David: Ending Well by—Living Purposefully

By Life in the Present Tense

Psalm 71:14-24

 

 

The older we get, the harder it is to hide what is really going on inside our hearts and minds. We become more and more transparent with our feelings and fears. God designed it that way so that as this clay pot, this tent we live in cracks and tears—the treasure within us should spill out. What spills out of our life when we weaken and struggle is what is really--on the inside.

Paul refers to this when he explained the struggles of life that he faced as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Writing to the church at Corinth he says—

 

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

 

God wants the treasure that He is within us to spill and shine out from our lives. That of course is humanly impossible. That is why David spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit within him (II Samuel 23:2) in his final words; so we echo Paul’s words of the precious Spirit of the Living God within us. It is God’s grace and power through His Spirit that is our only source of strength to live and die this way. Even when life is rough, as rough as Paul’s explanation that follows that treasure verse.

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-18 On every side being in tribulation, but not straitened; perplexed, but not in despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;10 at all times the dying of the Lord Jesus bearing about in the body, that the life also of Jesus in our body may be manifested,11 for always are we who are living delivered up to death because of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our dying flesh,12 so that, the death indeed in us doth work, and the life in you.13 And having the same spirit of the faith, according to that which hath been written, ‘I believed, therefore I did speak;’ we also do believe, therefore also do we speak;14 knowing that He who did raise up the Lord Jesus, us also through Jesus shall raise up, and shall present with you,15 for the all things are because of you, that the grace having been multiplied, because of the thanksgiving of the more, may abound to the glory of God;16 wherefore, we faint not, but if also our outward man doth decay, yet the inward is renewed day by day;17 for the momentary light matter of our tribulation, more and more exceedingly an age-during weight of glory doth work out for us—18 we not looking to the things seen, but to the things not seen; for the things seen are temporary, but the things not seen are age-during. (Young's Literal Translation, 1862)

 

This evening as we turn to the second half of Psalm 71, let me share a contrast between two women at the end of their lives.

 

The first looked only at herself. As she ended life she remembered what she had and lost and was drowned by her own troubles, grief, and losses. The second had just as many troubles and sorrows and losses—but saw each of them through the lens of God’s Word. What a difference it makes to see our life as God’s plan that we willingly submit to day by day.

 

Look with me first at a woman who looked back on life and saw only what she lost or never had and lost the blessing David and all of us in Christ are offered.

 

The following poem was found among the personal possessions of an elderly woman who had died in a nursing home in Great Britain in the 1940’s. A nurse, packing up her possessions, found this poem.  The quality so impressed the staff that copies were distributed to all the nurses in the hospital.[1]

 

~ Grumpy OLD WOMAN ~

What do you see nurse, What do you see?

What are you thinking When you look at me?

A grumpy old woman, Not very wise,

Uncertain of habit With far away eyes.

 

Who dribbles her food And makes no reply;

Then you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try."

Who seems not to notice The things that you do,

And forever is losing A stocking or shoe…

 

I'll tell you who I am, As I sit here so still,

As I move at your bidding, As I eat at your will.

 

I'm a small child of ten With a father and mother,

And brothers and sisters Who love one another.

 

A girl of sixteen, With wings on her feet;

Dreaming that soon, A lover she'll meet.

 

A bride soon at twenty My heart gives a leap;

Remembering the vows That I promised to keep.

 

At twenty-five, I have young of my own,

Who need me to build A secure and happy home.

 

A woman of thirty, My young now grow fast,

Bound together with ties That forever should last.

 

At forty, my young ones Have grown up and gone;

But my man is beside me To see I don't mourn.

 

At fifty, once more...Babies play 'round my knees;

Again we know children, My loved ones and me.

 

Dark days are upon me, My husband is dead

I look at the future, I shudder with dread;

For my young are all rearing, Young of their own,

And I think of the years And the love I have known.

 

I am an old woman now, Nature is cruel,

‘Tis her jest to make old age Look like a fool.

 

The body, it crumbles, Grace and vigor depart,

There is now a stone Where I once had a heart…

 

I think of the years All too few, gone too fast,

And accept the stark fact That nothing can last…

 

A touching poem, but more than that—a life with the wrong focus; now see a second woman we meet early in the spring of 1905. Songwriter Civilla D. Martin (1869–1948) writes,

 

“my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair.

 

De­spite their af­flict­ions, they lived hap­py Christ­ian lives, bring­ing in­spir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them. One day while we were vi­sit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the se­cret of it. They read us this verse:

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father in heaven. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31)

 

Then, Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s re­ply was sim­ple: “His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me.” The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me.

 

The hymn “His Eye Is on the Spar­row” was the out­come of that ex­per­i­ence.

 

  1. Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, why should my heart be lonely and long for Heav’n and home, when Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

  1. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; tho’ by the path He leadeth but one step I may see: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know we watches me.

 

  1. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

Refrain: I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.[2]

 

Twenty-seven hundred years ago when Israel was in a steep decline and headed for national ruin, defeat and deportation to Babylon—the prophet Habakuk wrote one of the most hope filled paragraphs in the Bible:

 

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

 

This evening we remember that Jesus gave all of us something to look forward to. He told us what He would like to say to each of us when we arrive safely home to dwell with Him forever--“Well done good and faithful servant”!

 

Christ's well done is what any of us would call, ending well.

 

As we open again to the second half of the 71st Psalm, you are opening to the words of someone who ended well. God’s prompts them to pause and look back over their life. They are old, and have lived through much--facing the weaknesses of old age, its challenges, blessings and curses.

 

But the key to finishing life, or ending well is the long term cultivation of godly habits.

 

Life is a constant stream of choices. Each choice we make has a consequence. The consequences of godly habits are good, the consequences of ungodly habits are bad. Life is really that simple and David in our Psalm this morning knows that.

 

This sermon will be concluded tomorrow July 23rd.



[1] This poem then later appeared in the Christmas edition of "Beacon House News," a magazine of the Northern Ireland Mental Health Association by Phyllis McCormack.

[2] Osbeck, Kenneth W., Amazing Grace—366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications) 1997.

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