Today we will be looking at the topic of trust, and how the contrast of our fleeting lives with the eternity of God should keep our trust and our focus firmly grounded in him.
Isaiah 26:4 – “Trust in Yahweh forever, because Yahweh God is the Rock eternal.”
God deserves our trust because he never changes. What he has decreed will come to pass. What he has done remains forever. What he continues to do is as constant as the ocean surf, the shining sun, the starry constellations.
Psalm 33:11 – “The counsel of Yahweh stands forever, the purposes of His heart to all generations.”
The psalmist here instructs us how stable God’s counsel is, it outlasts generations and continues on. Have you ever taken the time to consider how incredible a thing it is that the counsel of God survives over thousands of years? Though culture and language have taken their toll on the outer layers of biblical thinking, the core of the message remains to this day, and will continue on. This in itself is a miraculous occurrence.
Throughout this unchanging counsel of the Bible, by contrast the life we have been given is represented as a fleeting and temporal existence.
James 4:14 – What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
Psalm 89:47 – Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
Psalm 144:4 – Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Job 8:9 – For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow.
Psalm 103:15-16 – As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
Psalm 39:4-5 – “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
This recognition of our own mortality should drive us closer to God, not farther from him. Because we understand we are so temporary, we should seek to latch on to those things that are eternal, that reach beyond our short time that we have while we are here. Our thoughts should run in step with those of the psalmist:
Psalm 90:12 – So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
When we “number our days,” we are considering the short time that we have and the vain things we spend so much time on. Our lives can be unstable and variable as we flit from passion to passing trend. We waste time, energy, and passion on so many pointless and fleeting distractions that we arrive breathless and strained at the end of each day. We rave about the most popular people and issues of the day, while ranting about individualized injustice and personal misery. Like Job of old, we come to view our lives as a constant, unfair struggle that deserves to be broadcast to the widest possible audience:
Job 19:23-24 – “I wish that my words were recorded and inscribed in a book, by an iron stylus on lead, or chiseled in stone forever.”
The fallacy of this type of thinking is borne out even in the conclusion of Job’s story: his fortunes are restored, his honor is retained, and the eternal justice of God is exonerated. Therefore, we should recognize that the eternal nature of God stands supreme over the petty and temporal issues and circumstances we face. Like Paul, our lives should be molded toward that which is eternal:
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
When we really pause to consider that God is eternal and we are not, how can we possibly think that our ways are better than his? Have we learned nothing from the natural course of life, how the wisdom of the aged is more stable than the impetuous passion of youth? If this is true in a natural sense, how much more with the One who never changes for all of eternity?
Within this idea of the fleeting nature of life we may be challenged as to what, then, we should spend our time doing. What kind of goals should we set for ourselves when we have such little time to accomplish what we would hope to do? And can we maintain those goals in any sort of consistent manner? As an example, I happen to be an employee of a large national corporation here in America which sets its goals year by year and quarter by quarter, and those goals are constantly changing. But because of this type of constant change, I find the perpetual stability of God’s word to be of great comfort.
I remember reading of some Japanese institutions which have existed for generations who do their best to lay out 500-year goals for their companies! Can you imagine such a thing? In fact, it is said that more than half of the oldest companies in the world are in Japan. As of 2020, there were over 33,000 Japanese companies that were over 100 years old, there were about 40 companies that were 500 years old. The oldest company in the world is also Japanese; it is a construction company that has been in business for over 1,400 years. A lot of this longevity has to do with the culture of the working class and the mindset of the employees who rarely change jobs. The overarching ideal is for stability of the company through the stability of its employment.
By contrast, our American culture has almost the exact opposite mentality. While some institutions have survived for long periods of time, overall, employment stability is rare, if not non-existent. And this lack of stability in employment leads workers to change jobs frequently in order to cope. It is said that the average American worker changes jobs between 12-15 times throughout their working lifetime.
But what if, as believers, we were to take a lesson from the eternal nature of God and some of this understanding of the Japanese culture by considering objectives in our lives beyond just our lifetimes? Remember:
Psalm 90:12 – So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
What if we had 500-year goals, not for an earthly company, but for God? Since he is unchanging and eternal, and if we were to line our goals up with his, we could be able to create a solid planning strategy that could extend well into the future. “Well,” you may say, “that’s impossible, because we won’t live to be 500 years old.” True, but if we were to consider the impact our life can have beyond even our own lifetime, how would that change what we do each day?
Think of the cathedral builders who recognized they were working on a project that would not be completed for decades or even over a hundred years. They worked every day as a link in a chain that they knew could extend beyond their working lifetime. If we had even the slightest inclination that our work would be progressively built upon after our departure, how would that affect the effort and quality we would put forth?
I stumbled across a story recently written by Jim Stephens on leadership, where he shares this kind of principle in the context of effective life-planning. He writes the following:
“My mentor once asked me for my life plan. I didn’t have one. He made me go home and not come back to work until I had my plan down on paper. After a few days I returned to work and handed him several pages. He asked me why my life plan only went 50 years? (At the time I was 27 and I figured that was a pretty good life plan.) He said, ‘Don’t you get anything?’ I was thoroughly confused. He asked, ‘Why set goals that last only as long as the body?’ He said, ‘Don’t you realize you are a spiritual being who HAS a body? And, if that’s true, why not set 500 year goals for what will be going on in the world as a result of when you had a body. At the least,’ he continued, ‘set 100 years goals, figuring that you will leave a wake on this company, your family, your community and your church much like a boat leaves a wake behind in the water when it passes.'”
I like that imagery of a boat leaving a wake behind it that continues outward behind it. When we can get out of our limited mindset of the-most-important-thing-right-now to the most important thing to an eternal God, our perspective changes, and our scope of influence changes radically. Our life now becomes a life of faith, because we are having to rely on others and situations outside of ourselves, and strength and wisdom that comes from God. When we consider ways we can pass the baton of the faith not only to the next generation but the one beyond that, we re-structure the priorities we have currently to affect that end result. Sometimes the biggest way to grow our faith is to simply change our perspective.
As we have seen, the Bible is filled with references to the temporary nature of our lives on this earth. By looking beyond the scope of our own lifetime, we can see that the God of the Bible is eternal and unchanging, and the more our plans and goals line up with his, the more likely the things and people we are involved with during our time here will carry greater meaning and lasting influence.
Ultimately, we are encouraged by the prophet Isaiah to trust in God if for no other reason than simply because he is eternal. We need to allow God to be God, and to recognize that we are not. When we do so, we can then have clarity through the settling dust of our temporary existence to see him for who he is, and place our trust and our purpose where it really belongs: in his gracious, unchanging hands.
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