Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ecclesiastes 12: Serving God while We Can

Eccl 12:1-7 Don't let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, "Life is not pleasant anymore." Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly. Remember him before the door to life's opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint. Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral. Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don't wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. (NLT)

Eccl 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (NIV)

We are young only once. Youth is characterized by energy and excitement--there is so much we can do and so much we want to do. But in the midst of these youthful activities, we can easily forget God. Youth should not be a time spent on ourselves but a time to honour and serve Him, for when old age sets him, the desire is diminished: "Don't let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, 'Life is not pleasant anymore'" (12:1, NLT). Don't ever say, "I am still young. I will serve God later after I've enjoyed my days" because when you're old, you won't have the same vigor and vitality as you now have to serve God--and it would be opportunity lost that can never be recovered.

Many in our generation are fast approaching our 60's. For many, youth was a time of excitement and endless activities. Having come to Christ at the age of 19 in the June of 1973 (when I was a freshman in the university), my life before that was like the movie "Oblivion"--without plot and without meaning. My pre-Christian teen life was reflected by one of our generation "top hit"--"Those Were the Days" by Mary Hopkin (embedded here for those who too young to remember that song):

The chorus of the song goes: 
Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We live the life we choose
We fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

After my conversion to Christ at age 19, my youth years took a different turn--it was now a life lived under God to serve Him. Since then (almost 40 years later), I'm glad I didn't waste my youth chasing after the wind. I have memories of teaching Sunday School, experiencing a Holy Spirit revival among the students (many having become full-time missionaries/pastors), finding my life partner, and finally going to theological seminary when I turned 30. (At that time, I regretted not going for theological study earlier, as I felt I was already too "old" at 30!) Since my graduation from Trinity Theological College, my life has been filled with serving the Lord in ministry. I don't regret a single moment spent in this ministry because in the course of 40 years, I've seen many lives touched and transformed by the Gospel.

Now looking back, I have no regrets for taking that path of ministry, instead of pursuing a more glamorous career in the corporate world. Of course, I may not have all the material and creature comforts of some of my classmates who has chosen a different path, but I had opportunities to make a difference in many lives--and I believe that is what it means to honour God.

As Solomon the Preacher says in his conclusion as an old man: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." At the end of the day, we will have to give an account not to our boss or pastor on how we live our lives--it will be before the Creator-God who will judge how we live our lives. On that day, at our Final Appraisal, our performance will be evaluated--whether we have lived a fruitful or meaningless existence. We will be evaluated on how many lives have been touched and transformed by God's love mediated through us.

Father, what a privilege it is to be able to serve You through the Gospel! For in that service, we see Your grace and power manifested in changed lives--from sinners to seekers to saints. Thank You for the privilege to touch and transform lives by Your Gospel. Amen.

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