Don’t Spin Your Wheels

Today matters. Our lives are equal to the sum total of our daily decisions-good and bad. Someone has described the principle this way: “You will be what you are becoming today.

In Genesis 5:3-32 is a genealogy that begins with Adam and his son Seth: “Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died. When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.” And so on.

The basic idea in this passage is, “So-and-so lived and had sons and daughters and then he died.” Is this the way you want to be remembered after your death?

Look at the difference in the way David’s life was summarized by the apostle Paul: “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep” (Acts 13:36). David lived his life for God and not merely for himself, and he was remembered for it.

Anyone who would have a godly impact on his own generation and those that follow must make a basic decision: I must live for God, and not for myself.

I remember vividly that on the morning of December 19, 1949, I was confronted with the necessity of making a decision about the gospel of Jesus Christ. For about eight weeks I had been thinking about this message. I already understood that I was a sinner. I understood that I would face God someday in judgment, and that Jesus Christ had died for me. I understood that eternal salvation was an absolutely free gift that I could not earn and did not deserve.

But not until now was it made clear to me that I needed to make a decision about this. Not caring what anyone else might think, I therefore prayed and received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior that morning. Shortly thereafter, probably within a week, I decided that I would give my life to a ministry serving Jesus Christ. I am different today because of that decision to serve him.

What does it take to live for God?

It takes little effort to live for yourself-to go through life like a machine, as millions of people do. They get up in the morning, and go off to work. They have lunch, work some more, and then come home. They have dinner, sit down and read the newspaper or watch television, then go to bed.

You may say, “Well, my life’s not like that. I also go to church on Sunday morning. I even go to church on Sunday night, and I’m in a Bible study group.” But even these things may only be part of a syndrome.

Many Christians, unfortunately, are drifting through life unable or unwilling to face the challenges of true spiritual growth. They may have no clue that God has plans and goals for their lives.

It takes effort to make our lives count for God. It takes discipline, determination, and dedication. Investing our lives for him is hard work-but we do get a return. We are the ones who reap the results of our investment. The blessings of God rest upon us.

In Psalm 90 we can find guidelines for helping us invest our lives for God. As I have studied this great psalm, written by Moses 3,500 years ago, it is apparent to me that Moses was writing about our lives too. These great principles of investment have never changed.

God is in absolute control

The first great principle in this psalm is found in the opening verses: “Lord,” Moses wrote, “you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Here we encounter the sovereignty of God. The first great principle in investing our lives is our recognition that God is in absolute control of our circumstances. No one can ever take his place. He is God. He alone shapes our lives, and he never makes a mistake.

In Isaiah 46:9-10 we hear these words from God:

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

Within this sovereignty, God gives us direction for our lives.

The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

(Psalm 37:23-24)

Throughout Scripture, God promises to guide us. Recognizing God’s faithfulness, David prayed confidently, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever-do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:8). As a sinner, David knew his life would count only because of God’s loving mercy. In confidence he was saying, “I know that you, Lord, by your loving mercy, will complete your plans for me.”

We know that we too are defiled. We are corrupt, wayward, continually bent toward disobedience. But are we also confident that God will perfect us?

Paul confidently expressed this truth to the Philippians: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The many passages in Scripture that tell of God’s plans for our lives are sources of strength and encouragement when uncertainty overshadows us. As we come to detours and crossroads we, can go back to these promises for support.

This control by God over our lives applies to all the experiences we undergo. I went through some of the toughest times of my life as a young man in college. I learned what it was like to go days and weekends without anything to eat because I was broke. I wouldn’t have planned my life that way, but I believe God in his sovereignty led me into those circumstances. He wanted to teach me some lessons. I wouldn’t want to go back through those experiences again, but I cherish them because of what I learned.

Wilderness experiences like that are often necessary for us to have a Spirit-filled ministry. We read in Luke 4:14 how “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” This happened after he had been tested in the wilderness for forty days.

God isn’t limited by time

A second principle of Psalm 90 is that God is not limited by time. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). For various reasons, we are always in a big hurry. We want God to use us right now.

For many of us, though, God doesn’t use us when we’re young in the way we might want him to. These are often our equipping years, the time when God is building into our lives, preparing us for the ministry.

In Lamentations 3:27 we read, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.” I believe bearing the yoke includes learning through experience and submission to others while we’re still in our youth.

Even Jesus Christ didn’t begin his ministry till he was thirty. And it took Moses even longer. He went to the wilderness when he was forty, and spent forty years there learning the lessons God had to teach him. God began to use Moses to lead Israel when he was eighty years old, and used him for the next forty years.

Life is short

God is not limited by time, and yet our lives are short.

I didn’t give much thought to this third principle in Psalm 90-the brevity of life-before I was in my forties. Only then did I begin to recognize how short life is. It seems only yesterday when I joined the Navy-but it was really more than thirty years ago!

Moses says that our years “quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). The apostle James says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

What difference should this truth make in our lives? The most important difference is expressed clearly in this little rhyme: “Only one life, and it will pass; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Moses tells us, “The length of our days is seventy years-or eighty, if we have the strength” (Psalm 90:10). When we come to our seventieth or eightieth year and our life is nearly over, what will we see as we look back across our life? Will we see a life spent in serving people for the sake of Jesus Christ? Or will some say, “Well, when I was twenty-five I was serving Christ till a problem came a few years later. After that I tried off and on to walk with God, but then somebody in church said something that hit me the wrong way, and I decided if that was the way it was going to be in the Christian life, forget it. And here I am today-seventy years old.”

Recently a young man asked me, “How have you managed to consistently walk with God for all these years?” The answer that immediately came to my mind was, “Take it one day at a time.” That’s the secret. Determine to live for Christ today.

Many churchgoers are only pew-sitters, avoiding their commitment to God. In the past God has said to them, “follow me. Be my disciple. Do this for me.” But they answer no. At a later opportunity, God says to them, “Do this for me.” Still the pewsitters say no. Sooner or later his invitations to them will end because of their insensitivity. They are alive, yet dead.

Coming to the end of his life, the apostle Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This is the kind of finish I want. After my life is over, I don’t want God to take a big rubber stamp and print “Disqualified” across my life. I want God’s blessing on my life, and I believe God wants that for me and for everyone.

We have seven days a week

Psalm 90 comes to a focus in verse 12. Moses wrote, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Knowing how short our lives are, we must use the time we have wisely. Each of us has seven days a week to use for God’s glory. When we do this, he will make sure that nothing we do will be in vain.

God began to teach me how to use my time wisely when I was in the military. I had met many young men who considered their hitch in the service to be lost time, and they were mentally writing off those years. But I saw the military as a great training ground for my spiritual growth where I could establish good spiritual habits, and learn how to evangelize and disciple men. And I did!

We are constantly tested in how we use our time. Those who are truly accomplishing something today are investing their time in certain goals and objectives that conform to God’s will. They are the ones who will reap the rewards.

God’s love is unfailing

We all deal with the effects of sin. No one is exempt from the problems it creates. How is it possible, then, to serve God?

Moses prays in verse 14, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing and be glad all our days.” It is only by receiving new life in Christ-through God’s unfailing love and mercy-that we can live a satisfying life that serves and pleases him.

I am convinced that nothing done by a person who is not a Christian will merit anything from God if he has no faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how great he or she may be in the eyes of man.

But God promises that whatever genuine Christians do for him will have meaning and purpose and value. He says, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Knowing God’s love through Jesus Christ opens up God’s plan for our lives. Then we can run “the race marked out for us” as we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Trials have a purpose

A sixth principle in Psalm 90 is found in verse 15-“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.” Here we are reminded of the trials we face.

God sends trials our way to make us strong and to teach us lessons that could never be learned any other way. He then can use those whom he has equipped to serve him-those who have “stood the test.” None of us knows God’s plans, but we do know he makes no mistakes. What he sends our way is for our good. These tests of faith will better equip us to serve him.

I have a friend who is a beautiful example of this. Playing and teaching piano and organ was a way of life for her for years. Then suddenly her right hand became paralyzed, leaving her unable to move her fingers. It seemed as though her lifelong aspiration had come to an end.

A cycle began in which over the next five years paralysis would strike her hand at least once a year, followed by surgery, then rest and recovery. She would start playing again. But suddenly, without warning, her hand would become numb again.

In April of that year, while playing the organ at a recital, the paralysis struck again as she was reaching the end of her last number. In frustration she said aloud, “God, I’ll never serve you again or set foot in your house again. I’m through.”

Later, her doctor’s words stunned her: “You’ll never play again.” Months of despair followed. A trip to Europe to get away from it all didn’t improve her state of mind. And God didn’t seem to care.

But God did care. He brought new friends into her life who demonstrated true Christian love and concern, though she wasn’t sure how to respond to their friendship. They gave her no guarantee that God would give her back her hands.

More days of hopelessness followed. But finally, in desperation, she prayed for Christ to be the Lord of her life, and told him, “Lord, if I never play again, it’s okay.” Her loss had been replaced by Christ.

A week after she placed her faith in Christ, she met a doctor who felt sure he could help her. After twelve more operations in three years, she was able to practice the piano once again for five minutes a day. And in only another year and a half she was playing concerts and serving as a church organist. But even more importantly, the years of struggle had produced a woman of strong faith who was a model of God’s marvelous grace.

Don’t spin your wheels

The last principle in Psalm 90 deals with God’s blessing on our lives. In his closing words, Moses prays, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands.”

In this prayer of Moses we see his desire that nothing he did would be lost We pray the same when we ask God not to let us waste our time by getting involved in things that don’t really matter. We don’t want to spin our wheels. We want a lasting ministry. We want to live lives that result in helping many others walk faithfully with God.

So we must allow God to mold us as he wants. We have his promises. He will make us fruitful. He will make sure our lives are significant.

Then what was said of David will also be said of each of us: “He served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

C. Cosgrove

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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