As mortal beings, our life is fragile and fleeting. Ours is a perilous journey through time. This life on earth will not last long; it consists only “of few days” (Job 14:1; cf. Gen 47:9a). The strength of our bodies will decline sooner than many of us realise or imagine. Even those of us who might live seven decades or more will face death someday soon.
Life is Short/
Since the time of the first parents’ disobedience, there was never a hope of living forever here on earth. God had unequivocally proclaimed that death would ensue if they would sin (Genesis 2:17). Just as God warned, death (both physical and spiritual) entered the world the day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
The first parents died, and all their descendants too, with just a couple of exceptions, namely Enoch and Elijah. We too will die, if Jesus would tarry further. Every life that is born into the world faces the reality of its demise shortly or later. Death is inevitable.
Even the longest life is very short, especially in comparison to eternity, for which our souls are created! Moses graphically spoke of the brevity of life – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
Consider Scripture’s sombre biblical depictions of finite man’s weakness and the shortness of his life:
- “… our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding” (1 Chronicles 29:15).
- “Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey” (Job 9:25-26).
- “He (man) cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not” (Job 14:2).
- “They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn” (Job 24:24).
- “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (Psalm 37:2).
- “… they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again” (Psalm 78:39).
- “Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth” (Psalm 90:5-6).
- “… we spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9).
- “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass” (Psalm 102:11).
- “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Psalm 144:4).
- “…all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow” (Ecclesiastes 6:12).
- “…All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:6-7).
- “Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me” (Isaiah 38:12).
- “… as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (James 1:10).
- “…For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).
Our life on earth is like an arrow that is sent forth from the bow of an archer – it moves forward with great speed without any chance of retreating or returning to the beginning of its flight. Life only goes forward, never backward!
Life is Limited
You may be a young man or a young adult, and you may be thinking that you have many more years to live. But, do not forget that you are closer to your grave than yesterday. Consider also how much of your life has already elapsed.
Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). That prayer does not mean that we should know the day and hour of our death; rather, it urges us to have a practical impression that life is brief and the opportunities to live for God’s glory and for the blessings of God’s people are rather limited. Man has a set time to live and do the will of God. God has set our lives’ bounds, which no man can pass. Note that we are asked to number our days, and not our years or months or weeks! We must live a day at a time.
If you live a few more decades, your present youthful days will become a distant memory. The vigour and vitality of youthfulness will be replaced by the fear and feebleness of old age. We do well to ponder how well we have traded the talents, gifts and opportunities bestowed upon us. Such reflection should lead us to repentance within us for time misspent, gifts neglected, and opportunities squandered. It should also lead us to reconsecration of our lives to be faithful stewards of our limited opportunities.
Let us not misspend our time nor waste our talents. Put your God-given gifts to full use. Solomon the wise king advises us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Our Lord Jesus Christ provides us with the perfect example of making full use of one’s short life and its limited opportunities. He said in John 9:4 – “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
Our time on earth can end soon, either by our death or by Christ’s return. With such thoughts fixed firmly in our minds, we must be determined not to indulge in sin or lethargy, nor to waste precious moments of our limited life. As Paul said, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:6-8). Much can be accomplished in the meantime for Christ’s glory and praise, by yielding ourselves wholeheartedly to do His purposes. This means that we seriously consider the shortness and limitation of our life, and commit ourselves to making the most of what remains.