Numbering Our Days
James Smith, 1858
How swiftly time flies! Hours, days, weeks, months, and years — seem to glide past us with railway speed. And where is time hurrying us — but to eternity? And what will eternity be to us? These are solemn thoughts, may they sink down deep into our hearts, and work powerfully there. The prayer of the Psalmist, appears to be just the prayer for us now. "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12. Our days are numbered, and they daily lessen; few, perhaps very few — yet remain. We have no means of ascertaining how many. But the very uncertainty may be turned to account. Suppose my days be many, or suppose they be few, what will it be wise for me to do? Many things present themselves to the mind — but three things would manifest true wisdom.
First, to WALK with God. That is, to realize his presence, believe his promises, observe his precepts, and hold close and intimate communion with him. May I ever feel and act as in God's presence, as under his eye, for I am sure this befits one, who may be summoned any moment to appear before him.
Let me believe his precious promises, place implicit confidence in them, and expect him to make them good in my experience. He has put them into my hand for this very purpose, he is watching to see what use I make of them, and is pleased or displeased with the manner in which I treat them.
Let me study his precepts, that I may know what he wishes me to do, and how he wishes me to act — and then act accordingly. God has lovingly given me a rule, a plain, a perfect, unalterable rule — in order that I may know his will, and understand what will be for my own benefit. I can only prosper as a Christian, I can only grow in grace, I can only be happy — as I carefully observe, and walk according to God's precepts.
Let me hold close fellowship with God. He desires this. He approves it. He rewards it. He would have us carry everything to him, seek everything from him, and use everything for him. Whatever affects us, however trifling — interests him, and may be made a matter of prayer. In order therefore to walk with God, I must tell him all that troubles me, consult him on all that perplexes me, and bless him for all that pleases me. Whatever I cannot ask him to bless — I must not do. Whatever I cannot praise him for — I should not enjoy. O for grace, for wisdom, that as my days glide away, I may, like Enoch and Noah, walk with God.
Secondly, it is true wisdom to WORK for God. Labor for man may be lost — but labor for God cannot. If I work for myself, I may fail — but if I work for God, I cannot. Whatever God tells me to do in his Word, however contrary to flesh and blood, I must do it. Whatever work God cuts out for me by his providence, I should cheerfully undertake, and accomplish it. God has always something for me to do, and something worth doing. God's work may at times appear insignificant — but if it does so, it is only to try our faith, our humility, and our willingness to let him be absolutely master.
He has work for us in his Church; there we are by love to serve one another. He has work for us in the world; there we are to testify of him, recommend him, and beseech sinners to be reconciled to him. He has work for us to do in the sick room; there we are to represent him, speak for him, and administer comfort in his name. He has work for us in the poor man's cottage; there we are to relieve need, cheer solitude, and point to the Savior. To us he commends the widow and the orphan — that we may visit, relieve, and comfort them in his name. To us he sends the ignorant — that we may instruct them; the sinful — that we may reclaim them; the backsliders — that we may restore them; the weak — that we may strengthen them; and the sad and sorrowful — that we may speak kind and loving words to them.
O now much there is to do for God in a world like ours! O how much there is to do for God in the poor carnalized church of Christ! If we had but the heart, if we did but seek grace on purpose — how much we might do; what blessings we might be; and what glory we might bring to God!
Thirdly, it is wisdom daily to prepare to meet and dwell with God. Meet God, undoubtedly we must, unless Jesus comes before we die, and we ought to be ready for this always in every place. I should not do anything — but in doing it, I can prepare to meet God. I should not go anywhere — but where I should be willing for God to call me home from that place. Preparation for God's presence, for God's holy heaven — should be the daily business of life. To meet Jesus, when he comes in the clouds of heaven, with confidence and boldness — should be our daily aim. To be ready and fit to dwell with God in glory — should be the great object constantly kept in view.
Ready, or unready, we must go when summoned! Prepared, or unprepared, we cannot stay one moment when he calls! To be fit for heaven — will bring into our possession the foretastes of heaven. To be ready for the Master's appearing — will strip death of its terrors, and the grave of its gloom. Nothing here on earth is worth a thought, compared with a preparation to meet God, and dwell with him in glory. Happy, thrice happy, is the man who so numbers his days, as to prepare for eternity, an eternity of joy and pleasure at God's right hand.
How frequently have I lived as if there were . . .
no hell to escape,
no heaven to obtain,
no God to meet,
no judgment appointed, and
no eternity to be spent either in pleasure or in pain!
Surely, it is high time that I awake out of sleep, rouse up my dormant energies, and begin to live as one who must live forever, and who knows that the prospects of the future much depend on the manner in which the present is spent. May the blood of Jesus cleanse me from the guilt of the past; may the Spirit of Jesus renovate and renew me at present; and may the Word of Jesus guide me, and the coming of Jesus influence me in all the future. Then, then I shall indeed number my days to purpose, and apply my heart to wisdom.
O Spirit of God, teach me, teach me daily, teach me effectually — that I may so number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom!
"Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil!" Ephesians 5:15-16