Life is busy; it has always been this way. In the days before mechanization, people had to walk distances to work if they lived in the city. Or if they lived and worked in farming, the days were long between the demands of morning and evening milking, while also tending to the fields. I recall grandparent stories of both of those scenarios, and while fascinated by many details, I recall being grateful in the extreme that I lived in the modern era (of the early 60s when hearing these accounts).
So we can be thankful that we have so many new devices of the computer/technological era, all of which work together to give us more leisure time, right? Nope, don’t think so. I’ve never seen people so driven by so many things as in our day. My early ministry years were very simple by comparison, as simply having any sort of meeting or gathering was much easier to schedule. People travelled much less and were very regular in church attendance week to week.
All of the conveniences of the modern era have not made our lives less complex … no, just the opposite. Elucidating all the reasons for this would be an interesting study.
So, with the increased busyness of life, it is a fact that it is easier than ever to put off the things of eternal values.
I know for a fact that many people have great desires to soon make their faith and the fostering of an intimate relationship with God to be a discipline that is just over the next horizon. Once education is completed and the fun of young adult independence has been indulged, then God will become a priority. Next, when marriage is entered, then it will be time to connect with the Lord more specifically. Surely as children come and are growing, that will be the time to bring God also into the family. After the kids are grown and gone and life settles down, church and faith disciplines can be given attention at last. Soon the grave is closer than ever, but never was God a priority, and the following generations evidence that absence particularly.
One is left at last with “ought-to-have” or “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.” I actually saw a blog by that name that aptly quoted American playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman) who said, “Maybe all we can hope to do is end up with the right regrets.” Wow! That’s almost Solomonic!
Indeed, as Solomon turns toward the finish line in this final 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, the exhortation is clear from the first line, Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come …
The remainder of this thought goes on to give colorful pictures of aging. Remember God before these things happen …
- the days of diminished joy and darker gloom from accumulated years and decreased vitality.
- when the arms and legs tremble, the back is stooped, legs are bent and feeble, the teeth are fewer in number, and the eyes fail as light dims.
- when one cannot sleep well and the sound of birds is no longer heard.
- when fears develop about heights and venturing out of the house.
- the hair turns grey and white, movement is torturously slow, and appetites fail.
- death comes, and the body returns to the dust of the ground.
So when is the time to make God a priority in life if you have not done so? Right now! If you’re more younger than older, that is a bonus for sure – beyond being the way it should be done. If you’re more older than younger, yes, there has been time lost; but there is no sense in losing more time. And yes again, better late than never.
All of this is because life is ________ … you guessed it – “meaningless” or “vain.” Again, this is the word used throughout that speaks of brevity, literally of a “breath,” of life as a “poof.”
Know God. Walk and talk with him daily. Life, albeit short, does not work without him.
Here is one analogy to think about when determining how much to serve God … and when to really deeply seek him.
At the earlier part of our life we have the least skills but the most energy. We might be like a rocket still on the ground, or a rocket just leaving the launch pad. We might not be going very fast, but we have the most powerful stages. What does it say in Proverbs? “The glory of young men is their strength.” Our health is most likely to be relatively good when young. We might have better eyesight and a quicker mind to learn things and memorize. We are like the first stage of a rocket — full of fuel, full of future and we have the maximum capability to go or launch in many directions.
As we start our way through life and make various decisions we are like a rocket that has launched and is picking up speed and altitude. But fairly soon we need to jettison the first stage. We pass the earliest times and maybe we traveled our initial educational path. Perhaps it is largely determined if we will have an academic life or not. Perhaps we are rather settled in a general career approach … like do we work with stuff, fix things, build things, or have we amassed a good starting point in familiarity with various computer programs … maybe comfortable programming in various computer languages.
I could go on and on. My main point is that if we seek God early we can (from a theoretical perspective) better gain the power and ability to do what God wants.
(Serving God is a skill. The earlier we start the better at it we become. So apart from career endeavors, we can become skilled at being kind and respectful, and even be skilled at how to advise and/or lead. Skills like tact and patience and wisdom can come from the examples and teaching in scripture. Many are fortunate to have had these skills modeled to us in our homes as we grew up and we don’t specifically need a whole lot of scripture to teach us about such things … but others of us grew up in families … or some fractured form of family that lacked some really important elements that others of us see as basic life instruction.) Those then who have had a good upbringing should not judge those who haven’t had such an upbringing. It isn’t our job to always be saying or thinking “They should rather do this than that …” Rather if we see the errors of others, scripture advises us that we need to be God’s instrument. First we must be “spiritual” ourselves. Paul wrote “you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” … I might have messed up that quote … but you get the picture. Going from being a judgmental sort of fellow to one who can lead and guide others to make right life choices is not an easy path. It requires understanding and humility. Scripture warns us that when we judge others we are really judging ourselves … because we who judge others do the same things they are doing. Secondarily, scripture insists that if we see others in a sin (which doesn’t lead to death … and if we don’t know what that means we should probably do the following) we are to pray that God will give life to such people and restore them. Paul prayed constantly for others. He prayed for those he witnessed to, he prayed for the church. He prayed for those in authority … even for “all men” or in a more general way “people.” (As a humorous aside. Bible translations are now substituting “men” for “people” to keep up with general culture. However now general culture is taking the terms “guys” and now even the most culturally sensitive people are even calling groups of women and all people of mixed groups “guys.” Totally jettisoned today is the older term “guys and gals.” Even a President, a few years ago, speaking to the US women’s soccer team referred to them all as “guys” and now I see that used everywhere. I’m sure he didn’t start the trend… I realized that this was a new trend… a sort of reverse to gender sensitive language undercurrent has taken root in our society.)
Jesus warned his disciples to not expect too much from life. It is fine, to a small extent, to come to Jesus because his burden is light and his yoke is easy. But eventually serving God calls us to go in directions that are not easy. We may as Peter did, have to go where we don’t want to go. God’s spirit may guide us to reach out to people in places that may not be what we are inclined to do, places we don’t want to go. Did God call us to be “safe” and stay in “safe places”? Or is our lifestyle and our church going to be an example of someone who was on the road to Jericho? We will have our own opportunities to “pass by on the other side of the road” when we see those in trouble. Jesus warned us that we are to think of ourselves as servants. We are to first to do God’s will and work the fields or whatever, then come in and prepare dinner for our master, the Lord, and then he may say that we can prepare something for ourselves. “After you have done all these things, you are to say, ‘We are unworthy servants, for we have only done what is our duty.'”
Think of it this way. If you can have access to all the best things now … why wait? What do I mean by “best things”? The Bible, the word of God has some of the best advice that we will need for life. I say “some of the best advice” because it might be difficult to fully grasp all the wisdom available from scripture when young … and sometimes we will need to balance out things like time spent studying scripture, which can be done for hours each day … up against the normal demands of life. For example, another Proverb states something about a wise son gleaning in the fields even before the harvest is fully ready … and it doesn’t speak well of a son who isn’t gathering in the crops during harvest time. (So what is the best decision in every circumstance? How would I know what God’s will is? Even Jesus at a young age of twelve decided to spend time in the temple away from his family, but for whatever reason, God used his family to pull him back into the carpentry business. The best theologian that ever existed – Jesus – had to do his theology later with parables based on his life experience about where to build houses and what kind of foundation to use etc. His parables and teachings weren’t theological laden words, they were words of everyday people and he used everyday stories.)
I suppose then that it is good to seek direct spiritual knowledge at a young age, but be prepared to let God direct you elsewhere (including into non-spiritual sounding fields) if that is His will for your life.
Jesus can later redirect the life of other people as they gain skills, to use those skills to serve Him. David took his shepherding skills and learned to Shepherd God’s people, eventually as a King. God trained David in leadership by having him lead a band of 400 discontents and losers who joined him as was evading a murderous King who wanted him dead. (1Samuel 22:1-2)
Jesus called a bunch of (I guess) fairly young fishermen and taught them to be “fishers of men.”
After being with Jesus for about three and a half years, Peter and company were still not very refined, and perhaps many of them were still illiterate or mostly illiterate. Yet Jesus used them.
When Peter and company ended up speaking before the Sanhedrin or Jewish leaders, scripture records that the Jewish leaders were astonished at their boldness, because they were “ordinary unschooled men.” They did note that “these men had been with Jesus” and perhaps recognized that Jesus had some level of teaching ability to have impacted their lives.
In any case as life goes on … and as a rocket goes through its stages, it ends up in a high orbit, but usually only has a little bit of fuel left to maintain orbit or keep the satellite in its desired location. Solar winds, or an active solar storm might heat up the upper atmosphere and eject extra molecules into a higher orbit which can slow down the satellite a bit. The little bit of onboard fuel then needs to be used to keep it in the right orbit.
The rocket though that is still on the ground may hope that it will be able to be like the satellite in orbit. People anyway realize the rocket ascent phase is dangerous and that rockets sometimes fail and sometimes a satellite might get damaged by the launch vibrations and not work when it gets to orbit. Young people can aspire to be like successful adults, but the path to adulthood has risks too.
God has different paths in mind for everyone. Some he will want to go on foreign missions. (Maybe learning new languages while young will help in this regard…) Some people God may want to run businesses. Etc…
Wherever we are in life we need to seek God and do His will, pray for his guidance etc…