TIME TIDE AND BIRTHDAYS WAIT FOR NO ONE!
Reading: Philippians 3:7 – 4:1
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the
righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
4:1 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.
What’s your earliest memory?
- Of all the people you’ve met, whom would you most like to meet again?
- And who were you glad to see the back of!
- Which year of your life would you most like to live again?
- And which don’t you even want to think about, it’s so painful?
We all know that time moves faster, the older you get…
- Each day seems so short that it’s scarcely worth getting up in the morning!
- But we learn to appreciate the common things of life much more…
Older folk may struggle with the fact that their lives have become much narrower … they can’t do many of the physical activities that once came easily to them
Interestingly, when people over 90 are interviewed, they often say that the three things they would change if they lived their lives again:
(1) Spend more time with my family and friends
(2) Take more risks
(3) Do things that would live on after I’m gone.
Lots of things happen in life… most of them unexceptional… some of them bewildering… and is there such a thing as coincidence?
A true story from America illustrates the point… A lost ring was found in a lake when a lady was swimming but she couldn’t trace the owner, even though his name was engraved on the ring… She nearly threw the ring away several times… Over the next 20 years, she moved house no fewer than nine times and had only been living in her new house for two weeks when a hot air balloon crashed into the fence of the house. Thankfully, the hot air balloonists were unhurt… but when gave their names, the woman realised that one of the names was familiar… It turned out to be the very person that had lost the ring in the lake 20 years before. The ring was duly returned to its astounded owner.
But most of life is ‘ordinary’… General Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) once commented that God loves ordinary people; that’s why He made so many of them!
- Yet at the same time, we are also extraordinary… in fact made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)… Wow!
On the last day of creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” … see also James 3:9…
- And so we have emotions… we can reason… make choices… sympathise and make sacrifices… We have a conscience… we can appreciate beauty… we can love unconditionally… we have a soul and a spirit…
- In short, when you look at another person, you look at the image of God… although imperfect because of sin… it’s His likeness you see
Yet to be truthful, we don’t feel much like God, do we?
- Perhaps you look back over life and regret some things… even now the thought of them is painful… “If only” can be so destructive!
Perhaps you sometimes feel like the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes… (2:11)
“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun”
We could easily feel depressed by such thoughts…
- Has my life been worthwhile?
- Have I made the best use of it?
If only I could live my life again but knowing what I know now!
THE BIBLE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT OUR LIVES ARE IMPORTANT TO GOD… warts and all!
- He knew us before we were conceived (That’s one of the reasons that abortion is so dreadful.)
- The very hairs of our heads are numbered
- We are much more precious than many sparrows
So it is important to realise that our lives are significant … and to discover how we should best use the time that we have left on earth… it may be a lot… it may be little
~ But as someone has said, it’s not the duration of our lives but the donation they make that counts
OF COURSE, LIFE HAS ITS TWISTS AND TURNS
- No one is immune from ups and downs… some due to the actions of others… some due to our own foolishness
Some of us may have known agony of soul or be going through a particularly tough time at the moment
- It may be of some small comfort that no one is immune from tragedy… not even famous people: And look at the untimely deaths of so many ‘super stars’…
Mark Twain, world-renowned writer lost a younger brother and two adult daughters—one aged 23; the other aged 29. He became bitter, unhappy and lonely… His fame counted for nothing
But Christians are not immune from suffering:
Gordon Wilson lost his daughter in the Ennerskillen bombing in Northern Ireland but used the tragedy to bring about peace and reconciliation
Horatio Spafford heard that his four daughters had drowned at sea. He went home and wrote one of the greatest hymns of all time:
When peace like a river attends my way (or) when sorrows like sea billows roll… whatever my lot, you have taught me to say: ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’
Joseph Scriven’s fiancée drowned on the eve of their wedding; years later another fiancée died before they could marry. As a result, Scriven wrote the hymn: ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’
Fanny Crosby went blind as a child…but wrote thousands of wonderful poems and hymns, such as ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine’. She married Mr Van Alstyne, who died after some years of marriage…but she lived to 95 and continued writing until the end.
And many lovely Christian people today are struck down by serious illness and human tragedy
WE RESPOND TO TRAGIC EVENTS AND SETBACKS by becoming bitter and angry or by using the experience as a spur to know God better and trust Him more… it’s a choice… but far from easy when our hearts are breaking
- It’s not only what happens to us but how we respond to the circumstances
- Someone has said that ‘some hearts, like primroses, open more beautifully in the shadows of life’
I ALWAYS ADMIRE ENTREPRENEURS
- Founder of Hospiscare or TEAR FUND or Orphaids
- Those who have a big vision and carry it through to completion
- Those who cross the oceans and step out boldly for Christ
Some missionaries in the mid-1800s took their own coffins with them when they set sail for Africa knowing that they would not return
But most of us are not like that…
- When we compare ourselves with these exceptional people, we may feel a bit unsettled
- ‘What have I done for God compared with them?’
There are two important things to note in this regard…
1. Every Christian is called to be an ambassador for Christ
So Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20… “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
The important thing is to play our part, use our talents and be fully available for God to use
- Some people are 5-talent people with many gifts… quite a responsibility!
- Most of us have only one or two gifts… but it’s how we utilise what we’ve got that counts
- The only thing that upsets God is our failure to use our abilities and skills constructively… If we persist in holding back, He may remove the talent from us
2. There is a need for ‘foot soldiers’ in the church of Jesus Christ
- Working, serving, relating to one another, expressing acts of love, being supportive, raising families
- American statesman, Bernard Baruch, was asked who was the greatest personality of the age; he replied:
The fellow who does his job every day. The mother who has children and gets them breakfast, keeps them clean and sends them off to school. The person who keeps the streets clean…The ‘unknown soldiers’; millions of them!
WE MAY NEVER HAVE OUR NAMES ON A PLAQUE
- But we can have them written in the Lamb’s Book of Life
- We can hear God’s commendation “Well done!”
So how does Paul approach the issue of life and whether it is worthwhile?
- Well, oddly enough he doesn’t dwell on the past much at all
- He concentrates on the “from now on”
~ The things that I have done are beyond reach… nothing can change the past
~ Instead, he says: “I want to know Christ”… Here and now! Today!
So I forget what is past… that is, I don’t dwell unduly on past failings or successes… instead, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”
- So I don’t allow the past to damage my present and future… I DO allow it to DIRECT my path as I commit it to the Lord and trust in Him
Paul had messed up his life as a younger man… persecuting followers of “the Way”… not only opposing God’s way of salvation but absolutely condemning it and those who were followers of ‘The Way’
- He threw his heart and soul into wiping out Christianity from the face of the earth…
But that was “then”… and this is “now” and “forever”
- And our citizenship is in heaven… our glory is to share eternity with Christ… beginning this moment!
- Those around us may be principally concerned with earthly things… but our goals and priorities are different and better…
Being concerned with heavenly things does not imply that we don’t have a vital role to play while “here” and “now”
- Regardless of age, ability and physical limitations
- God calls you and me to be salt and light wherever we are placed
- A “fragrant offering”… people of character, goodness, gentleness and firm conviction
Thus, in Ephesians 5:1, 2… Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
And in 2 Corinthians 2:14… But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
In the Old Testament, we read about Caleb, who was 85 years old and supposedly “over the hill”… “past it” !
- Yet he claimed to be as strong as he had been 40 years before
- And he was not afraid to demand of Joshua: “Therefore, give me this mountain”
WHEN OUR LIVES COME TO AN END, the work will go on
- But we will all have left a legacy
- Our lives will have touched so many others
- The fragrance of Christ will have filled the ‘room’ of our life
And when we have gone we will leave a spiritual legacy that will spread far and wide for many years after we’ve gone
So don’t let the devil convince you that you are a no one!
- Your life has counted for something special and still does!
- And when the rewards are given by Christ to each of us, there may be some surprises! God looks at the extent of our faithfulness and trust… not at the size of our deeds
- After all, without Him, we can do nothing!
And so the Apostle Paul offers us these profound words:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”