by Bill Rudge
Everyone, sooner or later, comes to realize that youth and vigor fade like the waning summer days of September.
The most attractive people in the world will, in a few short years, lose much of their beauty. Their “perfect” bodies and good looks will give way to sags and wrinkles. Just visit a nursing home and compare the residents to their youthful pictures.
A Sports Festival I attended included men and women at their peak of perfection: massive muscles from steroids, chiseled bodies from intense training, youthful appearance, vivacious…. But looking beyond the glamorous surface, while witnessing and giving out my Reaching Your Maximum Potential and Who Is This Jesus? books, I noticed visible flaws from aging, sun damaged skin, over training and overdosing. Many who just a few years earlier were at their pinnacle, now limped while walking due to bad knees, hips or backs; had faces engraved with wrinkles, sculpted bodies with extended bellies and hernias, tattoos that looked grotesque from shrinking muscles and shriveling skin; varicose veins – the result of over exertion and straining; surgical scars on shoulders and knees from injuries caused by lifting excessive amounts of weight….
A lifetime of training in athletics, academics or the arts can be wiped out in a moment of time – an unexpected injury, debilitating accident or dread disease. The Book of Ecclesiastes says to enjoy each day to its fullest, but focus on the important priorities because life is but a passing vapor. A self-written obituary by 69-year-old Emily Phillips noted: “I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”
David said it this way:
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15,16).
Life goes by too quickly to disregard or even defy the Lord for a few years of fleeting indulgence. Chasing after worldly pleasures and possessions is – as Solomon learned 3,000 years ago through personal experience – futility and foolishness.
Why spend a lifetime developing skills and talents yet neglect that which has never-ending significance? Enjoy the temporary but focus on the eternal. Endeavor to develop attributes and qualities whose benefits last forever.
You have a lifetime (however long or short that may be) to determine your eternal destiny; an eternity to enjoy the rewards, or suffer the consequences for the choices you made in this lifetime. You have the final word in this life; God has it in the next life.
Wisdom from Solomon
It would be expedient to heed the wisdom of Solomon: His search in riches and pleasure inspired him to conclude the book of Ecclesiastes with the following admonition:
However many years a person may live, let them enjoy them all. But remember that days of darkness will be many. Rejoice while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before you grow old and no longer enjoy living – before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear [Reverence] God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Adapted from Ecclesiastes 11:8,9 and 12:13-14.)
Change of Perspective
As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, our outlook changes. Enjoyment of the passions of this life fade like the flexibility and suppleness of aging joints. It is good that God uses the degeneration and deterioration of our physical bodies to divert our focus from the pleasures of this physical domain to that of our approaching destiny.
I often tell people that time is the great equalizer: It has a way of catching up with us and changing our perspective – as do our circumstances. If you have not yet discovered, you soon will, that what matters most in your younger years, matters little when you are older, and what matters little when you are young matters most when you get older. The things of this earth grow strangely dim as Eternity looms on the horizon.
Some of what was a fun time for me as a teenager is now foolishness. Some of what I considered boring and weak back then, I recognize as wise and strong today. Some of what I thought was a waste of time and irrelevant is now a priority and passion. Much of what I rushed toward then, I avoid today. What I fled from before, I embrace today. My perspective has dramatically changed since coming to know Jesus Christ. It is diametrically opposed to what it was as a teenager before accepting Christ. With years, comes experience, and through experience, comes a new viewpoint.
Some people turn away from the sins of their youth because they have come to know the Lord, experience the joy of being forgiven and the peace of walking with God. Others do so because they are forced by circumstances or advancing age to no longer indulge in them.
It is far better to make the changes while you have the choice and the ability to do so, than to wait until you are one day forced to. However, whatever it takes, I hope you have amended your attitude and behavior from that which is contrary to God’s nature and His purpose for creating you, to that which honors Him. True repentance means that you would not repeat sinful behavior if you were back in those circumstances or had the opportunity once again.
Nourish Your Spirit
It is inevitable that your physical body will wear out; muscles will shrink and bones will weaken. Your body will eventually cease to function and will return to the dust from which God created it – but your spirit will live forever.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly [physical body] we are wasting away, yet inwardly [the eternal spirit] we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
In light of this certainty, my suggestion is to spend more time nourishing your spirit through Bible study and prayer and less time pampering the flesh. You should be convinced by this point in your life that sinful behavior, really does result in the consequences warned about in the pages of Scripture. Hopefully, you have gained enough wisdom over the years to have learned what is pleasing to the Lord and acquired enough respect and reverence for God to avoid that which dishonors Him. David goes on to write in Psalm 103:
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear [reverence] Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts (Psalm 103:17,18).
David confidently proclaimed in the closing verse of his most famous psalm:
I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6).
What Really Matters?
When all is said and done, what really matters? Ponder the following questions then make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
• Where will I spend eternity?
• Am I ready to meet my Creator?
• Did I honor Jesus Christ with my life (and ministry)?
• Was I a wise steward of the gifts and resources God entrusted to me?
• Did my life bear fruit by leading others to Christ?
• Was His will and purpose fulfilled through me?
May the longing of our hearts and the focus of our lives be to know and to exalt our Creator. May we inherit all God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. May we rejoice because of the assurance that at Christ’s return believers’ bodies will be transformed into immortal, glorified bodies to rule and reign over a world returned to its original paradise.