March 30, 2020 – Numbered Days
Everyday there is a written piece, news segment, or podcast addressing how we all should be spending our time now that we actually have time. Just this morning, I read an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that told me that I need to make sure that I shower everyday while I’m at home….thanks.
It is indeed a unique space to work from home, to have a bit of a different pace and rhythm to your days. While it is good, it can be dangerous as well.
The danger lurks, lightly tapping on the recesses of your mind, offering respite from the worries of the day through ease or mindless endeavors on the internet or any variety of streaming service. Soon, the day is gone and the next one comes….enslaved by the now loudening offerings of wasted moments disguised as ease and needed relaxation.
I don’t need to expound on the danger of these moments, for we have lived them out time and time again. The end result of regret, irritability, and spiritual and physical lethargy is something that we all know too well.
So, in these moments that have been granted to us; let us adopt a new way of thinking about time, about our days. As Christians, our understanding of time should cause each of us to engage these times with a different intent and corresponding actions. That is the goal of these few words that I share with you today, not to prescribe specific actions, but to help us begin to think differently about how to spend the time now that we actually have time.
In Psalm 90, Moses extolls the eternal nature of God in contrast with the temporary dwelling that man finds himself in. Phrases such as: “From everlasting to everlasting you are God” are contrasted with “You return man to dust…You sweep them (man) away as with a flood, they are like a dream”.
And as Moses works his way through these contrasts he eventually finds his way to verse 12: “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
In that request, Moses is highlighting a few points that we know instinctively in our hearts but might be helpful to read.
- We need to be taught: To live wisely with our time is not something to which we are naturally are drawn. This is more than self-help, improvement techniques. This is seeking the Author of Creation, sitting at His feet, humbly receiving from Him that which we lack. That which we lack is clarified by Moses in the next phrase.
- Our days are to be numbered: Moses is helping the child of God think through two realities with regard to their lives. These are:
- That God has numbered our days, and as such grants us life. That point alone should cause the Christian to view our days with a different perspective. The day in which we find ourselves is not ourday, but God’s gift to us.
- That time is escaping. These days that have been granted to us are finite, are vapors. A few verses prior, Moses even specifies a good number of days: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty.” No matter the total number of days we are granted, they are gone in an instant. Rather than dread, this should cause the Christian to seek the counsel of God in using our time wisely.
- God graciously grants wisdom for our days: Moses makes this request of God with full expectation that God will hear and grant a godly wisdom for the child of God on how to live well. That we might live wisely. The Proverbs tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, so to live wisely is to live under the authority and guidance of God. Living in that position will cause us to be cautious with our usage of time; not a caution rooted in panic, but anticipating that our time is used to honor the name and character of God rather than our own. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus on how to live lives that reflect the presence and character of God in a world that does not. Paul tells the church in Ephesians 5:15-17: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” In short, Paul is telling the church that they are to walk well, which is the prayer that I have for us all during this unique time. May we all walk well for the God who grants us these days.
How can we walk well? Below are some helpful tips and hints to living a life that is lived well for our Lord. These are not prescriptive by any means, but rather meant to be adopted and adapted to your own life. But the intent is clear, may we never get to the end of our days and realize that we have wasted our days on the lesser things.
- Study Well: Just this morning I said to my wife that the one positive I see immediately because of the quarantine is that our mornings are not quite as frantic as they have been. This is nice in that there is more room to slowly enter into the day. One helpful way to enter the day well is through time studying the Word of God. There is a bit of difference in studying the word of God versus reading through the Word of God, for in studying the Word of God you are giving yourself mentally to the text. You are progressing through the text at a pace of consideration and application; whereas, reading through the Word of God is measured in verses read rather than content applied. Allow yourself to not get through multiple chapters and verses a day, but perhaps give yourself the time to study a smaller passage, digging deep into that text.
- Pray Well: Following closely on the heels of studying well, begin to develop the habit of praying well. We are told in 1 Thessalonians that we should “pray without ceasing”. That’s a gigantic task, and one that we engage in as we live constantly in conversation with our creator. As we drive, as we make decisions, as we find ourselves in moments that are overwhelming…the conversation ensues with Almighty God. BUT, it is also a wonderful practice to engage in moments of prolonged and focused prayer to our Father. The pace of life is different now, so use some of the margin that we have currently to create a practice of praying. Perhaps you are like me in that focus might be a bit of an issue (squirrel!!!)…so some helpful practices to stay focused during prayer:
- Write out your prayer: This helpful practice serves to keep you on task as great thought is required to put words on paper. An added benefit is the beautiful opportunity to look back over your prayers and see the work of God.
- Mouth your prayer: Instead of trying to simply pray within your head, mouth out the words of your prayer. This simple act will cause you to stay in the moment as the physical act of forming words requires you to stay connected.
- Pray a Psalm: Praying the Word of God back to God is a wonderfully enlivening experience. God fills your mouth with His Word, and as you pray these Words back to Him, that Word anchors your heart.
- Communicate Well: These moments of separation perhaps are causing you to miss one another! Use these times to call, text, email, or even write a note to one another. These seemingly small acts of communication will produce long lasting fruit of relationship!
- Read Well: Everyone seems to have reading as a goal during these moments, and you will hear over and over from the leadership at Old North how important it is to be a reader. But what should you and I be reading? There must be a level of intention in what we are ingesting right now. Times of uncertainty require that the Christian be anchored in the never changing character of the Almighty God. Here are a few the books that I return to, or want to read during these times:
- Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis): Allow your imagination to run wild!
- Pilgrims Progress (John Bunyan): A classic tale of the Christian life – a must read for Christians.
- The Reason for God (Tim Keller): Wonderful apologetic resource, I am particularly fond of chapter 8: The Clues of God.
- Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer): As we find ourselves separated physically, this book is an excellent reminder/refresher on the uniqueness of Christian community!
- A Praying Life (Paul Miller): A practical resource on developing a healthy and prolonged prayer life.
- Guidance And The Voice of God (Phillip Jensen & Tony Payne): Perhaps during this time, you find yourself facing questions of purpose and discerning God’s call upon you. This book is an amazing resource in thinking biblically about the will of God.
- Serve Well: Check on your neighbors – reach out and ensure that those around you experience care! Also, check in at the church with Pastor Rick to see if there are needs that you might be able to meet.
- Rest Well: Keep a good rhythm of sleep at night, and maybe even allow yourself the luxury of an afternoon nap!
- Sweat Well: Get outside, find some way to get active. The mental clarity that comes from physical exertion is a miraculous occurrence!
- Listen Well: Rest in some good music. I recommend Andrew Peterson, Matt Boswell as music that reminds you of the excellencies of our God.
Friends, these are moments that we will remember the rest of the days that God grants us. Let these moments not be remembered as wasted moments, but as time that was redeemed as we listened and obeyed the gracious and generous call of our Father!
May we all walk well during these “interesting times”!
In His Name and For His Glory –