Ian Thorpe had been thinking about it for a couple of years. But he finally made up his mind at 2.53 pm last Sunday afternoon. At the ripe old age of 24, he decided to retire from competitive swimming. After swimming at a world-class level for TEN YEARS.
It wasn’t a decision he made LIGHTLY. After all, he’s never really known life without swimming.
He said “I started asking a lot of QUESTIONS. I started to look at myself, not just as a swimmer but as a PERSON. Another way of looking at it/ is that you can swim lap after lap, staring at the black line, and ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU LOOK UP AND SEE WHAT’S AROUND.”
In other words, he got A WAKE-UP CALL. A NEW PERSPECTIVE. He came to realize the things he THOUGHT were most important/ didn’t mean as much anymore. And now he’s going to focus on his OTHER interests. Which PRIMARILY/ means NOT SWIMMING. ANYTHING but churning up and down a pool.
But for all his clarity, and new vision of life. I wonder how much Ian Thorpe’s considered his life from the perspective of ETERNITY. From GOD’S point of view. According to HIS scale of time. Because no matter how much you cram into a life. How famous, or successful, or busy you are. Or how long you live. Or how rich you are. It all begins to look very insignificant, and puny, and pointless. When you look at things the way GOD does.
Do YOU ever get those moments of blinding clarity when you wonder what the POINT of it all is? When the rest of your life stretches out in front of you like one long, monotonous, boring black line. And you catch a glimpse of A BIGGER PICTURE.
The reality is / you only get one go at life. There ARE no practice runs. You get one chance to make a difference? To live a life of SIGNIFICANCE. Of CONSEQUENCE. And the reality is many of US are closer to THE FINISH LINE than we are to the START.
But what do you DO with that perspective?
One answer is to retire early. Last Sunday’s Paper had an article on ME-changers. Not SEA-changers, or TREE-changers. Me-changers are people who’ve busted their guts working/ to set themselves up financially. Now, they’re so well-off, they don’t have to work again. And they can spend their time doing what they like.
One guy was 35 yrs old! His picture’s there at the top of the outline. He describes himself as a REFORMED ACCOUNTANT, who’s now a happy and fulfilled full-time life-styler. He can’t fit a conventional working life into his busy schedule. He spends his weeks doing the things he loves – socializing, eating and drinking, snow skiing, water-skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, golf, travel. Even amateur car racing.
He thinks he’s had a wake-up call. But is that really much of a PERSPECTIVE? Is that all life’s about? Seeking pleasure. Is the point REALLY to work SO HARD you can make enough money to NOT work from the age of 35? Living such a self-indulgent life, that nobody but YOU benefits?
Or should we be expecting something MORE? Is there a BIGGER perspective?
Let’s look at what MOSES worked out. How did HE see life? A man who got to know God perhaps better than anyone else in the OT. Who walked with God. Who God revealed himself to.
And Moses passes on some of his experiences in Psalm 90. We don’t know WHEN he wrote it. It’s probably sometime during the 40 years Israel was wandering around in the desert. Before they got to the promised land.
And what we get from Moses is a wonderful perspective on LIFE. On God. On mankind. On purpose. On significance. On priorities. On what it means to be made in God’s image. And to be living for him.
In short, it’s a glimpse into the world the way GOD sees it.
Three glimpses of the world the way God sees it
1. A glimpse of God as home
First up, we get a glimpse of God as HOME. Look at Verse 1. I’ll show you what I mean.
Lord, you have been OUR DWELLING PLACE throughout all generations.
A whole generation of Israelites wandering around in the wilderness. With nowhere to call home. Living in wobbly old tents that blow down in a sandstorm. Nowhere to settle down. To put down roots.
But the reality is/ God had committed himself to Israel. To be their God. Grew them into a nation. Led them out of Egypt. Gave them his laws. Brought them to the edge of the promised land.
And so Israel’s identity and purpose and future are found in God. They exist BECAUSE of him. They exist FOR him. They can put their roots down into God.
And it’s no different for US. Our purpose and identity is NOT found in SWIMMING. Or in our JOBS. Or our families. Our reason for living is not to build our bank balance, or improve our skiing technique, or retire early. Or travel the world. It’s all about God/ because he’s our HOME. Our foundation. Our identity and purpose flow from HIM.
Moses first perspective is a glimpse of God as HOME.
2. A glimpse of God as eternal – (2-6)
And his second glimpse is connected to his first. A glimpse of God as ETERNAL. That’s verses 2-6.
2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
God is eternal. The boundaries of time and space are irrelevant to him. He was there before time began. Before matter existed. He’s complete in himself. He doesn’t need us or creation.
There’s God – who lives in eternity. And then there’s EVERYTHING ELSE. Theologians use the word TRANSCENDENT to describe how God compares to everything else.
It’s like everything in the Universe consists of one long conveyor belt. Some things are next to us. Some are before us, and some things come after us. We can see some things in front and behind. But there’s plenty we can’t see.
And everything is moving along. But we can’t see where. We can’t see the beginning and we can’t see the end.
But it’s like God stands OUTSIDE the conveyor belt. He can see the start and the end. He can see where it’s going. And where it’s been. He can see how all the pieces fit together. And what the point of the whole thing is.
“From everlasting to everlasting, you are God”
And when we compare OURSELVES to him, we look pretty unimpressive and puny. V3.
3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
God IS eternal. I’m NOT eternal. My earthly life continues ONLY because God says to my heart, “Pump”, and my lungs “Inhale”. And when God says ENOUGH, my life will be over. He knows when – the date’s in his diary.
And even the most SIGNIFICANT people barely register on God’s scales. The oldest man ever, Methuselah, lived nearly for A thousand years (v4) – it’s a LONG TIME. Think how much has changed in the world in 1000 years! But to God it’s like one night shift.
The richest man. Or the FASTEST man. Or the earliest retiring man. Or the most FAMOUS person. None of it causes much more than a blip on God’s radar.
That’s Moses second glimpse – that God’s eternal. And we’re NOT.
And here’s the connection between these first two points. God is our HOME/ BECAUSE he’s ETERNAL. He’s created us. Set us at a particular point in space and time for a special purpose. A purpose that’s all to do with him. He sees it. He knows it. And so we can REST in him.
The GOD of eternity is our home/ because WE are MADE for eternity. Humans are never at home here on earth. Because it’s passing away. We’re tourists, filling up our time here until we get home. 1 Peter calls us STRANGERS in the world. ALIENS. We SHOULDN’T feel completely at home here.
So the me-changers – the early retirers – no matter HOW far-reaching their retirement plan – how well set-up they are – are still only seeing as far as the end of the conveyor belt. But the end of the conveyor belt is only the BEGINNING. The REAL journey’s just beginning. The journey of eternity. Beyond the conveyor belt!
That’s Moses’ second glimpse – a glimpse into God’s eternity.
3. A glimpse of God’s holiness (7-11)
And the third glimpse is there from v7. A glimpse of God’s HOLINESS.
7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.
God’s standard is PERFECT HOLINESS. He SEES everything. He executes judgment justly. Without fear or favour. No one can say “I didn’t deserve it.” No one can say “But you didn’t see what happened. You don’t understand.”
We are sinful. God is just. Life is short and hard. That’s the reality. I’ve heard people say “I’m here for a GOOD time, not a LONG time”. The reality is life IS SHORT, but it’s often not GOOD EITHER. And the shortness and hardness of our life is directly due to our sin and rebellion against God. Part of his wrath against us. Because he sees everything we do.
And so Moses concludes in v11. He asks the question;
11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
Who can get their head around the standards of God’s justice? Who can measure the limit of God’s anger?
And the answer he’s looking for? No one. God’s ways are too unknowable. Too far above ours. Even for Moses. Who saw God face-to-face.
And yet, I want to suggest that it IS possible to know the extent of God’s wrath. To count out the cost for satisfying God’s anger.
The price is HIGH. Because we are totally corrupt. And God is completely perfect. But there’s a very definite SHAPE to God’s anger. One we CAN get our heads around. The shape of God’s wrath and anger …. is the shape of a CROSS.
HOW great a price does it take to satisfy God’s justice? SO great, he offered his OWN SON as the PERFECT SACRIFICE. How great is the LOVE that he has for us? SO great, he traded the life of his Son for OURS.
Who knows the power of God’s anger? Anyone who’s understood THE CROSS, that’s who. Rom 3.25 puts it like this
25 God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. HE DID THIS TO DEMONSTRATE HIS JUSTICE (in other words, to SHOW us the power of his anger), because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
The reality is WE can understand God’s character better even than MOSES. But only as we understand the significance of Jesus’ work on the cross.
And so, with those three observations in place. Glimpses into God as our HOME, into God’s ETERNITY, and into God’s HOLINESS. Moses can offer three God-honouring prayers. Prayers that come from the perspective of someone who sees the time of our life GOD’S way.
With those things in place, three God-honouring prayers
1. Teach us to number our days aright (12)
First up. V12.
12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
In other words, give us THE PERSPECTIVE OF ETERNITY. When we think about on the time of our life, and the things we spend our days DOING, give us a heart of wisdom that sees things YOUR WAY.
Teach us to value the things YOU value because they’ll LAST. And the things that WON’T last – help us to put them in their right place.
Help us to spend our days building things that ENDURE. Rather than being consumed by things that, in the LONG RUN, are like new grass that withers by the end of the day.
Ross is asking himself these sorts of questions. At the moment he doesn’t have a job for next year. Which is important to feed his family.
But as well as teaching kids about computers and woodwork. He also teaches them about being Christian. He’s also a Dad who’s raising his kids to follow Jesus. He also teaches Kids Church. He’s also a husband and brother and son and a friend who’s pointing people to Jesus.
Which are the things that give life REAL significance and influence.
Ross is working at numbering his days aright. And gaining a heart of wisdom.
How are YOU at numbering your days aright? For those of you with kids. Think about the things you MOST WANT for them. Is it success at cricket, or school, or education? Is it popularity, or health, or financial stability, or a good marriage? All of those things might have SOME importance. But they’re nowhere near as important as growing up to follow Jesus.
How are your prayers reflecting that priority? How are the things you DO with your kids reflecting that? How are YOUR priorities showing them what’s number one?
We’re not here for long, let’s not waste it. Make the most of it.
A while ago one of the radio stations had a competition “grab the cash”. Someone was in a large plastic tube, with a huge fan blowing around thousands of dollars. You had 30 s to grab as much cash as you can. And people go crazy –stuffing cash into their pockets, snatching handfuls of the stuff as quick as they could.
NUMBERING our days aright sees life like THAT. Not grabbing at cash. But pursuing what’s WAY more important. Working out what’s MOST IMPORTANT, then pursuing it ruthlessly. Chasing it with all your energy. Building things that last. Building riches in heaven.
I’ve mentioned Jim Elliot before – the missionary who was martyred by Sth American indians in 1956. An entry in Jim Elliot’s journal said this “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
That’s someone who numbered his days aright. Someone who lived with the perspective of eternity. He gave his life at 29 because he knew he couldn’t keep it. He GAVE it in obedience to Jesus – to gain his crown of glory – a treasure, an inheritance and a hope he couldn’t lose.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
2. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love (14)
Moses’ second prayer is there in v14.
14 SATISFY us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Show us your unfailing love. Remind us daily. Give us a clear appreciation of the cross-shaped outline of your love.
And then FILL US TO SATISFACTION with your goodness. Be our hiding place. Be our home. So that nothing else in this world will satisfy. Give us the THIRST for the things of eternity. And take away our hunger for things that FADE.
Take away our need for things and comfort and security. Take away our hunger for acceptance and influence and approval.
And give us, instead, a thirst for righteousness. And for the glory of God. And a longing to see Jesus recognised as Lord by his world.
14 SATISFY us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
3. Establish the work of our hands (17)
And, finally, Moses’ THIRD prayer is in the last verse. V17.
17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; ESTABLISH THE WORK OF OUR HANDS FOR US– yes, establish the work of our hands.
As we WORK on things that last. As we recognize things that don’t. Establish our efforts. Give them stickability. Grow the roots of our labours down into eternity. Because nothing will last unless God MAKES it.
Make our work as a Kids church teacher, as a parent, as a husband, as a mother/ LAST. Make our efforts as a brother, as a friend, as a neighbour LAST.
Make our work as youth group leaders, as elders, as home group leaders, as ministers. LAST!
Let’s not WASTE OUR LIFE.
John Piper’s one of my favourite Christian authors. In his book, “Don’t Waste Your Life” he writes these words. And I’ll finish with them,
“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot boat, play softball, and collect shells. . . .’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.
“GOD CREATED US TO LIVE WITH A SINGLE PASSION: TO JOYFULLY DISPLAY HIS SUPREME EXCELLENCE IN ALL THE SPHERES OF LIFE. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of (OURSELVES), but TO MAKE MUCH OF HIM IN EVERY PART OF OUR LIVES.”
Most people slip by in life without a passion for God, spending their lives on trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure, and perhaps trying to avoid sin.
Don’t get caught up in a life that counts for nothing. Live and die boasting in the cross of Christ and make the glory of God your singular passion.