some people never touch these issues simply because they live superficially. In fact, they really do not live at all, they only exist in an empty shell called their body. How can it be different for us?
Once my wife heard a young preacher speak. Later I asked her, “How was he?” She replied, “He has a good speaking gift, but he has one big problem—he has never suffered enough, so he’s a bit superficial.” What an insight that was! She was not wishing for him negative things, rather she was saying, like gold or silver the heating of it purifies it. The fire does not destroy the precious metal, it only succeeds in making it more pure, beautiful, and valuable. So it is often true in some people with the troubles and trials of life.
In life, suffering and struggle are absolutely necessary—it includes disappointments, defeats, delays, and even facing death. The greatest discoveries are only achievable through this process. For example, there is no way you can find out who you really are until you discover how you handle problems. You must be tested by trouble to discover it. The English proverb says, “Adversity introduces a person to himself.” Think of that for a moment and you will agree it’s true beyond debate. You will agree it’s vital to life.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Trials and tribulations are very good for us in that they help us to know ourselves better than we knew ourselves before … Christian people are generally at their best when they are in the furnace of affliction and being persecuted and tried.” So that, for people of faith, misfortune and multiplied problems are an occasion to discover and demonstrate character. One of history’s greatest preachers said, “There is nothing that makes a man have a big heart like a great trial.” (C. H. Spurgeon) It can be said with confidence that none of us can come to the highest maturity without facing the great struggle of trials in many forms.
Why is that true? Because there is no way to know how to really emphasize and sympathize with people (many of them have a life crisis now) unless we have had some of the same experiences ourselves. God is never cruel, but He is wise and He knows how to teach us wisdom and mercy; so, He allows trials and trouble, suffering and sorrow to come into our lives in order to prepare us to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
We must all submit to be tested and understand that when troubles come, God has not failed us or forsaken us. “Rough seas make good sailors,” the ancient seaman once often said. In the Psalm which is our text he says, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (verse 7) Let our troubles drive us to a deeper and greater dependence on Him and Him alone!
As the year begins, realize our struggles and our suffering cause us to grasp all this—there is no way we can really learn how to trust God and be able to say “My hope is in you” until we go through the fire and are made to silently think of what’s really important, and as we experience the flames of life’s furnace. Or, to change the word picture, no one knows how to call for help like a drowning person!
We live in a world of miseries, how can we help people if we have never known it? Even Jesus went through it Himself. The Bible says that He “understands our weaknesses since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned.” (Hebrews 4:15, TLB) Scripture is plain, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us … so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest … he knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and he is wonderfully able to help us.” (Hebrews 2:17-18, TLB) If all that fully prepared Jesus, then we must face life with an understanding we may have to be in the school of suffering to qualify us to bless others.
So along the road of life we face those “impurities” in our life—cowardice, self-pity, immaturity, dishonesty, and selfishness—all of these in our soul are revealed and drawn out by trials and suffering. Life trials teach us who we really are.
The grueling struggles help me to focus on “life’s end and the number of my days;” also it lets “me know how fleeting is my life.” (verse 4) What is more important than that? And when we face the brevity of life and the possibility of “life’s end,” it’s a great lesson, it cancels out everything but the truth, and it puts in place what is really important. That is, isn’t it, what we really need to make us serious and more valuable?
In fact, we must admit that as we live and experience pain and problems, suffering and sorrow, difficulties, and life’s end, we finally discover not only that we are not in control of our lives but we never were! That reality wakes a person up and causes one to passionately cry out, “My hope is in you.” (verse 7) We then sincerely mean it when we say, “Show me, O Lord …” and we need to be clearly shown the truth and believe it.
No one enjoys setbacks, disappointments, and heartbreak. Yet, all these in life can be a great stimulus to grow. Let me say it as forcefully and finally as possible, people who have not suffered very much are often shallow and naïve about life and human nature. But on the other hand, suffering does not always enrich a person or deepen their understanding automatically. Fire in a fireplace can put out the fire and deep water can drown.
When some people realize “how fleeting is my life” and that “the span of my years is as nothing before you” (verse 5), it is a very real traumatic experience that devastates some; they become paralyzed with fear. And some who read these words may be in that condition now. When Peter began to sink in the angry waves, his prayer was short and simple but very sincere, “Lord, save me!” Maybe you will cry out those words now. When the thief on the cross was dying, his prayer was, “Lord, remember me …” God didn’t think those prayers too simplistic to be taken seriously. He heard them and we all need to remember that now in 2022.
As the new year lies before us, we can sincerely say to God, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days;” take a long, serious look. Simply be honest, where you will end up is probably the direction you are going now. See the end that you might correct the course! Let God show you. But there is even more that you and I can do, we need to take the final step.
We can count on God to be faithful, that is a certainty. Listen to God himself speak to you and all His people, saying:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … Do not be afraid, for I am with you …”
Isaiah 43:2-3, 5
Peter spoke of the future and the past. He spoke of life’s trials and tests. He gave this sound advice, all of us should “commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (I Peter 4:19), promising that “the God of all grace … after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong” (I Peter 5:10). Yes, all of us without exception will have our share of suffering and pain, but in reality it’s just “a little while” so open your life up to God and let Him renew you and restore you. Let Him give you stamina and strength for the journey ahead.
Let me emphasize what Peter said, “the God of all grace … will himself …” Notice, your life and mine is God’s personal project. “will himself” He has not turned us over to someone lesser than Himself. So let us remember every day of the coming year to turn to Him, entrust our whole life to Him; He then will do all the rest.
The key, of course, is to know Him very personally, so that He makes us stronger instead of becoming weaker, that He purifies us rather than punishes us, and that He makes us better so we will not become bitter. Let Him do that this coming year. As we face the coming year, begin 2022 by allowing Him to be more real in your life than He has ever been before. Invite Him afresh.
Many of you who read these words know the name of John Newton. The former seaman is famous, if for no other reason than, for writing the great hymn “Amazing Grace.” He became a pastor in the small town of Olney, England. While there, he continued to write other hymns and some poems. This is one of many of them:
Though dark be my way, since He is my guide,
‘Tis mine to obey, ‘tis His to provide …
By prayer let me wrestle, and He wilt perform,
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.
Have a wonderful 2022 as you grow in grace and mature in your walk with God, making every day count for eternity!