The modern men seldom look back nor do they look up. Today if we were to hit the streets, we often see them looking down. It doesn’t matter if they are in the mall or on the road. They will tend to look down all the time, with their eyes fixated on their phones. What is scarier is when they do that even as they are driving. In the Chinese language, we nicknamed this generation as “底头族” which literally translates to “A tribe that lowers their head”.
But if we choose to look back we may realise that we have lost a lot of beautiful sights which pass us by. That is when we realise that time had passed quickly. The year 2015 is about to pass and we are about to enter a new year. That is when we realise that time had indeed passed us by quickly. That is when we become concerned and we regret not looking back or looking up.
How does that apply to us today? Especially as the current year draws to a close. To some of us, it does not make a difference. But to many others it seems to matter a lot. Let us take a look at two reflections and learn from them
The Reflection And The Song Of Moses
Moses reflected on his life as such
“The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Moses (Ps 90:10-12)
As Moses looked back at the days he had spent on earth. He felt that life on earth is short and it is full of labour pain and sorrow. As he looked back, he saw the darker aspect of the life of men. But as he looks upwards, he saw his eternal home up in the heavens. He is able to see the bright future ahead of him.
That is why he said “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
The Importance Of Looking Back
As we step into the new year, let us take the time to reflect on how we spent our last year. Let us make new plans for our life. Have we used our time to prepare to enter our home in heaven?
These are important question for the kingdom of heaven is not open to everyone
“Not everyone who says to Me,
‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom
of heaven, but he who does the will
of My Father in heaven.
Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord,
Lord, have we not prophesied in Your
name, cast out demons in Your name,
and done many wonders in Your name?’
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never
knew you; depart from Me, you who practice
lawlessness!’”- Jesus (Matt 7:21-23)
This is why Christians ought to follow God now, let us not wait until the door is closed before we knock. For right now, when the door is open for us, we could knock and enter. But if the door is closed no amount of regret could let us enter into the Lord.
That is why we need this heart of wisdom to prepare for our home in the future. We need to make use of our remaining time to draw close to God and to walk with him.
Reflecting On Our Past Mistake
Sometimes as we reflect on the year, we may encounter occasions that sadden us. When our health is not as good as before, when we encounter events that take away joy from our heart. When our hearts are weight with many anxieties, vexing problems that clause sorrows.
These are things which we do not want to encounter, it may happen in our work, in our families as well as our church ministry. They appear as if it is a black spot causing much sadness and regret.
That is when we need to look up and look at God. For only by looking upwards can we experience hope and comfort. For we are assured that there is a place of eternal joy and peace prepared for us. We need to have the heart of Wisdom to prepare and enter that rest. For we know that Christ is at the door waiting to welcome us there.
But are we truly able to get to that rest? It depends on how we prepare for it today. In Psalm 90 Moses said
“Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.” – Moses (Ps 90:11)
Today in church many pastors refuse to talk about judgement and wrath. They wanted to bring messages of love and hope, messages to give warmth and happiness. Many would not prefer speakers who talk about God’s wrath and judgment.
We believed that we have toiled hard for 6 days and were carrying lots of burdens. We need more messages of warmth and comfort and not words of rebuke and Gods wrath. We often think “God is Love, why would one talk about the wrath of God?”
It sound reasonable, but is that the only message from the bible?
Indeed, God is love and he wanted us to draw close to him and experience his love and be saved. But likewise, God is also a consuming fire. For when the day of Judgment is here, then we will see the fire and his wrath. Anyone who went against the word of God will be judged.
If everyone only wants to talk about the love and peace of God and no one is willing to talk about sin and judgement. How could one prepare for the coming of the Lord? Will it be too late if we start preparing only when he comes?
Therefore, the song of Moses reminds us that we will all face judgement from God. That will be a time when we are forced to look back and consider how we lived our lives. God will show us the things we did that incurred his wrath. Likewise, God will also reward those who did things that glorified his name.
The Importance Of Doing Right
That is why Paul tells us
“All things are lawful for me,[
but not all things are helpful;
all things are lawful for me,
but not all things edify.
Therefore, whether you eat or
drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God. “ – Paul (1 Cor 10:23,31)
It is true that we have the liberty to do everything we want. Back in the military, they often say, “Do but don’t get caught”. But Paul reminds us that “everything is lawful. but not all are helpful and edifying”. That is why on top of everything that typical man would review in his new year. Christian ought to consider if their actions brought glory or shame onto God.
Perhaps we may not be breaking the law, and the courts will not question our action. But God will definitely question us on the last day. That is why the preacher in Ecclesiastes tell us that we could do all our hearts desire and see what we want to see, but know this that we will be judged eventually.
That is why he concluded saying
“Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.” – Solomon (Eccl 12:13-14)
This is why Paul reminded the church in Corinth that in everything they do, they must give glory to God.
Perhaps by now we would have recalled many things that happen within this year. The many occasions where we are tempted and we sinned against God. IT makes us sad and regretful. But we need to remember the lessons we learnt from these mistakes. Perhaps we may be able to rectify some of them, but there are many which are irreversible.
We need to know that a moment of folly can lead to years of regret.
Moving Forward With Repentance
That is why we must be careful and mindful over how we should lead this coming year. Let us not repeat these mistakes once again.
As we reflect on the year 2015, we would remember our mistakes and the areas we need to improve. We would also see the things that we have done well. Let us resolve to continue in the things that are right before God and let us have the courage to repent from our mistake and resolve not to continue in the error. For the only way to escape the wrath of God is to turn back and repent.
For God said
“Therefore I will judge you, O house
of Israel, every one according to his ways,
Repent, and turn from all your transgressions,
so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away
from you all the transgressions which you have
committed, and get yourselves a new heart and
a new spirit. For why should you die, O house
of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death
of one who dies,Therefore turn and live!” – YHWH (Eze 18:30-32)
This is why we must repent, and look back to check if we have sinned against God. For Jesus tells us.
“And if anyone hears My words
and does not believe,[ I do not
judge him; for I did not come to
judge the world but to save the
world. He who rejects Me, and
does not receive My words, has
that which judges him—the word
that I have spoken will judge him
in the last day.”- Jesus (Jn 12:47-48)
Here Jesus tells us that his words will judge us on the last day. We often think that the word of Jesus is only the words of salvation. In fact they are more than that, they are also the words of Judgment. Let us not just call him “Lord Lord” and yet disobey his commands and instruction.
Those who are wise and God-fearing will choose to follow his words. For they know that his word will judge them. That is why we need to let go of our sins and receive a new spirit and a new heart. For why should we die? Why don’t we turn back?
It is our choice and God will not force us to repent. He hopes that we will turn back to him he hopes that he will repent by our own free will. He never desired the death of the wicked he would rather that they turn back and lived.
Looking Back At Our Direction And Goals In Life
Now let us take some time to reflect on the goals we have set for the year 2015. Sometimes we as adults are guilty of leading a life that is aimless.
That is why Paul tells us
“And everyone who competes
for the prize is temperate in all
things. Now they do it to obtain
a perishable crown, but we for
an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with
uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as
one who beats the air. But I
discipline my body and bring it
into subjection, lest, when I have
preached to others, I myself
should become disqualified.” – Paul (1 Cor 9:25-27)
When Paul looked back in his life, he can say with confidence, that he is not running aimlessly in life. He had the right goal and he is running towards it.
Today many Christian work hard and run their race with all their strength. But are our goals correct? Are we running at the right direction?
I remember six years ago I shared the lyrics of the song. “Nowhere Man”
Let us not be like the nowhere man who laboured so hard without any result. There was a Chinese Poet who describes this aptly. “ “采得百花成蜜后，为谁辛苦为谁忙”(Translated “After turning a hundred flowers into honey. for whom are they toil and suffer for? “)
Indeed, we work harder than bees, who are hard at work creating honey as we are sleeping at night. Just when we think we could enjoy the fruit of our labour, we encounter unfortunate events. That is when we wonder, “Why are we so busy all the time? What’s purpose does it serve?”
The Old Man And The Sea
This reminds me of the work of Mr Ernest Hemingway. He spent much of his life pursuing one objective after another. He achieved fame and status, he worked hard and played hard. He was a wartime reporter and he is known for his fighting spirit, especially against all the challenges he encounters in life.
At the end of his life, he wrote the book “The Old Man And The Sea”
The book talks about an old Cuban fisherman who went out into the deep to catch fish. While everyone says he is unlucky, he decided to venture out on his own to fish. On that trip, he caught a giant Marlin fish, one that is so huge that he was unable to put it on his boat. Therefore, he had to tie it at the side of his boat as he returns to shore.
He wanted to show the fish to those who mock him and he wanted to celebrate his great catch. But as he was returning to show, the sharks came and they wanted to eat his prize. He fought them off and used his oar to hit them. He scolded the sharks for being bullies, for they wanted to eat the fruit of his labour. He used everything that is in his disposal to fight off the sharks. He tried to row back to shore as fast as he can. But at the very end, he realised that his prized catch is merely a dead carcass and a huge skeleton.
Hemingway was referring to himself in the story. He had worked so hard his entire life and he caught a huge fish. After a while, the fish became bones and then he realise that all the things he achieves are temporary. In a twinkling of an eye, it will disappear. That is why he was disappointed with life and he cannot see the point behind his hard work.
We know that at the very end, he committed suicide. He felt as if his life was just like beating the air. At the very end, all that he received were fish bones.
Finding Meaning In Life Struggles
But Paul said that he was fighting not as one who beats the air. For he is able to see the values behind his struggles. He did not fight for the things of the world but for the things in heaven. He is not fighting to receive a perishable crown but he wanted to get the imperishable crown from heaven.
As the result at the end of his life, he can say with confidence.
“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
Finally, there is laid up for me
the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, will give to me on that Day” – Paul (2 Tim 4:7-8)
Here it presents to us two choices we can take in life. We all toil and struggle in life and sometimes we become tired. But what do we want to achieve in the end? Do we want to just receive fish bones, that will disappear in the twinkling of an eye? or do we want to be like Paul who sang the song of victory at the end? For we know if we continue to strive in this race and to finish the fight. There will be a crown of righteousness waiting for us.
The Reflection And The Prayer Of David
“Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days
as handbreadths, And my age is as
nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state
is but vapor.”– David (Ps 39:4-5)
The prayer of David is similar to the prayer of Moses. For be it a prophet or a king, our work will finish one day and it will come to an end. The only thing that is eternal and will never end is found in heaven and not on earth.
That is why we need to have the wisdom from God to see it. We need to pray to God make us know our end. But as I read the two prayers. There is something that baffled me. The fact is, everyone including children knows that life on earth will end one day. Why then did David and Moses ask God to let them know their end? Even if we know our end there is nothing we can do about it.
Both David and Moses is trying to know the measure of their days. They wanted to be reminded not to waste their time over vain pursuits. For David continues saying
“Surely every man walks about like
a shadow; Surely they busy
themselves in vain; He heaps up
riches, And does not know who will
gather them.” – David (Ps 39:6)
David wanted to adjust his direction in life. Perhaps in the past, he was busy chasing after riches, fame, status and success. Are these not the things we desire today? We need to know that at the very end it would all be empty. Therefore, we need to have the same understanding as David. For he said
“And now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in You.”” – David (Ps 39:7)
David mentioned in another psalm
“Arise, O Lord,
Confront him, cast him down;
Deliver my life from the wicked
with Your sword,
With Your hand from men, O Lord,
From men of the world who have
their portion in this life, And whose
belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their possession
for their babes.
As for me, I will see Your face in
righteousness; I shall be satisfied when
I awake in Your likeness.”- David (Ps 17:13-15)
David wanted God to save him from the people in the world, from the ones whom God had filled their stomach with good things. Those who can leave their possession for their children. These are things we desire and things we hope for, but yet David wanted God to save him from these. He would rather hope in the Lord.
For one day we will know that when we leave the world, everything will be empty. It is a fact that we know, but we pretend as if we want to forget it. Therefore, let us be like Moses and David let us not be busy with our heads bowed looking at the things of the world. Let us learn to look up, for we are the citizen of heaven and we need to look upon our heavenly home.
For we are but sojourners on this earth, we came to earth as if we are travellers. We are a temporary guest on earth and one day we need to return home. Will the heavenly kingdom be opened for us? It depends on how we prepared ourselves on earth.
Looking Back At What We Prepared
As human beings, we often prepare for many things. What have we prepared in the past year? People in the world often prepare for many things in life.
Jesus once talked about a rich fool who had prepared many things in life. He was well prepared for retirement and he was contented. For he told himself
“Soul, you have many goods laid up for
many years; take your ease; eat, drink,
and be merry.” – Rich Fool (Lk 12:19)
He thinks that he could enjoy the fruit of his labour it would be a waste not to enjoy. But God said to him.
“Fool! This night your soul will be required
of you; then whose will those things be
which you have provided?” – God (Lk 12:20)
A rich fool is a smart man, he knows how to prepare for life and he knows how to make money. But he had forgotten what he really need to prepare. Jesus reminds us through that parable and he asked, “What are you busy preparing for the past year?”
Actually, sometimes we prepare hard for old age and retirement when we are down doing that we even prepared for our own death. We draw up wills and we divide the possession among our children. This preparations are necessary.
But what is more, important is to prepare to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus reminds us of two things that we ought to prepare.
“And while they went to buy,
the bridegroom came, and those
who were ready went in with him
to the wedding; and the door was shut.
“Afterward the other virgins came also,
saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly,
I say to you, I do not know you.’
“Watch therefore, for you know neither
the day nor the hour in which the Son of
Man is coming.” – Jesus (Matt 25:10-13)
In this parable, the 5 foolish virgins did not prepare extra oil. When the door was shut they were shut out of the door. The oil is often referred to the Holy Spirit, it is the spirit of God dwelling with us. It is something we need to pray for it is not received at the point of Baptism or when you believed.
That is why the apostles need to pray for it, even Mary the mother of Jesus needs to pray for it. It is the guarantee of our inheritance as Paul said it in Eph 1:13-14.
Besides this Jesus reminds us of one more thing from the book of Revelations.
“Remember therefore how you have
received and heard; hold fast and repent.
Therefore if you will not watch, I will
come upon you as a thief, and you will
not know what hour I will come upon you.
You have a few names even in Sardis who
have not defiled their garments; and they
shall walk with Me in white, for they are
worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed
in white garments, and I will not blot out his
name from the Book of Life; but I will
confess his name before My Father and
before His angels.” – Jesus (Rev 3:3-5)
Here Jesus remind us to look back and remember what we have received and heard. We need to hold fast to that truth that we have learnt initially. Do we still believe in them or have we start to doubt the words of the Lord? Jesus knows who had held on to them and who had left the initial faith.
It is our choice to hold on to our beliefs or to leave them. But our choice will affect our future.
That is why Jesus reminds us to hold fast to what we have heard and to put on our white garments. If we choose to defile our garments we will be rejected. Those who overcome their obstacles and are victorious will be cloth in white and God will not blot his name from the book of life. He will confess him before the Father and before his angels.
As the new year approaches. We know that there are many uncertainties ahead. We are unsure of what lies ahead but we can ask God to guide us every day. We do not know what troubles we may meet or when we will be deceived and fall from our faith.
But we can ask God to preserve us daily and we can ask him to guide us every day in this new year,
As we celebrate this new year, let us reflect on the previous and let us continue to look up and remember God. May God guide us in this new year and bless us and keep us in the faith.