Thursday, December 28, 2017
Psalms 119:169 – 176 (NIV) May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
As a pastor, I have stood with families beside the beds of many people who were near death. Some have asked for prayer that they might live longer. Occasionally I will ask them, “Why do you want to live longer?” I get lots of different answers. Most involve family, and the desire to spend more time with them. Some answers involve unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. But never once have I heard this response – “Let me live that I may praise God.”
How would we answer that question if we were the one lying at death’s door? Why do we want to live? Maybe it would be for personal reasons that benefit us or those close to us. Maybe it would be to accomplish something we left undone. Maybe it would be to spend the money we built up as a treasure for our old age and we now know we can’t take with us. We face the possibility of death every day, and we have all developed a list of reasons why we hope and pray we don’t die today.
Some people actually don’t want to live any longer. There are two reasons for this. First, they are hopeless. John G. Neihardt is listed as one of our great American poets. He lived from 1881 – 1973 and was the author of some twenty-five volumes of poetry, fiction, and philosophy. His official web site says that he was a visionary thinker with keen spiritual insight, and he left us a rich inheritance of wisdom and a legacy of understanding. I found it interesting that a man with keen spiritual insight would write a poem with such a hopeless theme as the one he entitled Let Me Live Out My Years.
LET me live out my years in heat of blood!
Let me die drunken with the dreamer’s wine!
Let me not see this soul-house built of mud
Go toppling to the dusk—a vacant shrine.
Let me go quickly, like a candle light
Snuffed out just at the heyday of its glow.
Give me high noon—and let it then be night!
Thus would I go.
And grant that when I face the grisly Thing,
My song may trumpet down the gray Perhaps.
Let me be as a tune-swept fiddlestring
That feels the Master Melody—and snaps!
Some people don’t want to live because they are hopeless.
But others don’t want to live because they are hopeful. Let me explain. The Psalmist says “Let me live that I may praise you.” As I think back to all those dear saints I have watched pass into eternity, one thing was true of them all – they had hope. And even while they longed to live longer on this earth to experience more of this life, their highest ambition was to live eternally in the presence of their Lord and Savior so that they might praise Him. They never said they wanted to live longer here to praise Him because it was understood that their hearts were set on living with Him and praising Him.
The Apostle Paul struggled with this in his letter to the Philippians. He said, as paraphrased in The Message, “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.”
Paul was willing to stick around in this life for one reason – to join with God’s people in praising Jesus Christ as they grew together in the joy of trusting God.
May this be our prayer today and every day that we are granted life on this earth – For me, living is for Christ. Dying is my gain.