Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“God heard their groaning.”
“God always hears, and He never forgets. His silence does not mean that He is not listening and is not planning. Probably it means that the best time of deliverance has not come yet, and that He is patiently waiting for the moment to arrive when He may prove His love and His power.”
Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Today’s Study Text:
“And he sent and beheaded John in the prison.”
“Faithful Until Your Work Is Done”
“She liveth long who liveth well
All else is being flung away;
She liveth longest who can tell
Of true things truly done each day.”
What are the “true” things I do each day?
How do I live each day in ways that make my life count for God?
“It is not long years that make a complete life. A life is complete, whether long or short, that fulfills the purpose of its creation.”
J. R. Miller
“Yet you do not know, the least thing, about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are really but a wisp of vapor, a puff of smoke, a mist, that is visible for a little while and then disappears into thin air. You ought instead to say, ‘If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that thing.’”
This past week, I looked up the name of a friend I wanted to contact. In this day and age, such a venture is very easy and with the click of a button I found out that someone I hadn’t talked to in years was, indeed, alive and well. However, what really surprised me was the posted information which contained their age. I had no realization years ago how old they were. We had never discussed age. It didn’t seem important at the time. And when you are young and energetic, you have little concept regarding the passage of time for it seems oh, so slow. However, one day, you awaken and ask yourself, “Where did those forty years go?”
Maybe this has happened to you, too, as the times of your life have slipped away like sand through an hourglass – one grain at a time, but nevertheless, continually slipping away.
This is why writers like King Solomon in the Old Testament and the Apostle James in the New Testament remind us how fleeting our days on earth are. If you want to get Solomon’s take on life, look no further than the second verse in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes 1: 2, Amplified Bible, Solomon informs us that, “Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities, says the Preacher. Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities? All is vanity, emptiness, falsity and vainglory?” Well, all I can say is, “Thank you Solomon for these happy and uplifting words! What a way to make my day!”
Yet when we go to the New Testament, the Apostle James echoes the same sentiment when he compares our lives, in the great scheme of things, to a wispy, thin, vapor. Something which is melted away by the hot summer sun or blown away by a windy breeze. This is, as we read, the way the Bible has chosen to portray our lives on planet earth.
However, and this is big, the description of a futile, vaporized life applies directly to those who choose to live, work and play outside the will of God and outside His divine, guiding hand.
Author J. R. Miller in a treasure of an old book called, Come Ye Apart, written in 1898, makes this astute observation, directly related to John the Baptist, the man whose life was ended so abruptly, at what historians believe may have been the age of 34 at the youngest or 41 at the oldest. Here’s what J. R. Miller wrote about the short length of life given to this Biblical hero:
“It is better to die in youth with a life unspotted than to live on to old age in sin and crime. It was a thousand times better every way to die as John died, than to live on as Herod and Herodias lived.”
To give us a brief historical perspective, which serves only to capture the truth of the words contained in J. R. Miller’s statement, I decided to check out the record left behind regarding the demise of Herod Antipas and Herodias and here’s what I found.
The legacy of Herod Antipas or “the Fox” as he was nicknamed, is that he was the power behind the execution of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. For me, enough said! However, historians also tell us that Herod died in exile along with his wife Herodias.
As an interesting aside, Bible commentator Matthew Henry shares the fact that the Jewish historian, Josephus writes about the death of John the Baptist and the banishment of Herod and Herodias – thought by Herod’s subjects to be heavenly judgment for the murder of John. But Josephus continues with the storied revelation of Herodias’ daughter “going over the ice in winter, when the ice broke and she slipped in up to her neck which was cut through by the sharpness of the ice.” Even when you think, as Herodias did, that you control the power in your world – something can happen which reminds you that you do not, no matter what age you are.
The American writer, Myra Brooks Welch penned words many years ago, which I believe, give us a glimpse into the fact that it is not length of years but depth of years which make up our life’s value:
“It’s easy to die amid the world’s applause
For a noble deed, with trumpet’s blaring!
It’s the harder part to fight for a cause
And inwardly bleed with no one caring!
It’s easy, perhaps, to die for a dream
With banners unfurled – and be forgiving!
It’s the harder part to follow the gleam
When scorned by the world – and go on living!”
While it appears John's life came to a sad end, a death way too soon, and one that none of us would desire, the record John left behind furnishes us with a beautiful remembrance of time well-spent. A life where John completed all the work God gave him to do. The words the Apostle Paul wrote to his "son" in the faith, Timothy, are words that could easily have been written by John the Baptist: "I, too, have fought the good and worthy, honorable and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept firmly the faith”(II Timothy 4: 7, Amplified Bible).
The legacy of John’s life was not found in long years of life on earth but in his total faithfulness to the truth. And when you think of the length of the value his faithfulness had, look no further than today, for over 2,000 years later, his loyalty lives on in a Garden where faith in God is the foundation of our daily study.
I can’t help myself, but when I delve into the life of an individual like John the Baptist, my thoughts inevitably turn to the untimely death of my own father – taken years before he should have been. And yet, I will never forget a conversation we had, just a few short weeks before he passed away. We were sitting outside in the spring sunlight and my dad was sharing with me some of the concerns he had about his work – a work he loved and gave his all for. As we discussed some of the challenges he faced, I remember these words as if they were spoken yesterday, “Someday Dorothy, when I face my Maker, no matter how tough the times I have encountered along the way, I’ll be able to say one thing, ‘When You put my hand on the plow, I did not ever look back or take it off for some other worldly pleasure or promise of money.’” Faithfulness – it is the only length, depth and width of life that counts.
“Faithfulness is the foundation for usefulness in God’s Kingdom.”
“Life is too brief
Between the budding and the falling leaf.
Between the seed time and the golden sheaf,
For hate and spite.
We have no time for malice and for greed;
Therefore, with love make beautiful the deed;
Fast speeds the night.
Life is too swift
Between the blossom and the white snow’s drift,
Between the silence and the lark’s uplift,
For bitter words.
In kindness and in gentleness our speech
Must carry messages of hope, and reach
The sweetest chords.
Life is too great
Between the infant’s and the man’s estate,
Between the clashing of earth’s strife and fate,
For petty things.
Lo! We shall yet who creep with cumbered feet
Walk glorious over heaven’s golden street,
Or soar on wings!”
W. M. Vories
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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