Lifespan

“Seventy years are given to us! 
     Some even live to eighty. 
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; 
     soon they disappear, and we fly away.”
Psalms‬ ‭90:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 90 is the first Psalm of Book Four within the Book of Psalms, and this time it is Moses’s pen that records another lyrical expression of God. At apparent odds with today’s verse, Moses didn’t start God’s work until he was 80 years old. But what a life of service! Moses lived until he was 120, but how long will we live? “Three score years and ten” is often quoted in relation to our expectation of lifespan, but we don’t really know. None of us know the day when we will leave life on this earth and cross the Great Divide. The young seem to believe that they will live forever. Certainly many seem to act like it. But those who are older become more measured in their approach to life, particularly when they reach the “twilight zone”. Some terminally ill people want to legislate control over when they leave this life, but the sanctity of life prevails, at least for now. But whatever we feel about those last moments of our lives, worrying won’t be helpful. Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 6:27,  “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” I have read somewhere that over 90% of deaths occur when the person is asleep, which many will find reassuring. Certainly that was the case for both my parents.

So what is the impact on our daily lives of our lack of knowledge of when we will die? How should we respond? Most people don’t want to talk about it. They become fearful and depressed. Others park the question, preferring to live each day as it comes. Still others become frustrated because they know they have to age and leave this life one day and they regret that death is one aspect of their life that they have no control over. Some get paranoid when they observe the signs of ageing staring back at them from the mirror, reaching for magic potions to delay the inevitable. Cosmetic companies advertise the extraordinary powers of their products in halting the ageing process. And one topic of scientific research is sure to get the attention of many readers – how our natural lives can be extended. There are even a few wealthy people who go to extraordinary lengths to preserve themselves after death in the hope that one day in the future there will be technology that can resurrect them from a deeply frozen state.

But there is one sure-fire way of ensuring we can live forever. For eternity. Most people, particularly those who have rejected God, think that life ends when they die. But those who believe in, and follow, God, are convinced that there is a life beyond the grave of far more importance than the life we experience now. In faith, such people, Christians, believe that Jesus is preparing a place for them, so that they can live with Him forever. We can read what He said in John 14. 

I have heard the often-quoted verse, John 3:16, used at funerals to assure the relatives and the friends of their departed loved one that he or she is now in Heaven, along with their mum and dad, and Auntie Mary thrown in for good measure. That may or not be true, but such soliloquies often ignore the following verse, verse 17, where Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” There is only one way to join God in Heaven, and that is through Jesus. In John 11, Jesus said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus,  ”… I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die ….” It’s all about the word “Believe”. It implies not just an acknowledgement that Jesus is real. That God exists. Even the devil believes that! It implies aligning our lives during the time we have in this life to how it will be in the next. Dealing with our sins. Following God’s teachings. Building up a relationship with Him. Otherwise we will be unable to enter into God’s presence – how could we if we don’t know Him?

So today, let us stop worrying about how much time we have left for us in this life. Instead, let us ensure our future in the life to come.

Mud and Clay

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭40:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Imagine the scene. You have wandered over some fields and come to a bank, down which you accidentally slip. You find yourself stuck in a bog, mud up to your knees and you are starting to sink further. Your cries for help are unheeded because of the remoteness of the place and very quickly the enormity of your predicament floods over you leaving an acute feeling of fear and despair. So you cry out to God for help, waiting with patience for Him to answer, full of assurance that He will do just that. And then, out of nowhere, a rope falls in front of you. You grab it and find a stranger at the other end who manages to pull you out, back up the bank, to a place of firm ground. God hears your cries and prayers for help and sends someone to rescue you.

Imagine the scene. After several days of heavy rain, the local river has burst its banks and your house is being flooded. The ground floor is now under water but you have managed to get onto the roof. You look anxiously around at the water-filled devastation, watching trees, rubbish, even cars, float past. Despair and fear increase. There is no-one to help. But God hears your prayers and sends a rescue helicopter, that quickly lifts you to a place of safety where you can wait for the flood waters to recede.

Imagine the scene. You realise that you are heading for a lost eternity because of your many sins. You are filled with fear and despair. Your situation appears to be hopeless because you realise you can’t save yourself. You cry out to God for help. But God has a plan. He loves you so much that He sends His Son, Jesus, to rescue you. But it’s a costly exercise – to rescue you Jesus has to become a sacrifice for your sins. There is no other way. And through His death on a cross, Jesus takes upon Himself all your sins, leaving you without guilt and shame, in right standing before God and able to say with confidence that your future with God in Heaven is secure. You have found a place of security. Solid ground on which to stand. Paul wrote in his Roman epistle, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Three scenarios. Two of physical danger, one of spiritual danger. But all three a potential “pit of despair”. But after rescue what do you feel? Elation? Relief? Most probably an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for His rescue. A song you have never sung before comes from deep within you, as you sing grateful praises to God. A song that tells of God’s amazing works. A song that brings others into a trusting relationship with God too.

Far-fetched scenarios that don’t apply in real life today? God may, or may not, rescue us from all occasions of physical danger. It wouldn’t be danger if He always did. But we can have an assurance that God will always rescue a repentant sinner from spending eternity in that place Jesus called hell. How do I know? The Son of God, Jesus, told me. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

The Land of the Living

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In spite of all his trials and attacks from people who were out to get him, David, the psalmist, continued to have confidence in the Lord, his God. You see, he had made the connection between life here on planet earth, and his life secured and assured for him with God Himself. And more, David had confidence in his expectation that the Lord’s goodness would extend from the Heavenly realm into his earthly bubble. All he had to do was wait patiently, something that he apparently needed courage to do.

Once again I am in a place of intersection between the the land of the living and the land of the dead. My aunt, the sole remaining member of my mother’s generation, passed over “the great divide” a few days ago. Her spirit has now taken up residence somewhere else, where her options for eternity are limited. Her spirit is dependent now on the Lord’s mercy and decisions she made “in the land of the living”. Her options for experiencing the “Lord’s goodness” in this life have ceased. She had heard the Gospel many times during her long life, but did she know Jesus?

So what lessons can I learn from these final two verses in Psalm 27? For me, I see the necessity of keeping close to God, being in His presence, making right choices, being confident that He loves me and wants to bless me “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3). My pilgrimage through “the land of the living” involves looking out expectantly for the “Lord’s goodness” to me with patience and courage. Fending off all the enemy’s attacks in the knowledge that I don’t have to listen to his lifeless message from the land of the dead. Father God I am so grateful for Your presence in “the land of the living”, enabling You to be accessible to all.