Today is another birthday and I am up early thinking about it, which makes little sense because it is Saturday. Two passages of Scripture keep coming to my mind this morning: Psalms 90:12 – So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom; and Ephesians 5:15-16 – See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. I am wondering if at 41 I have any more wisdom than I did when I was 31, because I don’t feel any smarter. It seems that I make a lot of the same mistakes now that I did then. It seems that I am still struggling with a lot of the same issues in my life now as I was ten years ago – that is a little discouraging. Birthdays are a good time for self-assessments and I am assessing that I am a very slow learner. Forty-one years of my life are gone. Taking into consideration that the Bible says in Psalms 90 that the average length of life is seventy years and eighty if we have the strength for it, then most of my life is behind me. WOW! That is a happy thought! James was right, our life is like a vapor; that is why God instructs us to number our days so that we don’t waste them. Yes, I might be a slow learner, but I am determined not to waste what God has given me. I know each day is precious, and if Solomon is right that Wisdom cries out in the street, then I want to be a better listener. Paul instructs us in Ephesians to buy back time – redeem it. Redeeming the time is not easy because the Devil wants me to squander it. The Bible calls the Devil the god of this world – but he does not deserve the world – he does not deserve my time – he does not deserve my efforts – he does not deserve any of my days. There is only One who deserves all these things, the Lord Almighty – the One who saved me. So I am determined on my 41 birthday to redeem these evil days and buy them back for the Lord. The reality is I still feel really young – I am 18 with 41 years of experience. God, give me wisdom today. Help me to make a few less mistakes this year than I did last year. God, give me grit today. Help me to finish strong no matter how many years you give me. God, give me your mercy today because as badly as I want to redeem the time and gain a heart of wisdom right now I know that I will still make some stupid mistakes. It is going to be a great birthday today because I have a very patient and loving God who is helping me grow up and he promised me that he will finish what he started. Forty-one…….I guess it doesn’t sound too bad after all.
I have been reading the book of Jonah in my devotions this week, and I must say that when I got to the part where he started running from God I really started in on him in my mind. “What a fool!” I thought to myself. Why would he run from God? Doesn’t he know how powerful God is? Doesn’t he know that God’s ways are higher than his ways? Doesn’t he understand that he really can’t run from God anyway? Then I got to the part where the people of Nineveh repent from their wickedness and Jonah starts complaining about God’s mercy. “Wow!” I thought – that is pretty bold! I mean just a short time before this Jonah was in the belly of a great fish praying that God would have mercy on him and that the fish would find him distasteful. So what does Jonah want? Does he want God to be a merciful God or not? Then after God spares Nineveh Jonah sits down and pouts because he didn’t want God to show mercy. He finds his only comfort in a plant that provides shade, but an aggressive worm with a big appetite destroys the plant and leaves Jonah exposed to the hot sun. So what does Jonah do? He whines, big time! Jonah didn’t like the assignment that he got from God, so he ran. When running didn’t work, he reluctantly obeyed. And when God didn’t see things Jonah’s way, Jonah complained and moped around showing everyone how horrible his life was because God didn’t do what he wanted him to do. And that’s when it hit me…I AM JONAH – minus all the seaweed! That was a horrible realization. I want God to want what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. I am full of delightful service as long as God works in ways that I think he should work. But what about those times that he shows mercy to people I don’t like (Yes, pastors struggle with liking everyone)? What about those times that he gives me an assignment that goes against the grain of my desires? What about when God asks me to do something difficult that I do not understand? That is when I am tempted to either run or pout because I did not get my way. I have done my fair share of whining – and I have a pretty good whiny voice. But I don’t want to be a Jonah! I want to be a servant of God who does the will of God no matter what. Philippians 2:14 – Do all things without complaining and disputing. God help me to put away my whiny voice when you decide not to do things my way. Help me to trust you and do your will even when it does not make sense to me. I don’t want to be a Jonah…I don’t even care for fish!