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As we are entering into a new year, I thought it would be beneficial to look at how we as Christians are to live our lives in this crazy mixed up world. So far we’ve looked at in-between and meanwhile living. Today, I’d like to look at intentional living, which is about our need to reassess life, and to live our lives intentionally given the fact we only have so many days to live upon this earth.
This reality is what drove King David to live intentionally when he realized that the end of his life was only a single breath away.
He begins by saying, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.” (Psalm 39:4 NIV)
As we begin the process of reassessing our lives, what we’ll find is that those things we considered to be important might not be that important after all. To reassess our life, therefore, we need to ask, “Are we doing what is most important?”
Why wait for our days to be numbered by someone or something else before we start doing what we should have been doing all along. It’s about getting our lives rightly focused, because in this life we only go around once.
Life is not cyclical but lineal. There are no mulligans or do-overs once this life ends. Once it’s done, it’s done. Once this life is over, either heaven or hell are in our future.
The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).
We could think of it this way; that at this very moment we’re going 66,000 miles an hour. That’s how fast this world is spinning on its axis. How fast is 66,000 mph? In terms that we can relate to, it’s faster than the spin cycle on a washing machine.
Here then is our dilemma, what if we had only a couple of spins left; how would we live our lives, and what would we live our lives for? Would we make them count, or waste them away?
King David understood how fleeting life really is, which prompted him to ask the Lord how many spins he had left, and then how was he to live his life given that knowledge.
David continued saying, “My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:5 NLT)
The Apostle James said that life is here one moment and gone the next, that it’s like a puff of vaporized water. Poof, and its gone!
James said, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NKJV)
Going back to David, to understand his thought process and why he is asking this of God, is to understand that early on he lived under a death sentence. King Saul literally put out a hit on David’s life, and as a result David lived his life on the lamb, dodging spears along the way that were thrown in his direction.
All David knew is that God promised him a kingdom, and that Saul wanted him dead before that kingdom could be realized. Therefore, David asked God to help him know how to live his life under a death sentence.
Knowing that our days are numbered, and that our lives are likewise under a death sentence, we really should begin to reassess our lives, and change how we live them, that is, living them for God’s glory; instead of living our lives the way we want.
Instead of waiting until we hear the words, “You only have a week, a month, or a year left to live,” we should be seizing the day, seizing the time we have left for what is truly important.
Psalm 90 is a prayer believed to be written by Moses. It says that life is like a whisper, or a sigh, and then it says that the average person will only live 70 to 80 years. With this knowledge then Moses asks God to tell him how to live life accordingly.
The Psalm was probably written close to the end of Moses’ life, which was toward the end of their wilderness wandering, which means that Moses would have witness and presided over all who died in the wilderness, and we’re talking about a whole lot of people, that is, the whole adult population of Israel who rebelled against God when He first told them to cross the Jordan River.
Recognizing then the brevity of life, Moses ask God to give them the wisdom to know how to live their lives knowing that someday they were all going to die.
Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 NIV)
Now, neither David or Moses we’re asking God about when they were going to die; rather they were asking how they we’re to live in light of their mortality.
Why wait for someone or something else to number our days? Instead we are to live our lives according to God, and no longer ourselves. This involves a choice where we take the initiative to live for God and His kingdom, or as Jesus taught in His prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 KJV)
Why wait for someone else to tell us how long we have to live, or live our lives in uncertainly always fearing the unknown and what tomorrow may bring. Instead, let’s ask God to help us number our days rightly, that is, to give us the wisdom on how we are to live knowing that one day we will die.
When we truly pray this, those things we thought were important, like our possessions, power, prestige, and pleasures will decrease in importance, while the things of God, that is, kingdom of God stuff will increase in their importance.
Therefore, we need to ask God to give us wisdom to live our lives intentionally, that is, to number our days.
Some people, however, have a hard time figuring this out, like a man who was having some difficulty. So he went in for a checkup and received a phone call from his physician a couple of days later.
• The doctor said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news. You have only 48 hours to live.”
• “That is bad news!” said the man.
• “I’m afraid I have even worse news,” the doctor continued.
• The man still in shock said, “What could possibly be worse?”
• The doctor said, “I’ve been trying to call you for the last couple of days.”
Unfortunately, most people don’t think in terms of living a focused life, or as I like to call it, an on-purpose life, that is, living life intentionally, because for most of us life has become “automatic.”
It begins when we were babies. We didn’t have to think about anything. When we were hungry we cried, and our parents fed us. When we soiled our diapers we cried, and our parents changed us. They bought us clothes to wear, and they sent us off to school.
Even our schooling was automatic. In the U.S. there is a law that states that we have to have an education, and so we show up to school and they give us the books and teach us the lessons. Automatic.
And at school even making friends was automatic. You’d go out to recess and friendships develop, some of them for life. Everything was automatic.
But when we grow up and cry, we quickly find out that things are no longer automatic. Life shifts to manual.
You might say life is like the genesis of the automobile, only in reverse. When cars first came out, they were manual. The whole car was manual. Steering was manual. Brakes, windows, seats, all manual, and it was always an effort for everything. You really didn’t have to have to go to the gym for a workout, just drive the car.
Even air-conditioning was manual. Cars back then had side vents called wings on the front windows? They were there to help the air flow through the car rather than around it. So when we were hot our parents would say, “Open the wings.” If you didn’t have side wings you’d imitate a dog and stick you head outside the window.
Everything was manual, but over time everything started to become automatic, where if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle you don’t even have to get out car and change the lugs nuts, just push a button and go from two-wheel to four-wheel drive.
Now cars are completely automatic. If we want something, the computer turns it on for us. It gives us the radio station we want, tells us where the nearest gas station is and the prices. It computes for us the precise temperature, sets and maintains our speed, automatically wipes the windshield when enough precipitation is on them, tells us when our tires are low, and automatically breaks for us. They’re even developing cars that will steer themselves.
That’s exactly what life is like, only in reverse. It’s starts out automatic and then it becomes intentional, that is, we have to work at it.
When I was young I could eat anything and automatically it went to work in my body and I was able to stay lean and trim. But when I reached 30, all of a sudden manual set in. Now, if I want to stay lean and trim, which obviously I haven’t, I have to work at it. It’s intentional.
That’s why we have so many gyms. We believed the lie that said we can be young forever and eat pizza three times a day without gaining weight. Fitness and diet, therefore, are the new catch phrases of our generation as we live life intentionally.
If you want to get an education as an adult, it’s intentional. If you want a good family or a good marriage, it’s intentional. We have to be laser focused on what’s important and live our lives for that. We have to “Number our days.
Our friendships might be a good example as they need to be intentional. The Bible says that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). Friends needs to be chosen carefully, therefore, friendships are not automatic.
How do we make this transition from automatic to intentional? We do so by asking God to teach us to number our days.
There was a movie called “The Bucket List.” Jack Nicholson was this really rich guy, while Morgan Freeman was a blue collar worker. In the movie they are thrown into the same hospital room. The reason they’re together is because they both have terminal cancer, which finds them reassessing life, and what they end up doing is putting together a bucket list, that is, a list of things to do before they die, or “kick the bucket.”
Now, if we found out that we only had so long to live, how many of us would reassess our lives?
And by the way, so we are all on the same page, we’re all terminal. We’re all going to die. So, let’s not wait until it’s too late. Let’s start living intentionally for God right now. Let’s start getting godly wisdom and begin to number our days rightly.
And if any of us think that this doesn’t apply, understand that no one knows the day or the hour of their death, only God, and therefore it’s to our benefit ask God how to live life intentionally before we have no life left to live.
An accident can happen at any time. A relationship can go south or sour tomorrow. We might start feeling ill, and the doctor gives us the bad news. Therefore we need God’s wisdom today.
So how do we begin to refocus and reassess our lives?
1. Identify What’s Important
What are the most important things that keep life moving forward in the direction of God’s kingdom? What is it that gets and keeps us going?
It begins with our faith in Jesus Christ, followed by our relationships, that is, our marriage and family. Stewarding the finances and talents God has given to us comes next, and in all of this we need godly wisdom based upon God’s word.
These are what gets and keeps us moving forward. If everything were to be taken away these would still remain. Therefore, these are the things we cannot compromise on?
These are things we need to identify and focus upon, because we don’t want to wait until the end before we start living for what is truly important.
We only go around once, and despite what those who believe in reincarnation have said, we don’t come back and try it again, and in all honesty, I don’t think we’d want to.
Personally I’d hate to go through puberty again, and I’d hate to go again to Mrs. Gleeds 4th grade class.
And while we receive grace and mercy for all the dumb things we have done, and like I said previously, there are no mulligans or do-overs. This life is all we have, and after this life is over it’s off to eternity, and there are only two destinations in eternity, heaven or hell.
That’s why we need to identify what’s important, not just for this life, but also for the next.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy … But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
This verse then leads us to the second thing that we need to do in numbering our days.
2. Invest In God’s Kingdom
An epitaph on a tombstone reads, “What I spent, I lost. What I saved, I left. What I gave, I have.”
If we invest in God’s Kingdom we can be assured of an eternal reward.
What are we to invest in? Well, we’re to invest in those things we have identified as important. We are to invest in God’s kingdom, not only in tithes and offerings, but also into the lives of those around us. We are to pray and invest our lives in theirs.
Jesus talks about this word “invest” when it comes to faithfulness. We need to invest our faith in God’s purposes and no longer our own, and when we do, then we’ll see great rewards.
Jesus said,“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10a NKJV)
And so we need to identify what is important and then invest in that, which leads me to our last point.
3. Live Life Daily
We are to daily identify and invest in God’s kingdom.
The Lord told the Israelites that the Promised Land wouldn’t be theirs in one fell swoop, but rather it would be given to them a little bit at a time when they were ready to receive it.
“Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:30 NIV)
Trying for a touchdown on the very first play rarely is ever succeeds. Touchdowns usually happen yard-by-yard, first-down-by-first-down.
We first need to identify our purposes and then invest our lives into them. But if we’re not careful, we’ll become discouraged because we’re not seeing the type of return on our investment that we want.
We want to see immediate results. We want to see touchdowns, while God wants us to see us being faithful, and then, little by little the investment will pay off, and we’ll see the results not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of those around us.
I heard a story of a high jumper that had to clear a bar that was set at 6’8”.
On the first try he didn’t make it. The same thing happened on his second try. He then huddled with the coach to see what he could do, the thrust he’d have to exert, the pace of his run up to the bar, the arch of his back, and the kick out of his legs.
After the consultation he started his approach. He started on that arc toward the bar and when he got there it was like an explosion as he lifted himself up into the air. First his head cleared, he arched his back perfectly, and he kicked his feet above the bar. He did it.
How did he do it? Well we can look at the technical side, but I like to think that it was because he had 6’8” in his heart. He had within him the potential. But he never would have realized that potential unless he was willing to incrementally raise the bar in practice. In practice, which was his investment, he raised the bar an inch at a time, until it was 6’8”.
When we realize what is important, identify the eternal values of life, and then invest in them everyday, then we’ll realize the potential God has place inside of us.
We need to invest everyday in our relationship with God. When we invest our time, talents, finances, and life with God, then we’ll realize that God has placed inside our hearts eternity, and we’ll clear the bar that the world has kept us under. (We’ll talk about this aspect next week)
And so let’s start living our lives intentionally, and for heaven’s sake let’s start asking God to help us number our days rightly, and live this life God has so graciously given – to live this life intentionally for Him.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study