The Work of Life!
George Everard, 1885
"I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. The night comes, when no man can work." John 9:4
A friend was passing by the entrance-gate of a cemetery in Italy. Over it he saw words worth remembering, "My lot today — yours tomorrow." It is a truth that comes home to us, especially as another year draws on to its close. In man's mental constitution, there is a strange power of putting out of sight the thought of our death. Perhaps in a measure this is well. If we had always a vivid recollection of the nearness of death, it might unfit us for doing life's work as heartily and joyfully as we otherwise do. Nevertheless this facility for putting the thought of death aside, needs to be corrected and supplemented by a sober, wise estimate of what life really is, of its purpose, and of the constant care needful for using it aright.
We should often recall the fact that the time is short, and that life at its best is always uncertain. The motto already named may remind us of this. "My lot today — yours tomorrow."
Today you may see a few mourners carrying with them the remains of one very dear to them. Tomorrow a similar company may leave your door, and you may be the one to be left behind in the silent grave.
Today you may pass a house where the blinds are down and where there lies one who has just passed away. Tomorrow it may be in the street where you have lived and in the house cheered by your presence — and you the one around whom all their grief has centered.
Today you may take the Times newspaper, and to your surprise notice the sudden death of one you saw yesterday. Tomorrow a friend of yours may take up the paper, and it is your name he sees in the same column.
I don't wish this thought to cast one shadow of gloom over your young days. I am convinced that truth, whatever it is, can only be for good if used aright, and this very truth may gladden and brighten every day of your life, if it makes life more worthy of the name.
Did you ever notice the two prayers of Moses in the 90th Psalm which tells most of man's frailty?
He reminds us that "a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." He reminds us that man is but as the grass which flourishes and grows up in the morning — and in the evening it is cut down and withers. Our threescore years and ten soon come to an end like a short reverie or tale. Then among others he offers these two petitions:
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." "O satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."
Both are linked together. It is as if he would say: "Let the remembrance of life's short day lead us to seek for heavenly wisdom. That wisdom will lead us unto You. We shall walk in Your fear. We shall taste Your mercy. So will this short life of ours be filled with true rejoicing. All our days will be brightened with the sense of Your presence, as we journey on to You our Eternal Home."
Act in the spirit of these prayers. Employ this short life to the very best advantage. Take a very high view of the possibilities of lasting blessing to yourself and others which it presents, and then strive that that blessing may never be forfeited through any fault of yours.
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, and day by day act in the spirit of them: "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. The night comes, when no man can work."
Is it full day with you? Is the sun shining overhead? Is the darkness past? Is it peace in the conscience? Is it the comfort of God's free favor received by faith in Christ? Can you look upward to the bright Heaven above you and hear a voice whispering within, "Abba, Father!" If you want life to be joyous and full of peace and usefulness — then take care that there is no cloud between you and God. If sin has been kept back, if anything has been amiss, confess it to your Father, and then doubt not that through Christ it is perfectly forgiven, and that God regards you as one very near and dear to Him.
If you remember these words of Christ, you will be no idler, no mere camp-follower — but an earnest, diligent worker in everything you take in hand. "I must work," said Christ — and so must you. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might." Let no grass grow under your feet. Let no rust be found upon your sword. Let no weeds grow in your garden.
No, no, young friend. Wage war with sloth even to the death. Be a hero in the strife. Whether in the schoolroom, in the study, or in the playground, aim high — at least in your efforts to do the very best you can.
Don't sink down to commonplace in anything. By hard, painstaking toil, plod on whether you have few talents or many, and it may be you shall reach the highest round of the ladder in your work or profession, and if you don't you will feel at least that you did your duty; and no man can do more.
Above all, if you want life to be no failure, but the very noblest possible, strive to catch the spirit of our Lord's working. Not only work, but "work the works of Him who sent you."
Desire, like Christ, to glorify God in the world. Seek great things, but not for yourself, that you may be rich, and honored, and praised by man — but seek great things for God, to exalt Him, to spread His kingdom, and to do good to as many as you can. Put your feet in the steps of Him who never thought of Himself, but ever went about doing good. And forget not the mighty power of prayer. By earnest supplications for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to walk after the pattern and example of Christ.
Living thus, for you there is no night. While you live Christ is with you — and when you have finished your work, you will be with Christ. Such will be real life here, and life evermore in His kingdom.
"In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality!" Proverbs 12:28