by Fanning Yater Tant (1908-1997), 1955
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
“What is your life? For ye are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
These Bible questions bring into focus on life’s brevity. None can read such words without realizing how swift and certain is death’s approach for every one of us. All our earthly hopes and ambitions, plans, and fondest dreams will finally come to rest beneath a mound of dirt over which grass will grow for centuries after we have returned to dust. How futile to think we can build anything that will endure on this earth!
As I write these lines I sit beneath a mighty Douglas fir whose towering summit seems to reach the heavens. It's age, I only guess, but I am certain there is no one living today who was alive when it began to grow. A few hours south are California’s giant redwoods, some of which were growing when Abraham left Ur of Chaldees (Genesis 11:31), and many were old trees when Jesus wept in Gethsemane. Amid such awesome works of God, frail man seems insignificant indeed.
Yet I shall live after the tallest tree shall have long since decayed. For by God’s grace my life is not limited to the few, uncertain years of earth. The “days of my years” may be few, but the length of my life is beyond measure. I live for eternity, not for time. The God I serve is a God of the living, not of the dead (Matthew 22:32).
How then can I ignore God and put Him out of my life? Close my ears to His commandments? What is the thinking of those who stupidly bargain for this life at the cost of eternal life? “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
It is eternally true that “a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” To such a man God said, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20). Jesus added His comment: “So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
It is calm as these lines are written. The beautiful Willamette Valley stretches before me endlessly. The rumbling log trucks, with their burden of giant logs, roll below. The Valley is peaceful under a perfect Oregon Summer day. Yet every person living is headed toward the inevitable Judgment Day. We shall all stand in the presence of that eternal judge, and shall be judged “out of the things which are written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). The faithful Christian, the cynic, the deceitful worker, the misguided zealot, the ignorant savage shall each receive his due portion. The final reckoning cannot be avoided or delayed. We shall be judged.
In view of life’s brevity, and the certainty of judgment, what manner of persons should we be? “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, …” are the words used by Peter to impress us with our responsibility and our accountability (II Peter 3:11-12).
God’s redemption plan is simple. By Christ’s sacrifice He has made it possible for me to escape the awful punishment which is due for my sin. Believing in Christ, I repent from sin and am buried through baptism “unto the remission of” all sins. This brings me into a covenant relationship with God. It is then my task to live each day in the consciousness of that relationship, to “walk worthily of the calling” wherewith I have been called (Ephesians 4:1).
Business ventures, family troubles, political upheavals, personal problems — how trivial! There is only one problem before all of us: to live a life pleasing to God. Whether it is lived in riches or poverty, in political freedom or chains and slavery, in domestic felicity or loneliness, is relatively unimportant. If one walks with the Lord, in the full assurance of His favor, neither the flattery of friends nor the hatred of foes will count for much.
The days of our years are so few, so filled with duties and labors, that we should waste little time in thinking whether our actions please men or not. Do they please God? That is the one and only question to consider. If yes, then with confidence we can press on; if no, then we should tremble with terror until the situation is changed.
“What is your life?” Consider it; then let God’s will rule your heart, and God’s word direct your ways.