I wait for the Lord to help me, and I trust his word. Psalm 130:5
Sometimes it’s not about the wait. It’s about abrupt timing. For example, my life has been rocked more than once by news of a sudden death. A friend’s young daughter killed in an auto accident, a teen extended family member who died in an amusement park accident, more than one friend and family killed by drunk drivers. We get the news and nearly stop breathing. Our lives are on hold as we mourn. We recognize the brevity of life…briefly.
I wonder if it only has a brief effect because we don’t fully understand the brevity of life as God intends. Brevity of life shocks us; we talk about lives cut short, potential unrealized, and dreams unfulfilled. We appreciate life, but do we realize the brevity of life? The purpose of realizing the brevity of life, according to Moses, the author of Psalm 90, is wisdom. When we gain wisdom, we grow in our knowledge of God:
I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I always remember you in my prayers, asking the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you will know him better. Ephesians 1:16-17
When we seek understanding, are we seeking understanding of our situation, or are we seeking understanding of God? The difference might appear subtle.
If you had to choose, would you rather…
- know how many days are left in your life, or know the purpose in each day of your life?
- know the details of all remaining employment (and unemployment) situations, or be assured all your needs will be met?
- know how to resolve a conflict with a family member or friend, or be assured of your family member or friend’s eternal life?
God’s wisdom and knowledge isn’t the same as human wisdom and knowledge. There is no wisdom, understanding, or advice that can succeed against the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30). God wants us to realize the brevity of life because we grow in (God’s) wisdom. When we grow in God’s wisdom, we grow in our understanding of his character. When we know God’s character, we can differentiate between our earthly understanding and his plan and purpose for us.
Realizing the brevity of life isn’t about walking through a tragedy. It’s about drawing closer to God, acknowledging him as the source of all life, knowledge and wisdom. We need our days to be filled with discernment between his wisdom and understanding and our own wisdom and understanding. We need to seek the heart of God so intensely we grow to know God’s heart more than our own. We need to pursue him. He’s already pursuing us.
Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise. Psalm 90:12
Let’s take another look at a part of Leviticus 26:3-5 and the assumptions we might incorrectly make:
If you remember my laws and commands and obey them…Then you will have plenty to eat and live safely in your land. Leviticus 26:3-5
What is safely?
I learned about safety growing up on the farm, but I also had a lot of adventures. I had a blast playing around the farm and in the woods. I didn’t have a lot of fear. Looking back, I think of “what could have happened” and shudder.
I wasn’t supposed to be outside without shoes. Generally, the rule was only enforced beyond the yard. I could understand that. There were all kinds of sharp objects around the barns and other buildings. My sister had stepped on a pitchfork once. I preferred bare feet and still do. One day, I was playing in the yard, and a barn cat ran under the old porch. I needed to rescue him. One rusty nail and a tetanus shot later, I still hadn’t caught the cat.
I could have stayed in the house. It would have been a safe zone – or at least safe from rusty nails.
We often stay in the safe zone. What if we don’t take any risks? What if we’re not bold? We want the people we love to be safe. There’s security in safety. Even those who thrive on adventure would prefer to be safe at the end of the adventure. We often want a thrill, but it’s a time-limited experience. We don’t live on the constant high of a thrill. We want an underlying, dependable foundation of security.
Where do you fall on the safety/adventure scale? Which do you prefer?
What unsettles you about the opposite end of the spectrum?
Living the life God intends isn’t safe. Read the Bible. He’s not a safe God. He’s a God of refuge. He’s a God of trust. He’s a God of dependability. But he’s not safe. Look around you. Life isn’t black and white. “Good guys” die young. “Bad guys” get away with some things. Or so it seems. We need to broaden our perspective. Even when we broaden our perspective, we can’t broaden it enough to see life from God’s perspective, but we can know him better, and by knowing him better, even when we don’t understand, we trust.
We trust God enough that when we’re bold, we know we’re safe. Not the kind of safety we prefer perhaps but safe in knowing who God is, the guidance he gives us to live the life he intends, and the provision he’s given us to live eternally with him because of our personal relationship with Jesus. If we choose it.
When we choose to play it safe, we’ll miss out on some opportunities God gives us to be bold in his name. When we’re bold for God, we’re safe in the security of his plan. I’d rather be bold in obedience to God and not be safe by the world’s standards than shrink from the person he wants me to be. Listen to God’s guidance. Live by his rules. He’ll allow room for adventures. Enjoy the thrill!
How does the following verse speak to you?
And this is the boldness we have in God’s presence: that if we ask God for anything that agrees with what he wants, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
Obedience seems like such a simple thing. You either obey or not. You have a choice to say “yes” or “no.” Yet, when have you struggled with obedience?
It’s a “when” and not an “if.” I’m assuming you, like me, have disobeyed. I’d even venture to guess you’ve disobeyed knowingly, not because you didn’t know of a rule or guideline. After all, we’re human. We mess up…even when we have the best of intentions.
But what do we do once we mess up and realize it? Rationalize. Excuse. Reason. Ignore. Oh…and sometimes, apologize. We live in a society which generally encourages our rationalizations. Right or wrong appears relative, so no matter what our stance, we can find someone to support us.
When have you said “yes” when you should have said “no”?
When have you said “no” when you should have said “yes”?
The football coach of my high school team used to say, “Should’ve, would’ve and could’ve means you didn’t.” It’s time to stop the excuses and take responsibility.
Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me! Psalm 119: 1-8
Obedience isn’t just about you. It’s about God.
Everything God made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely. Romans 8:19