Never does the difference between the church and the world, the Christian and the unbeliever, reveal itself more strikingly than it does on New Years Eve, the night of December 31. In its vain and foolish attempt to banish from its mind all thoughts of the end and in its anticipation of a new year wherein it can pursue the things of this present time, the world laughs and sings, drinks and dances, riots and revels as it does at no other time. The Christian, on the other hand, desires to see things as they are, and, e’er the tolling bells and striking clocks all over the world announce the passing of another year, he pauses a moment to reflect, to meditate, and to ask himself: Where am I going?
Another year of our brief lives has sped by with amazing swiftness. Now that it is past, where did it go—all those months and weeks and days and hours? It seems but such a short time ago that it was still 1945. How we are reminded of the end of our entire lives and of all things! “Little children, it is the last hour.”
How fitting that for us this day should come in the dead of winter! Gone is the springtime with its promise of life and growth—gone the summer with its brightness and warmth and wealth of outdoor activities—gone the crisp and colorful autumn. It is December and winter—and all is cold. still, dead. So appropriate, it seems!
How are we reminded of the simple but most significant words of the author of Psalm 90, “It is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
That truer words have never been spoken is certainly the testimony of all experience, is it not? And it is the message of Scripture throughout. “As a sleep” is the life of man. “Like the tender grass which today flourishes and tomorrow is no more.” Spent are our years “as a tale that is told.”
Man soon yields up his fleeting breath
Before the swelling tide of death;
Like transient sleep his seasons pass,
His life is like the tender grass,
Luxuriant ‘neath the morning sun,
And withered e’er the day is done.
Young people, don’t let the fact, that you are still youthful and full of hope and anticipation and plans for the future, blind you for this reality. Psalm 103 puts it very bluntly:
So man is quickly swept away
Before the blast of death.
“We fly away.” “As a dream when one awaketh.” Suddenly, just when is determined by God alone, we appear upon the stage of this life. For a few brief years, 70 if we be strong, 80 at most, we play our part in the drama of life. Then just as suddenly we disappear from life’s stage—only a memory to them who remain. Whatever be men’s experiences in life, and all are different—the end for all is the same. And ah, having reached that end, and looking back, it was not long—as a shadow that declineth. And then—then it is cut off. For a brief moment our place is vacant and we are missed and mourned by a circle ever so small. Then the vacancy is filled in, as the shifting sands on the beach speedily fill in the holes our children love to make, and presently even our memory has faded from the earth. The shifting sands of time remove every trace of our ever having lived on this earth. That is life. Don’t dare to forget it! “As a dream….”
Yet, life is no dream, but terrible reality. Remember that too. It is not thus, that we live our life on this earth, and having reached its end have nothing more to do with it. This life, however brief and transient, has its purpose. It is a preparation for eternity. Consequently, every moment has its value with a view to that eternity. The Lord causes us to be born; gives us our place in the world; endows us with gifts and talents, money and goods, wife and children, faculties and time and opportunities; all in order that with all this we should serve and glorify our Maker. Wherefore, the stupendous fact is, that we have never lived one moment in vain. From a certain point of view we may say: we take nothing along with us, but leave everything behind. In another way, however, we leave nothing behind, but take everything along. Life is real! It may seem vain. but it isn’t! Every moment adds to the load I carry with me into eternity.
“We fly away.” Where to? Always into the future, my friends, dark and mysterious to us, but known to God, because He determined it for us from all eternity. Where to? To death and the grave. Precisely when we shall meet these face to face God only knows. It may be today. But this is certain: always the way leads to the grave. Somewhere on this earth is that spot, where one day our remains be lowered into the ground, and with incredible speed we are hastening to keep our rendezvous with that grave. Where to? To the judgment seat of Christ. There the final separation will take place between the sheep and the goats. Where to? To our eternal destination. That will be the end of the road. Either-or: eternal glory or eternal desolation.
Where to? In last analysis that depends on our relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters. Character, or works, or knowledge, or education, or preeminence in natural matters, will not determine our place in eternity. Those who perish are lost because they stand outside of Christ. Those who are saved inherit eternal life because they have Christ for their Saviour and Lord. And possessing that Christ, by faith, there is nothing to fear, neither life nor death, neither the present nor the future, neither time nor eternity. But the wicked, saith my God, have no peace.
Christian friends, in the light of all this, “what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!”
Shall we now live as the ungodly fool, who seeks only the present? His motto is: let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. He thinks of no eternity and considers no God—not today—tomorrow perhaps. Life for him is nothing else than the satisfaction of the flesh.
God forbid! Let us be wise and careful. Let us “buy out the time, whereas the days are evil.” Let us live here below as in the midst of things that mean nothing as far as this life is concerned, but that mean everything with a view to the life to come. And let us heed the exhortations of Scripture. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:14). “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh” (Mark 3:35). “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober. and watch unto prayer” (I Peter 4:7). “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”