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"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens... let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years...' " (Ge 1:14).


As we mark the start of a new year, we are reflecting on the passing of time. We began last week by recognising that we count the passing of time so that we can prepare for the future. The marking of time is a blessing from God given today for our benefit in time to come. Figuratively and literally we need to recognise when it's time to plant so that we can harvest for the future. This affects many parts of our lives from evangelism to generosity, from rainy-day funds to stage-of-life considerations.

Moving in a slightly different direction, the scriptures point out other reasons to mark the times. Have a look at this:


"O LORD, make me know my end

      and what is the measure of my days;

      let me know how fleeting I am!

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,

      and my lifetime is as nothing before you.

                  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!" (Ps 39:4–5).


In this Psalm the singer asks God to show him how limited his life is. In this particular psalm he asks this in the context of struggling under great trials. He needs to know how fleeting and insignificant he is in comparison to the Almighty.


God's word speaks about the fleeting nature of human life in many places, and we do well to hear that refrain. It is important to know our frame so that we might have a proper view of God and our place before Him.



Dealing With Death

For the most part, most of us have not known much in the way of death. Perhaps you were an ICU nurse, or an undertaker where you dealt with death more regularly, but the average Joe only goes to a funeral once every couple years. We have eliminated many childhood diseases, childbirth mortalities are at historic lows, workplace deaths are trending down and life expectancy is going up. Our society is one of the most physically safe that have ever existed, and that is great news!


The downside to this, if there can be said to be such a thing, is that death seems much more distant to us. For many of us death of family or friends is a remote possibility that rarely confronts us. Even when it does, often death comes in-between the off-white, fluro lit, sterile walls of a hospital. Death is something that happens "over there" in hospitals and foreign countries, not at any moment in our homes. The distance of death means that we, perhaps more than any other generation in post-flood history, need to seriously take to heart our own mortality, because it rarely confronts many of us.


So then, let me blow the cold wind in your face for a moment, so that you may brace yourself for the far worse storm.


Death is coming for you.


You have sinned, and sinners die.


"The soul who sins shall die." (Eze 18:20).


"...and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (Jas 1:15).



There has been a continual stream of sinners before you. Year upon year they have come into the world, and year upon year they have returned to dust. You are dust, and to dust you shall return (Ge 3:19). The LORD has appointed a day for you to meet him face to face, and if Christ has not returned before then, it means you will go via the grave. When He says "Time's up" time is up.


"You return man to dust

      and say, “Return, O children of man!”

For a thousand years in your sight

      are but as yesterday when it is past,

      or as a watch in the night." (Ps 90:3–4).


Our lives are fleeting blips in the timeline of the world, and to God your life seems like an hour long. You're here one moment, gone the next.


"As for man, his days are like grass;

      he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

      and its place knows it no more." (Ps 103:15–16).


I hope you're beginning to see your temporal insignificance. Who remembers their great-great-great grandmother's righteouness? Who remembers the achievements of their great (x10) grandfather? They are like dandelions, that were pretty in their own right, but they have come and gone. And in a hundred generations, in all likelihood your personhood will not be remembered on the earth. We're brief and insignificant.


Do I say all this to demean you?


No! Not at all! I say all this to reorient your value system!


You need to come to terms with the brevity of your life so that you can use it meaningfully. An interesting thing happens when folk are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. It completely reorients how they spend their remaining days. So many things in life just become completely unimportant. The way they work and rest take on totally new importance.


You have a terminal illness called Sin. God has said your life is fleeting and fast coming to an end. You can look around you and see that a good innings is about 80 years, and your life could very well be shorter than that. God may require your life this very night! (Lu 12:20) You know that your time is short, but if you're anything like me, you probably have forgotten, lost track of where we are in the scheme of things. It's easy to get preoccupied with unimportant matters, it saves us the discomfort of having to face our failures and fast diminishing life.


As we mark the start of a new year, we would do well to get back to a proper perspective of our own brevity. The terminal part of our terminal illness is now one year closer. This morning you have stepped one day closer to death's door.



Time Thrift

There is a interesting idea from a mob called 4k Weeks. They note that the average lifespan is about 4576 weeks long. Not many when you count them up, hey? They make a poster with 4576 little squares on it so that you can mark off each week that takes you one step closer to the grave. They market it as a procrastination preventer, to kick you into gear and get active when you can see before you a diagram counting away the remainder of your life. Whether or not it is effective I wouldn't know, but it is sobering that you can see how much time is already past, and how quickly each square is filled. And 4576 weeks is just the average, many of us will not be able to fill every square!


So, how are you going to spend the remainder of your days?


You could ask our society how you should spend your days, but the values of the world are often a corruption of God's good design. We're wired to long for good work, good times and long life, but here's the thing every Christian needs to know - you have everlasting life and joy secured for you! It's in the bag! You don't need to go out and get the Wish knockoff of the good life that this world has to offer. You don't need to try and spend this life preserving your comfort so that you can live out your days in peace. You don't need to throw yourself into meaningless work in the vain hope that it will satisfy you.


No! Instead the Lord holds out to you gainful employment with eternal satisfaction. He grants you eternal rest! He offers joy in this life and the life to come! He teaches you what is truly valuable in life, and then shows you how to find it. But you must listen to him! Listen and the Lord will speak to you, he will instruct you:


"Good and upright is the LORD;

      therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He leads the humble in what is right,

      and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,

      for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies." Ps 25:8–10.


If you heed His Word, He will show you how you shall live. He will show you how to spend your days and the strength of your body. For the Christian, this life is but the beginning, but here is where you are called to lay down your life in service of your Master. Give this fleeting, weakened and weary life to Jesus, and he will replace it with an eternal one. Sacrifice your life now for an eternal reward! Lay up your treasures in heaven! (Mat 6:20, 16:24-27, 1 Ti 6:17-19, Lu 6:35-36)


Know that your days are fleeting, and that your time on earth is coming to an end sooner than you think, but remember that every day is another day to labour in Christ's kingdom. Don't squander these short days on the battlefield. Heed the Commander's call and pull out your weapons (2 Co 10:4-6, Eph 6:10-20). How else will you garner epic war stories of our Lord's great victory but by taking your place on the battlefield where the LORD triumphs over the enemy?


Walk Wisely

All this being said, please don't react to this news with furious scurrying and endless efforts to "be more productive." Making the best use of the time does not mean counting the minutes and optimising efficiency, it means using your time in the way God instructs, including regular times of prayer and fellowship and God-oriented rest.  Rest as a creature, worship as a creature, work as a creature, and look to Him who takes your mortality and turns it to immortality. See yourself as you truly are and thank God that he condescended to save you!


"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Ro 5:8).


"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Eph 5:15–16).


"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col 3:17).


Our God's love lasts forever, and so if He love us, we will last forever too:


"As for man, his days are like grass;

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children’s children,

 to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all." (Ps 103:15–19).