Sunday, December 31, 2006

“Teach Us To Number Our Days”

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 32. When I was a kid, I resented the timing of my birthday. December 30th is not the best day to be born if you’re hoping for a truckload of birthday presents. I often got presents that said, "Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday," which I figured was pretty much a criminal act. But that’s just the way it works--5 days after Christmas, people are tired of shopping and/or broke. And the day before New Years Eve, no one really wants another party. So I used to think that I had the worst birthday possible.

But I don’t think that anymore. I no longer resent my birth date. In fact, I actually like it. The reason is that I’ve found spiritual benefit in the timing of my birthday. Having my birthday and New Year’s so close helps me to feel more acutely the passing of time. And that’s very good for my soul, because I need to be reminded that I’m getting older. I need to be reminded that I have a limited amount of time on this earth.

For this reason, every year I have a little birthday tradition: I study Psalm 90—a Psalm that helps me meditate on the fleeting nature of life. And as I look ahead to a new year, I ask God to give me "a heart of wisdom."

Fittingly, today I preached on Psalm 90. The passing of a year is a chance for us to humbly reflect on the brevity of life and, in doing so, to see more clearly what matters most.

Verse 4 says, "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past," and "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty…So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom." (10, 12)

I remember my dad teaching me as a young boy to pray for wisdom. He said, "Son, God promises to give wisdom to those who ask—so don’t forget to ask."

Coming to a start of a new year is a reminder that we need wisdom. We’re given a fresh slate—a brand new span of time and the question we all face is "What will we do with it? How do we make the most of it?"

We need wisdom. Wisdom is the ownership of insight. It’s seeing what is most important, and then living accordingly. Eugene Peterson defines wisdom as "the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves."

The Bible teaches us that true wisdom comes from seeing all of life in light of who God is. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." In other words, the only way to have insight and perspective and skill in living is to make God your primary concern—to see him and his word and his commands and his reward and his judgment as the issues of utmost importance.

And that’s what Psalm 90 calls us to do. Again, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

This Psalm does more than just encourage us to count off how many years we have left in life. By showing us who God is and our relationship to him, it sharpens our vision of what is truly important in life.

I built my message today around this key truth: We can only live our days wisely when we see God clearly.

Over the next several days, I’m going to be posting on four qualities of a "heart of wisdom" that I covered in the sermon, which I’ll link when it becomes available online. For now, enjoy the last few hours of 2006, and may God give you grace to cultivate a heart of wisdom in the year to come.

UPDATE--Listen to the sermon here.

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