Reflections for the New Year
January 01, 2011
As we enter the beginning of the new year, it is fitting for each of us to pause and reflect on where we are – where we stand spiritually in our relationship to God, where we stand interpersonally in our relationship to others, and where we stand vocationally in how we have worked and used our time. It is so easy to forget or ignore the things that are most important, the things that are of first priority, and that omission affects every other aspect of our life.
For many of us, time just slips away. When we were kids, our parents might shout to us when we were taking too long: "Do you think we have all day?" I am not sure we even understood what those words meant. In our minds, there was always lots of time! We agreed with the Rolling Stones: "Time is on my side, yes it is." I would love to ask Mick Jagger – who made that song famous in 1964 – a question: "Do you still think that time is really on your side?" The photos of the Stones do not agree with the song! Time has ravaged some of them and destroyed one of them. The drugs, the booze, the promiscuity, have all had their devastating results. I am not saying these things as a personal slur about the Rolling Stones. It is simply a statement of reality. TIME (in terms of the brevity of life and the certainty of death) IS NOT ON OUR SIDE; NO IT'S NOT! We are vain and foolish if we think that it is! The end of a year and the beginning of a new year is always a good time for all of us – young or old, healthy or ill – to consider the time of our life.
Psalm 90 tries to make this message clear by using one of the few recorded songs by one of the few people more popular than Mick Jagger, and by a man who knew what he was speaking about. There are a few people who are so well known that one only has to mention a single name they go by and there is immediate recognition: There is Dylan, there is Madonna, there is Michael, there is Obama, there is Oprah – you get the idea. What you might not have thought of is that included in that list of people known only by one name, there is the composer of Psalm 90, who most people do not even know wrote the psalm, but who is probably the most name recognized person in history apart from Jesus. That person is Moses. Moses did not write many songs which were written down, but he did write Psalm 90. He wrote this song at the end of his life, when he was around 120 years old, and he spoke of 3 realities in his song: God, man, and time.
Take a few minutes as you enter this new year to read through Psalm 90. Looking at the realities of God, man, and time, and taking the truths connected with them to heart – working them out in our life – will help us make every moment that we have count.
There are four things we need to recognize in connection with the three realities of God, man, and time. The first is the eternality of God (Ps 90:1-2). God IS. Jesus tells it to us this way: "I AM" (John 8:58). God always was there. God always will be there.
Secondly, there is the reality of the finitude of man contrasted with the eternality of God (Ps 90:3-6). We are not eternal. We were created by God from dust, and through time – until time is swallowed up by eternity – our constitutive nature is dust. Because of sin we die, and because of death our bodies return to the dust. We all know this, and we hate it, because it is the disgustingly horrifying reality about us. Elton John cried out that life is nothing more than "a candle in the wind." This is why the end of a year and the beginning of the next should focus on the end of life as well – so that we consider our mortality, and seek to use the time well that God has given us.
Thirdly, we have God's holiness and our sinfulness; God's power and our weakness (Ps 90:7-11). We were not meant to die – indeed, we were meant to live – but God also called us to obedience and said that on the day we disobeyed we would die – and we did. Adam was the representative head of the race, and on the day he disobeyed, the entire race was instantly and for perpetuity cut off from God. Does one day pass where we do not sin? We all know that it does not. God tells us that "ALL have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). In this psalm, Moses is attempting to give us wisdom. As we contemplate the holy God, our response should be to fall on our knees before Him, asking for mercy, begging for mercy, because in God alone there is hope. Without God we are dead, but "in Christ we live" (1Corinthians 8:6).
God has been the only refuge for man from the beginning, and He will be the only refuge till the end. Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even if he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die." He then asked: "Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26) Do you believe this? The answer to that question is the most important answer to any question that you will ever make on this earth.
Lastly, Moses, reflecting on God who loves us and who will never withhold any good thing from us if we belong to Him, leaves us with 7 amazing prayers (Ps 90:12-17). As you head into this new year, ask God:
1. To teach you to "number your days," with the purpose to obtain wisdom (v.12) – James 1:5
2. To have mercy on you (v.13) – 2Corinthians 1:3-4
3. For satisfaction – that you would be satisfied in Him and in His love (v.14)
4. For joy (v.15) – John 16:33
5. That you and your children would SEE the work of God, and not be blind to it (v.16)
6. For His grace to rest upon you (v.17) – this is our salvation
7. To make your life meaningful and your work beneficial (v.17)
Maybe there are some of you who are wondering what to do with your life... where you are meant to be, how you are meant to live. Pray: "Lord, establish the work of my hands for ME. Yes, Lord, establish the work of my hands" and look around you and prayerfully seek out what God would have you to do. It can be something God lays on your heart, or simply something that you see needs doing.
In an interview in last month's Readers Digest, former U.S. president Bill Clinton advised young people to "find something that you really care about where you can make a difference with whatever time or money that you have." I agree, but add: "and do it seeking God's help and God's strength and blessing, for without Christ, it is ultimately meaningless."
Even more than your works being established in God, may this year open with God having established YOU in Him, so that your life is solid and secure in the shelter of the everlasting God who guards his people through "all generations."