I received an email from someone troubled by the death of a good friend. Here is the issue put simply:
My friend abused himself by eating junk food and excusing it by saying God made all good food to eat and He would live just as long as God intended him to live.
To make matters worse, he had already had several heart attacks and couldn't walk very far or exercise. The writer says, "I feel that my friend disobeyed God by eating junk food and that he shortened his life by his own hand. Is that all wet?" And how do you square that with the biblical teaching that our days are numbered by the Lord?
From the human side, we can lengthen or shorten our lifespan by the choices we make. All of us have known people who abused their bodies through alcohol or drugs or as in this case, a dangerously bad diet. People who smoke hurt themselves in many ways.
In thinking about this it's hard to improve on the simple observation that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and therefore should be treated with respect. Did that man die too young or "before his time" because of his lifestyle choices? From the human side of the equation, the answer is yes. And when that man stands before the Lord, he will have to give an account for the way he misused his body.
From the divine side, we have this clear statement in Psalm 139:16, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." That man's death did not come as a surprise to God. No death surprises the Lord. To say that the Lord "ordained" his days means that God in his eternal wisdom decreed both the beginning and the end of his life. However, that man didn't know in advance how long he would live.
Let me put it this way. I believe that all the days ordained by God for Ray Pritchard are written in his book. But I don't have access to that book. I have no idea when I will die. Could be today or it could be tomorrow. It might be in ten years or maybe in 30 years. Who knows? As I've often said, God does have a blueprint for your life, but there's only one copy and it's locked up on the Third Floor of the Administration Building in heaven. I don't know any way you can get a copy.
In light of that we ought to make wise choices and stay as healthy as we can so that we can live out our days, whether they be many or few, serving the Lord with vigor and zeal. If we make foolish choices, we can "shorten" our days from the human point of view but not from God's perspective. Someday we'll have to answer for all our decisions. I'm sure that junk food the man ate will be part of the "wood, hay and stubble" that burns up at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Is there a mystery here? Yes, but there is no contradiction. Live well, take good care of yourself, make smart choices, and serve the Lord with gladness so that whether you live one more day or forty more years, you'll be ready to meet the Lord when your time comes.