When do you remember God? Is it when everything’s going well for you and you’re almost literally flying, or is it more often than not when He slows you down? It is an unfortunate reality that when we are healthy and young and nothing hurts, and our lives are on the upswing with things seeming to be getting better and better that we tend to not recognize our need for, much less actually spend much time with, God. But when something bad happens–whether collectively like the recent shootings or 9/11, or individually in terms of a financial reversal of fortune, death or illness of our loved ones, or personal physical suffering–our thoughts are brought back to the One who can do something about it and the only context in which any of it makes sense.
“So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NCV)
The reality of the human condition is that “the life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16 NIV) Yet regardless of where you stand on the continuum of your lifespan–whether you are in the spring, summer, autumn or even winter years of your life–God is essential.
1) If we are perceptive enough to recognize this, He is our guide and friend–our wisest of counselors–in the early years of our life when we are still building what we hope will be the remainder of our existences. Too often people ignore Him during this time and build their futures on sand–ignore what He says and sin–only to be surprised when life eventually crumbles before them. “Do not be fooled: you cannot cheat God. People harvest only what they plant. If they plant to satisfy their sinful selves, their sinful selves will bring them ruin. But if they plant to please the Spirit, they will receive eternal life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NCV)
2) During our summer, and later our early autumn, years too, He is our strength. If we have been wise and taken what He says seriously and avoided sin, these will be years when we will begin seeing good results. Whether in terms of career or family or physical health or personal wealth, we will begin reaping what we have sown earlier on. If we have worked hard to establish a career and worked ethically and faithfully–then we should see some accomplishment. If we married wisely and nurtured and safeguarded this relationship–then we should have a strong marriage. If we diligently watched “…over the ways of…[our] household…” (Proverbs 31:27)–then we should see our children growing and succeeding and, hopefully, avoiding many of the pitfalls people fall into. If we have honored our parents’ wisdom and nurtured our bodies, avoiding obvious culprits such as excess sugar and processed grains and foods, as well as alcoholism and drug abuse; if we have exercised regularly but not excessively; if we have allowed ourselves enough sleep to recuperate–then, we should be good to go for a while longer. If we have not foolishly spent every penny we earned and then some on credit, choosing rather to live on less than we actually make and to save so we have “…something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28)–then we should have greater financial stability and not be one paycheck away from poverty, as many are.
3) Our later autumn and subsequent winter years, of course, are the time when we will become more and more focused on Christ and on what is to come after our bodies finally expire and we see Him and what He has prepared for His own. Yet it is sad that this is frequently simply because this is the period during which our bodies start falling apart. It should not be so that our thoughts are directed back to what is real and right and good and eternal simply because the paucity of this life has become apparent! WE SHOULD HONOR AND RECOGNIZE AND REVERE AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE GREAT WORTH OF THE ETERNAL ONE DURING EVERY STAGE OF OUR LIVES–not just when it is about to be taken away anyway!!!
I love the way the writer of Ecclesiastes explains it:
“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly. Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint. Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral. Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 NLT)
What an explanation! Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiates, was widely acknowledged to be the wisest man on earth. Early in his life, God had offered to grant him whatever he asked for, and because he asked for wisdom “God said to Solomon, ‘Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people—I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!’” (2 Chronicles 1:11-12 NLT) So, how did the wisest man on earth finish up Ecclesiastes? What was his conclusion as a result of such a depressing assessment?
“’Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless.’ Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly. The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep. But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8-14 NLT)
Fear God and obey His commands–this is everyone’s duty–He will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. That was the conclusion of the wisest man on earth, and it was for everyone–whether young, middle-aged, older, or ready to leave these bodies.
So, when do you remember God? Is it only when things take a turn for the worse? Or are you, perhaps, among those who are wise enough to “honor [obey] Him in your youth?” May this be true of each and every one of us!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me to honor You ALWAYS. It was You who said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23 NIV) Help me evidence my love for You by obeying Your teaching, so the Father will love me, and You will both come and make Your home with me! Amen!