A whisper in the wind

Man jumping over 2013Time flies! Everyone I speak to feels that the years are passing faster than ever. A few months ago 2012 was only just beginning, and now it’s nearly over! Here in the UK this year we’ve celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games and ‘enjoyed’ the wettest summer for 100 years. In Europe scientists announced the discovery of the elusive Higgs Boson particle, and the Costa Concordia cruise ship found itself at the centre of one of Italy’s worst maritime disasters. In Asia there’s been severe flooding in the Philippines, and Xi Jinping became the new Chinese leader. In the Middle East there have been worries over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the tragic Syrian civil war and a few miles further south nearly 800 Gazan rockets were fired into Israel in 2012 before Israel finally responded in November. Superstorm Sandy brought death and destruction in the Caribbean, before going on to wreak havoc in the north-eastern states of the USA. Over New Mexico Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, made the highest and fastest jump in history from a helium balloon at an altitude of 128,100 feet.

Much has happened in a relatively short time – including many other important events, but that’s not always the case for us all. If we’re not careful time can quickly fly by with little being achieved. How was 2012 for you? Did you manage to accomplish as much as you’d hoped? Unless we take stock of our time it will quickly slip through our fingers. 3,000 years ago King David wrote, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is. … My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; certainly, everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind.” (Psalm 39:4-5)

In the light of eternity we are here for a relatively short time – “a whisper in the wind”, so the beginning of a new year is a good time to think about our priorities in life. The time quickly comes when we can look back twenty, thirty, even forty years over our adult life, and realise that we can’t change our past and that our future is shorter than it once was. So 2013 offers us a whole new start to make the most of our time, by reassessing our priorities and making the most of every opportunity. As Moses once prayed, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. … So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:4, 12)

I hope that 2013 will be a blessed year for you, a year when you accomplish your goals yet find time to rest, when your priorities are ones that you’ll look back on with gladness, and, whatever your situation, may God be your guide. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Working for what?

coal miner
working man

In his recent Channel 4 documentary on UK television, Niall Ferguson suggested that the “killer app”, the main contributor to the economic and material success of certain Western nations, particularly Germany, the UK and USA, has been the Protestant work ethic. Today however, we see the UK losing its place as a major player in the world at the same time as its population has become increasingly secular.

This success has not been shared to the same extent by predominantly Roman Catholic countries; take for instance the way the USA has outshone the South American nations. You may argue that Asian nations like China are now coming to the fore, but did you know that the Chinese church is growing rapidly? There are estimated to be 50 – 100 million Christians in China today. So why have the Protestant nations been prone to hard work? What has made the difference? I suggest that there is a direct correlation between hard work and a personal knowledge of the Bible. So what is the Bible’s attitude to work?

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thess. 4:11-12)

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)

It may be called the “Protestant” work ethic, but the Jewish scriptures have the same emphasis:

“You people who don’t want to work, think about the ant! Consider its ways and be wise!” (Proverbs 6:6)

Given the Bible’s emphasis on hard work, it is strange to note that its main message, i.e. how we find peace with our Creator, is not based on work at all, but simply on faith. Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus:

“You have been saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

How many of us make the mistake of trying to impress God with our own efforts, rather than choosing God’s way, that of receiving His gift of love and forgiveness simply by trust?