The Dancing Puritan

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Future Fruitfulness


The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I've sighed for-
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But Dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel's land.

This great hymn, The Sands of Time are Sinking, by the Scottish poet Ann Cousin, is a hymn of hope as the Christian nears death.  

Older folks sometimes grin when I speak of getting older myself. They (60 and above) see me (age 51) as just a kid. However, I feel older. Things have changed. I think of death more often.

The sands of time are sinking.  Though I know Christ and have hope of the glory, glory that dwelleth in Emmanuel's land, I find myself wanting more and more to live a long life and make a difference in my remaining days.

It is common for a guy my age to reflect and regret. The mistakes of the past often re-run. The challenges of the present loom large. I think that I imagined, by this point in my journey, that I would feel less of the strain of finances (for one thing) and be a bit more successful. Responsibilities feel overwhelming. I am sure that you relate. I am beginning to understand: 1). The increasing longing for heaven of which older Christians speak.  2). The increasing desire to be fruitful during my remaining days. 

As Paul contemplated the internal dilemma that he felt between dying and living he stated, If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me (Philippians 1:22).  He was convinced that, though he desired to be with Christ, that it would be better for others if he lived longer (24). He was committed to a life of fruitfulness.

That is what I want!  I want to increasingly know that to die is gain (21) and to live in such a way that my life is fruitful. meaningful and helpful. I want to grow in my faith that awaiting the godly is Emmanuel's Land where joy abounds. I want to keep John Bunyan's Celestial City in my view while I plow the fields here.  

I find great encouragement by meditating on the Psalms.  

When we think of David we tend to think of the warrior king who was as tough as nails. We imagine him bloody from battle and eating a meal without as much as a frown. The truth is, though he was tough, when facing the constant challenges of his life, he spoke of groaning (Psalm 5:1), of moaning (6:6) and he said, every night I flood my bed with tears...(6-7).  We don't often think of manly men moaning, groaning and crying a river of tears. David though strong, wept.  

Yet he said in Psalm 9:1-2: I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

The phrase, I will recount all of your wonderful deeds, captured my attention. I reflected on history. I did some soul searching. I thought about the future. My thoughts transcended my history to a consideration of all of history and how history (HIS-story) should transform my present and future. Part of the pathway to a fruitful future is found in the past. It involves a deliberate recounting of God's wonderful deeds. 

On my legal pad I jotted down: 1. Biblical History.  2. Church History and 3. My history.  

1). I need to major on the Bible. It is and must be the book that I desire more than any other. It is the book that must be lodged deeply within my heart. It tells me who God is, what He has done and what He has promised to do. 2). I must know something of God's work in the church (and all of history) in post New-Testament times. The lessons of history are instructive in recounting the providence of God. It is especially important to know of Awakenings, Revivals, and Reformations.  3). I must look back on my own history. This can be painful at times because the tendency is to focus on failures. Yet, this is where biblical history intersects on a very personal level. The Bible tells me that God sent His Son. That God reconciles sinners (like me) through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It tells me that though my sins are mountainous, that God has forgiven me, by grace, through faith in Christ. And that though I have failed--through Christ I have hope.  As I look at my own history I am able to see the faithfulness and providence of God. That gives me hope and purpose for the future.

I can either age keeping a God-centered vision before me and purposefully seeking to live a fruitful life, or I can wither up, wind down and waste away. My choice will reveal what I actually believe about the past, the present and the future.

The fact that the "sands of time are sinking" is a motivator to live for Christ now. Approaching death is not a call to pull up the covers and go to sleep peacefully, but it is a call to plan, engage and to keep plowing. To do so the wonderful deeds of God must be recounted and God must be rejoiced in. For the Christian death is not the end. Emmanuel's Land awaits and there we will see Jesus face to face. Death is an across-the-board gain. 

Knowing the past, the present and having future hope should change me now.