************ Sermon on Psalm 90:12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 10, 1999
"Numbering Our Days"
Topic: TimeThis morning the Psalmist tells us that time is important not just in skiing but in life too. He wants to teach us two things. First, he wants to teach us to number our days aright. Second, he wants to teach us to gain a heart of wisdom.
Subtopic: Right Use of
Time is important. Just ask Jean-Claude Killy, the world-famous skier. Because he was three-tenths of a second faster than his closest competitor, he earned $3 million a year instead of having to settle for being a $10,000-a-year ski instructor. Three-tenths of a second made the difference.
I Number Your Days Aright
A The Psalmist says, "Teach us to number our days aright." What does it mean to number your days "aright"? The Psalmist wants us to realize that our life is like a book (HOLD UP A BOOK). Each day is a new page. Each night another page is turned. Eventually, there will come a day when we come to the final page. It won't be marked, "to be continued." No, it will be marked, "The End." On that day we will surely die.
In more than one verse the Psalmist affirms this – that we all shall die, unless the Lord Jesus comes first:
(Psalm 90:3,5-6,10) You turn men back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."... (5) You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning-- (6) though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered ... (10) The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
"Teach us to number our days aright." Yes, we all shall die. Our days are numbered. Unless the Lord comes first, someday we all shall die.
Topic: TimeWith this in mind, let's do some numbering. Trinity's oldest member is Ida Bangma; if you were to number her days they would be more than 32,960 days. Trinity's youngest member is Saskia Ann Dragt; if you were to number her days they would be only 232. What a vast difference between the number of days of Ida on the one hand and Saskia on the other. Yet, both of them are told to number their days. There is a website that number our days for us: http://numberyourdays.com/
Subtopic: Right Use of
In her book "It Only Hurts When I Laugh", Ethel Barrett related a story about a high school teacher in Los Angeles who had a unique way of stimulating her students to think. From time to time she would write brief messages on the chalkboard that were completely unrelated to the studies in which the students were involved. One morning, when the students entered the room, they found the number 25,550 written on the board. One pupil finally raised his hand and asked the instructor why that particular number was there. She explained that 25,550 represented the number of days in the life of a person who lives to be 70 years of age. The teacher wanted to impress her pupils with life's brevity. Reduced to a number of days rather than years, the span of our life on earth didn't sound nearly as long to them.
"Teach us to number our days aright." This means we need to realize that someday the last page of our book will be turned and we will die.
Subtopic: All will die
A number of years ago I heard a new medical term. I was told that a seriously ill man was "pre-terminal." Evidently this means he was not yet terminal, but it was expected that soon he would be. That left me thinking. Can't that really be said about each and every one of us? When it comes right down to it, aren't we all "pre-terminal"? Aren't we all going to die someday, unless the Lord comes back first?
B "Teach us to number our days aright." Little children don't number their days; they don't think of death; it doesn't enter their minds that someday they will die. And most teenagers don't think of death either; in fact, most of them think the opposite – they think they will never die and will live forever, that they are indestructible and immortal. And adults too, many of them don't like to think about their eventual death. But there comes a time in every person's life when they must consider the possibility that they will die. When that time comes, they start to number their days.
Subtopic: All will die
Title: An Accident
I was involved in a serious car accident once. I hit a cow and woke up in the hospital. I could have been killed. I came face-to-face with my own mortality and realized for the first time that someday I too will die. Simply put, I began to count my days.
Do you count your days? Do you know, do you realize, that someday you will die? Do you know, do you realize, it could happen sooner than you think?
Topic: Physical LifeI purposely omitted human beings. There are differences of opinion, but most would agree with the Psalmist that it's somewhere between 70 and 80 years. That may sound encouraging to the young but it is pretty disturbing to the old. The simple fact is, nobody knows for sure how long he or she may live. When we read and believe the warnings in Scripture, there is little doubt that life is short. James pulls no punches when he writes, "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (4:14). Life? A puff of smoke...a cloud of dust...
Average life spans are shorter than most of us realize. Unlike the great redwood trees that can last for a thousand or more years, most other things come and go quicker than we would imagine. After a little digging, I found several examples that illustrate how temporary things really are:
Copper Plumbing 20-25 years
Cat 15 years
Face-Lift 6-10 years
Vitamin 3 years
Dollar Bill 18 months
Painted line on the road 3-4 months
Pro-basketball player's shoes 2 weeks
Tornado 10 minutes
"Teach us to number our days aright." This statement forces one to ask: "Baby, in the crib, how long will you be here?" Not very long.
Laughing, giggling, young girls, excited about a thousand dreams, how long will you be here?" Not very long. Just a few brief years will bring the wrinkles around your eyes and start your back curving and hurting.
"Boastful young men – full of athletic ability and might – how long will you be here?" Not very long. Just a few years and your hair will be gone, your stomach will be big, your knees will be shot.
"And you in middle age, with your children growing up so fast and almost out of the house, how long do you have?" Not very long.
"And you in old age, with your children long gone, with your golden anniversary coming or already past, how long do you have?" Not very long.
"Teach us to number our days aright." In the final analysis, we must realize that we could die at any time.
II That We May Gain a Heart of Wisdom
A The Psalmist not only tells us "to number our days aright," but he also tells us why: "That we may gain a heart of wisdom."
What is a heart of wisdom?
Let's first look at the opposite. Let's first look at those who don't number their days aright. I think here of the playboy and playgirl. The playpersons count and use each day for their pleasure, their satisfaction, their carnal enjoyment. Their motto: eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow we die. The playboy and playgirl have not gained a heart of wisdom.
Topic: PleasureThis picture reminds us that the men and women and children who vainly pursue pleasure have not gained a heart of wisdom.
Title: The Pursuit of Pleasure
There is a picture that hangs in London, England. It is one of the most tragic pictures ever painted. It portrays a rough mountain slope. Way at the bottom one catches a misty glimpse of a grave-yard. Way at the top is seen a filmy, beckoning, mocking figure of pleasure. On the slope itself one sees a crowd of men and women, some in evening dress, some in work clothes, some in rags, all struggling for a foothold on the highest point. They are all striving to reach pleasure. In their pursuit they are all tearing at and treading upon one another. The picture is called "The Pursuit of Pleasure".
One last thing: on that grim, ghostly, sunless canvas the artist has not painted one happy face; not a smile, not a flicker of gladness; nothing but fear, hatred, selfishness, and pain is seen. You see, no matter how they try, that mocking figure of pleasure floats just out of reach.
B "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Again I ask, what is a heart of wisdom?
First and foremost, a heart of wisdom means a heart filled with Jesus. Those who number their days aright, those who know that someday they will die, make sure about their relationship with their Maker for they know that someday they will stand before the Judge. Those who number their days aright confess their sin and believe in the Savior. Those who number their days aright give their heart to Jesus. Those who number their days aright are converted, born-again. Those who number their days aright love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Have you accepted Christ into your heart? Is He a part of your life? Your answer to that question tells me whether you have gained a heart of wisdom.
Topic: OpportunityA far greater tragedy than this, however, takes place all the time. People turn Christ away on the doorstep of their lives. Those, however, who number their days aright, those who have gained a heart of wisdom, do not turn Christ away but eagerly embrace Him and all His benefits.
A General Electric ad raises the question: "What was Thomas Edison's biggest blunder?"
The ad reveals that Edison opposed the theory of alternating current developed by Charles Steinmetz.
The ad concludes by stating that Steinmetz was almost refused admission at Ellis Island as an unfit immigrant. One of the men most responsible for the electrification of America was almost turned away at its gate.
That would indeed have been a tragedy.
C "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Those who number their days aright, those who have gained a heart of wisdom, know what is truly important in life and what is merely trivial. Those who number their days aright, those who have gained a heart of wisdom, have their priorities in order.
What is really important in life? When we are young we think puppy dogs, dolls, super Nintendo, and bikes are important. When we get older we think money, boats, computers, and homes are important. What is important in your life? What is it that you live for?
Title: The Dollar God
A missionary in Africa had been witnessing faithfully to a certain individual. Following their conversation one day, the unconverted man placed a small statue and a silver coin on the table before him. Then he took two slips of paper and wrote something on each. Putting one beside the image and the other with the money, he turned to the Christian worker and said, "Please read this." On the note by the idol were written the words, "Heathen god." The note next to the coin bore the inscription, "Christian god." From what he had observed in the lives of people from so-called "Christian" nations, he concluded that money was the object of their devotion!
What is really important in your life? Those with a heart of wisdom know that what is important is a life in which God has been served and His name has been praised. What is important is a life of loving good works. What is important is a life in which one has labored in the church and kingdom to the best of one's ability. What is important is a life in which children and grandchildren have been taught to know and fear the Lord. What is important in life is time spent in Bible reading and prayer. No one who has gained a heart of wisdom stands at death's door boasting about position, wealth, honor, glory, and achievement in life. At the end of life no one ever says, "I wish I spent more time at work and less time at church!" At the end of life no one says, "I wish I spent more money on myself and less on the church or Christian School."
D "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Those who number their days aright, those who have gained a heart of wisdom, spend time with their loved ones. This past week I came across the prayer of a boy called Timmy:
Topic: Parental Duties
If only he'd say -- just once, "All right, Timmy, let's do it together, right now."
But it's always, "Wait a little. Can't you see I'm busy? Just a minute, Timmy. Tomorrow."
But tomorrow I'll be big.
I'm only little now. Now is when I need you, Dad. Not tomorrow. Or even in a minute. Now.
May I have some of your time, please? Please? Perhaps I should schedule an appointment. You always keep appointments. Or maybe I could go away a while until I'd be a real stranger. Then when I'd come back you wouldn't keep me waiting.
Wonder if that would work? But why go to all the trouble? I'll try the other way -- just once more.
Dad, will you -- will you play with me? Now.
Tomorrow I'll be big.
E "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Finally, those who number their days aright, those who have gained a heart of wisdom, know we are given our days as a gift from God Who intends us to use them well.
As you look back at your life, let me ask you: have you counted each day as a precious gift from God?; have you spent each day in the presence of the Lord?; have you used each day to the glory of God; have you invested time in your loved ones? Believe it or not, time is one of the most precious commodities that we have. Time is much more valuable than money can ever be. No child, for instance, really wants parents to spend more money on them; rather, they want parents to spend more time on them and with them. So time is a gift, a precious gift from the Lord.
Let me ask you: How do you use your time? How much time do you waste? How much time have you wasted?
Topic: TimeJust as we are hurtling through the heavens at unbelievable speeds, so too we are moving from here to eternity. Our days and opportunities to live for the Lord pass so rapidly that we cannot afford to waste time.
Subtopic: Right Use of
Title: Moving Even When we are Standing Still
Scientific measurements tell us we are moving even when we are standing still. Continental land masses sit on enormous slabs of rock that slide very slowly at the rate of 1 to 8 inches per year. North America is gradually moving westward, away from Europe, at the rate of 3 inches per year.
If that doesn't blow your hair back consider this. Our Milky Way galaxy is hurtling through space at 375 miles per second or 1.3 million miles per hour. But that's not all. Within our own galaxy the sun and its solar system are zooming along at 12.4 miles per second (43,000 mph) in the direction of the star Vega in the constellation Lyra.
(Ps 90:12) Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. The Psalmist wants to teach us two things. First, he wants us to number our days aright; he want us all to realize that someday we will die. Second, he want us to gain a heart of wisdom; he wants us to have a relationship with Jesus and to spend time on what is important.
Do you number your days aright? Have you gained a heart of wisdom?
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