Your Last Days on Earth

I know, not a very “Chrismasy” title, but remember the Preacher’s advice in Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4—

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.

The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.

What would you occupy your time with during the last days of your life on earth, especially if you were restricted to a bed?

Pastor John Ashbrook left us with a great example to follow. Here are some of the things he did:

  • Whenever someone visited, he tried to minister to them somehow. If it was medical personnel, he’d ask them their names, get involved with their lives, and point them to Christ.
  • He read the Bible, and when he couldn’t read anymore, loved ones read him the Bible
  • He looked forward to being with Christ
  • He prayed, prayed with others, and others prayed with him
  • He talked on the phone with those who called
  • He gave thanks to God for the life he was entrusted with, praising Him for the opportunities to serve Him

I’m sure there were other things, but many of these are what family members told me tonight during calling hours, and I saw much of this during a visit I had with him two weeks ago.

One thing he didn’t do was watch TV—he didn’t own one. More and more I’m liking the thought of that. That thing is the means for wasting so much time.

Psalm 90

1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

3 You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

7 For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
8 You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
9 For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
11 Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

13 Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Responding To Difficulty and Disappointment

Job definitely had some problems–

  • All his kids were killed
  • All his earthly possessions were taken away
  • He was afflicted with bodily ills and pain
  • His wife encouraged him to “curse God and die”

Despite his problems, he was a godly man of genuine faith:

…he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

‘Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

How encouraging and instructive for the difficult and disappointing situations we face in life!

Feelings or Faith?

Psalms 42 and 43 have always provided encouragement and challenge for me.

The situations, experiences, and feelings expressed by the psalmist find parallels in the believer’s life today:

  • feeling far from and longing for God
  • grief and remembrance of better times
  • a soul that is in despair and disturbed
  • mourning
  • feeling that God has forgotten me
  • oppressed and broken
  • seemingly rejected by God

No matter how I feel or what I experience, I must trust, remember, hope, depend, commit, and pray to God. When feeling far from and even abandoned by God I must continue to hope in God.

This is hard to accept, as from a human standpoint my typical response when I feel rejected by someone is to distance myself from him or her even more. Yet, as a believer, I must not be driven or controlled by such feelings, no matter how strong they may be. I must continue to hope, trust, rejoice in, and depend on God. That is what believers do: continue to trust God.

It is often thought that when “things are going well” it’s easiest to trust God. This probably isn’t true, for more often than not during such circumstances I am relying on a combination of myself and my circumstances, rather than God.

Experiences and feelings must not have a dominating control on my outlook on life. This is the point of the psalmist’s probing questions and exhortation:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.

Dealing With Doubt – Psalm 77

The moment I begin to doubt God because of what I am experiencing (77:1-10) I must recall, meditate, and muse upon God and his great and gracious works (77:11-20).

God’s work that the psalmist meditated on was – of course – Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. When Israel was seemingly trapped they doubted God, but Moses told them not to fear by to “stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today” (Exod 14:13).

When going through difficult, challenging circumstances, the minute we begin to question God’s purposes and doubt his attention, remember his past works. Meditate and muse upon them.

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God? (Psalm 77:11-13)