As 2014 dawns on us, one may be certain of two things. The first is that the future cannot be fended off no matter how hard one may try to hold on to the joys and comforts of the present or how much he or she may dread the future. The second is simply that the God of the past and the present is also the God of the future.
Days come but then they go as fast as they came. What a sorrow it is when we squander those days over the course of a lifetime not heeding the Lord’s instruction on how we should handle our time on earth. No one who has ever lived has ever done everything that he or she should and could have with all the time given him or her (with the exception of the Lord Jesus during the days of His earthly ministry). But even in spite of occasional mistakes or missed opportunities, hearts surrendered in trusting obedience to God yield not only an existence in the here-and-now, but an eternity full of sweet victory as the fruit of our walk with God is fully given light.
For there is more than one way in which one can squander his or her life. He or she may, for example, simply accept drudgery and pointlessness as inevitable and simply “survive”, seeing life as merely a “series of unfortunate events”. Yet this human point of view isn’t in touch with the reality of God’s enduring grace. “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.…. What gain has the worker from his toil?... God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart…. that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, 3:9, 11a, 13-14 ESV).
God has set eternity in our hearts so that we may be “eternity minded”. You can be certain that what we do here affects our future beyond the grave: our works do not procure salvation for us (see Ephesians 2:8-9), but they DO impact the cosmic significance of our salvation in the eternal Kingdom of God. In other words, if I refuse to let God sow His Word in my life, then the fruitfulness that will be harvested through my life will be gaunt and barren.
We can also see that a man or woman can squander his or her time by selfishly living life “to the fullest”. But, as in the case of what appears to be pointless labor (or mere survival mentality), refusing our hearts no pleasure results also in a “chasing after the wind” (from Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).
All the people I’ve ever known who have prescribed to this philosophy either ended in tragic sorrow or are tragedies in the making. Whether they really didn’t believe that life holds any meaning beyond pleasure in the immediate moment or they repeatedly put God off in order to accommodate more pleasure for themselves (hoping to “get to it one day”), “living life to the fullest” is an empty lie with one’s destruction wound up inside it. And how sad that one would be willing to sacrifice not only his own eternal joy but also the joy of others as his life fails to yield anything of worth that might have led others also to God! “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring…. riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?” (Proverbs 27:1, 24 ESV).
Another way that one can devote himself to a lie is to “buy into” something that promises to give meaning, fulfillment, and disguises itself as truth, yet is only a counterfeit, sent by our spiritual enemy to detour us from the Truth of God (see John 14:6). “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV).
Because some prefer to let others simply tell them what to believe and what to do, as opposed to personally becoming students of God’s Word, there are those who fall prey to such liars, becoming participants in the deceit that some practice for evil gain. Sadly, I must point out that even though one may be only a follower of a lie, and not the lie’s maker, he or she is still accountable to God. This is true even more today in our highly literate society where Bibles are plentiful but not often read, than in times and places where people could not read or Bibles were not in the hands of ordinary people.
But of greater importance than all the various ways we could possible squander our days, is the truth that God is God of the future. Within the awesome knowledge that God is God for all time is contained the hope that we need to secure our anxious hearts in spite of our reluctance to part with what we have right now or our various fears and worries for the future.
“He has broken my strength in midcourse; He has shortened my days. ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘take me not away in the midst of my days – You whose years endure throughout all generations!’ Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but You are the same, and Your years have no end. The children of Your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before You.” (Psalm 102:23-28 ESV).
Is a new year upon us? Yes. Are things going to change for you and your family? Yes, somehow they’ll change. Is this something that should make you afraid or cause you alarm? No. Not if your heart rests in the hand of God and you seek to walk with Him throughout all 366 days of this year (yes, it’s a Leap Year, folks!). Why should I not be afraid? Because “Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 ESV). Amen.